Shotgun Spratling |

Run it RoJo, and score it, too

Trojans do a lot of things right -- on defense, and with Ronald Jones' record-breaking night and Deontay Burnett's first half, the same on offense -- and then there were lots and lots of penalties. just another night in the ole Pac-12.

Just another night at the ole Pac-12 ball yard.

Lots of points, and lots of penalties.

And pretty good effort by the USC defense against a pretty good Oregon offense, especially on the ground where the Ducks are tops in the Pac-12.

And another USC win, the Trojans eighth straight at the Coliseum under Clay Helton to improve to 6-3 (5-2 in the Pac-12).

And of most interest is that the starring roles were played by three Trojans who were not in the starting lineup to start the season.

They would be record-tying Ronald Jones II, and his four rushing TDs. And quarterback Sam Darnold and his 28 completions for 309 yards and two TDs. And soon-to-be-if-he-isn't-already No. 1 wide receiver Deontay Burnett in a brilliant first half when he caught a career-high seven passes for 87 yards and a TD in USC's 45-20 romp over Oregon's fading Ducks (3-6, 1-5) in front of an approving Homecoming crowd announced at 74,625 at the Coliseum.

That's pretty much it. Oregon came in here averaging 519 yards a game (with 409 against Washington) and left with a season-low 288 after opening with three straight three-and-outs.

"They brought  lot of stuff we weren't prepared for," Oregon freshman quarterback Justin Herbert said, "with the different blitzes coming from just about everywhere."

By the time it was 45-13 on RoJo's fourth TD with 11:41 left, and USC had called off the dogs, the thoughts went to Washington. "We have to eliminat the mistakes, the penalties," said Michael Hutchings, USC's senior leader on defense. "We have to stay composed."

That's something they'll have to work on this week before heading to Seattle for the No. 5 Huskies. At the top of the list will be USC's 13 penalties for 129 yards in a game where they weren't remotely necessary. Just dumb, lazy and careless.

"We have to clean up the penalties," Clay said. "There was way too much yellow out there."

All kinds of yellow except for Oregon with the Ducks choosing to wear what some have called their all-white "surrender unis" although they never did. They just couldn't keep up as much as USC at times gave them a life.

"They had a great plan," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said of Clancy Pendergast's defense. "They did a lot of their base stuff and mixed it up and as soon as we plugged on hole in the dike, another opened up. Those guys are talented enough to make you pay for it."

Clay singled out Porter Gustin for one of those coming-of-age games where the 270-pound sophomore outside linebacker set the edge big-time against the Ducks' speed.

"Not letting guys get outside," Clay said, so that USC's penetration inside could get to Herbert and if not sack him [USC had three for 17 yards], get him off his spots. After throwing for 10 TDs the last two games, Herbert was 18 for 33 for 162 yards passing with just one TD.

But enough about the defense. With both Justin Davis and Aca'Cedric Ware out with ankle injuries, RoJo was pretty much it. And the sophomore from McKinney, Tex., played like it. he carried the ball 20 times for 171 yards [an 8.6 average] and had those four TDs making him the 14th USC player to rush for four TDs in a game and the first since LenDale White did it in 2005.

With Davis out the last two games, Ronald has run for 394 yards in back-to-back games, the most since another USC back you may have heard of -- Reggie Bush -- ran for 554 in games against Fresno State (294) and UCLA (260) in 2005.

"It means a lot to me," Ronald said. "There are a lot of great running backs that came before me and to be in that category means a lot."

It meant a lot to Clay. "Where I'm most proud of him is that he's become an every-down complete back." And did it on a night the USC O-line, while getting out in front on sweeps and making the inside traps work, didn't have all that much push. And RoJo didn't let it stop him.

His second TD came on a 3-yard run that had him hit by two unblocked Ducks before he got out of the backfield as he spun and kept running for the end zone. That may have been more special than his opening 23-yard blast or his 66-yarder for his third TD. But then his final score, a one-yarder after a brilliant 31-yard run to set it up, might have been easily as impressive for how he got there the run before.

"I hold my breath every time he touches it because I know he could go all the way," Clay said. But no need to hold his breath when RoJo is expected to pick up a blitzer or catch the ball out of the backfield, which he did twice for 26 yards. On a night when there really was no one else to go to, Ronald Jones answered the call.

But when asked again, what "means a lot to him," Ronald answered this way: "getting the win."

Pretty much the same theme for Deontay. No, he said, he doesn't have a "special connection" with classmate Darnold even though Darnold said he thought all the basketball they've played together might have developed that.

"We're all out there making plays," Deontay said. And whichever one is open, Sam will get it to him. Nothing special about Deontay and Sam. Deontay said.

But getting to be the guy now with Steven Mitchell's injury is something Deonaty respects. "It's surreal every week now, being out there like I am." But that's not all.

"I just love my team," Deontay said. "And now I'm getting the opportunities to show it." 

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