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USC-Oregon . . . Take 2

All the news, notes, numbers and quotes . . . plus some quick takes from USC's 45-20 win over Oregon.

*** If there's something about this USC team that might be starting to remind people of the good old days it could be the pride the defense is taking in doing things right, playing smart and physical and taking away the other team's strength. That's what USC did to open a 17-0 lead against Oregon by giving the offensive-minded Ducks three straight three-and-outs. That set the tone for a game that would see Oregon's offense far underperform its average for a season where it's been able to move the ball on everybody.

*** Ronald Jones gave much of the credit for his record-tying four rushing touchdown performance to his offensive line as any smart young running back would be advised to do. But what made Ronald's effort so impressive Saturday was the way he made positive yardage -- and a touchdown or two -- even when the blocking wasn't there. Which inexplicably at times at the point of attack, was not.

*** And as much as USC clearly has the talent to win at Washington this week, the Trojans won't without better blocking from a more physical, more aggressive, more mistake-free offensive line. Especially on the goal line and in those short, short-yardage situations where even an Oregon defensive front that has been shredded by almost everyone blew them up too often to take comfort in their performance.

*** And USC won't win with the 26 penalties for 254 yards it racked up the last two weeks. That has to change. Sure, it didn't matter against Cal and Oregon, maybe. But it will be deadly in Seattle. You think Washington is going to commit that many penalties? "We can't have that," Chris Hawkins said after the game Saturday. "We have to stay level-headed, we have to focus on the small details." Only this is no longer a small detail. It was the difference in that season-defining loss at Utah and will probably decide the Husky game.

*** Sam Darnold's pocket poise continues to amaze. He dropped back 40 times and suffered no sacks. Sam has a sense of when and where to go and he does so without getting his hair on fire. He just goes there with his eyes almost always in the right direction down the field. Those numbers also make the point that this offensive line blocks the pass better than the run despite the 270 yards rushing. Not a single serious breakdown against the pass rush.

*** One factor in USC's eight-game Coliseum win streak over two seasons under Clay Helton has clearly been the confidence this team plays with at home, the sense that Trojan talent and will to win will win out. That's not the case on the road. The tendency to implode with penalties and turnovers can be devastating and these guys know it, especially in the loud environment of a place like Husky Stadium. Sure, Darnold has been a big part of the antidote here. but USC will need more than a confidence injection from its redshirt freshman quarterback. Seniors and coaches must step up this week.  


*** 13: Not exactly a "lucky number" for the Trojans again as they committed 13 penalties -- for 129 yards this week against 125 yards last week -- in another display of, as we said last week, "unbelievably undisciplined" football.

*** 40.5/20: After averaging 40.5 points a game in its first eight games, Oregon was limited to a season-low 20 by the Trojan defense.

*** 85/30/2.8: Against an Oregon team leading the Pac-12 in rushing with 248.0 yards a game, the Trojans limited the Ducks to 85 yards on 30 rushes for a piddling 2.8 yards a carry. Nice.

*** 579: For the fifth straight game, USC produced more than 500 yards of offense in what is not coincidentally Darnold's fifth straight starting win and sixth straight start. Coincidence? It wasn't last week and it isn't this week.  

*** 74,625: Not a bad crowd, at least as announced, considering Oregon, like Colorado and Cal before them, didn't bring anybody. No wonder the Pac-12 bowl deals are so second-rate. This conference travels badly. No arguing that.

*** 20-172: Just in case you didn't notice, you were probably watching the guys in the wrong uniforms. With another 20 flags -- check that, there were far more than 20 flags since they were throwing them from everywhere multiple times on illegal blocking calls on the defense and pass interference on the offense and forgetting that if one team subs, the other is allowed to as well, and that includes the time to get off the field before the ball is snapped. So good job, Pac-12 officials, those were a hard-earned 172 yards in walkoffs. Another good day for the striped shirts.

*** 8 straight: USC's eighth straight home win gives this Trojan team the longest home win streak since the Trojans won 12 in a row here from 2007 through 2009.

*** 5: In one of USC's weirder streaks, the Trojans extended to five their streak back to 2000 of scoring 40 or more points in the last game before a presidential election. There was a 61-52 loss to Oregon in 2012, a 56-0 win over Washington in 2008, a 42-14 win at Washington State in 2004 and a 44-38 OT win over Arizona State in 2000.

*** 1.5-2: Some numbers that matter for second-year guys -- 1.5 sacks for Rasheem Green almost doubling his season total to 3.5 and two deflections for Porter Gustin, one big one to stop Oregon at the USC 11 in the third quarter, doubling his season numbers since he entered the game with just one.

*** 394-554: Ronald Jones' 171 yards gave the sophomore tailback 394 yards in back-to-back games [after 223 against Cal] and that's the most for a USC running back in two straight games since Reggie Bush ran for 554 yards [394 against Fresno State and 260 against UCLA] in 2005.

*** 39-20-2: USC's all-time record against Oregon and that's counting the one win the NCAA vacated. We said it the last two weeks and we'll say it now: We don't vacate USC wins here.

*** 28-40, 309: For Darnold, those were career-high numbers in both completions [28] and attempts [40] and a third game this season throwing for more than 300 yards.

*** 49 on 8: For former walkon tailback James Toland, it was a career day with 49 yards rushing [his previous best was the 47 yards he got in 2014 against Fresno State in a dozen carries.


CLAY HELTON: " . . . we stay in contention in the Pac-12 South. Have to thank our fans tonight. They did a tremendous job with their loudness on third down. You could feel it. It was a neat, exciting atmosphere. Our players fed off them."

OREGON COACH MARK HELFRICH: On the USC defense: "They're very talented and very well coached. Those guys on the back end are the same guys vilified the last couple of years and they've grown up and are playing well as a team now and complementing one another."

OREGON RUNNING BACK ROYCE FREEMAN: "They [USC] have a great defensive line and got a lot of push and made it difficult for us out there today . . . they really tuned into the keys and reading our offensive plays and filling the gaps. They came with a lot of intensity today."  

USC TE DANIEL IMATORBHEBHE: On what it's like to play with a quarterback like Sam Darnold: "It's like playing with Steve Nash in basketball. You've got to always be ready for the ball."

Injury list

Stevie Tu'ikolovatu was injured when he "tweaked his patellar tendon," Clay said and left the game limping badly in the third quarter. His availability this week will be better understood by Tuesday . . . that's pretty much the same answer for the three Trojans who did not suit up -- tailbacks Justin Davis and Aca'Cedric Ware, both with sprained ankles, and Jonathan Lockett with a hip flexor issue, we'll know better Tuesday about their availability this week . . . otherwise, Michael Hutchings who has been banged up a bit was pulled early to protect him.

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