The Trojans lost to the Oregon Ducks on Saturday by a score of 24-22 in front of sold out Autzen Stadium in Eugene. It ws a game that saw the Trojans come as close as they could to a victory as they led 22-21 with less than a minute to play but Oregon showed why they now have a 23 game home winning streak as they were able to sustain a long drive at the end of the game to kick a field goal and send the Trojans home wondering when they are going to turn the corner. The fact that the team played well enough to get the victory was of little consolation in the Trojan locker room and the mood of the team was summed up by Coach Carroll when he said "We need to get a win. That's all"
Notes from the SidelinesTroy Polamalu was all over the field with a pass deflection, a terrific hit on an Oregon TE coming over the middle and a solo stop of Keenan Howry on a key punt return late in the game …..The Trojans received a solid LB performance from Chris Prosser in his first appearance of the season as he was extremely quick and had tackles for losses on both Oregon tailbacks…..After not throwing a TD pass in the first two games the Trojans hit for deep scores of 75 yards to Sultan McCullough and 93 yards to Kareem Kelly
Head or Heart
The view of this game depends on if you were watching with your head or with your heart. The head sees that there is improvement in many areas and knows that the program will not turn around overnight but the heart watches and continues to see familiar problems such as too many penalties and poor play from the offensive line. The head knows that we should be proud of a team that was able to comeback from being down 21-6 in the middle of the 3rd quarter and almost pull off the win but the heart is tired of moral victories. The head knows that the running ability of Carson Palmer helps this team but the heart wonders when he will start to slide and protect both himself and the ball. The head tells us we played solid, attacking defense for59 minutes and held the Duck offense in check. The heart remembers the last minute when Joey Harrington picked us apart with sideline routes that were too open and blitz pressure that never arrived. The head tells us we lost the past two games by a total of six points against teams that are ranked among the top in the country. The heart believes it is the Trojans who should be among the top teams in the country and isn't content to settle for anything less.
David Davis kicked three field goals on the day, including ones from 43 and 40 yards, and got good distance on his kicks.
In his first start at DE Bobby DeMars had a tipped pass and a blocked field goal, all after suffering a neck stinger during the game. It was a nice performance from a 5th year senior who has waited for his opportunity.
The screen pass to Sultan McCullough which went 75 yards for a touchdown saw him put a terrific shake move on the Duck DB, break two tackles and then use his sprinters speed to race for the end zone.
Stat of the Day
Oregon only converted 2 of 12 on 3rd down.
Key to Game: Offensive Identity
Norm Chow came to USC with a reputation as the master strategist, the man with the plan, but so far the Trojans haven't been able to develop an identity on offense. The progression of Carson Palmer will be the most important key for how Chow is able to develop that identity but this game showcased the problem for Chow when Carson threw for a career high in yardage yet also had three picks, one of which was returned for a td. The timing Chow needs to see for his precise short passing game is not there yet and the running game has problems of its own so Chow unveiled a no huddle set with five wide receivers and the Trojans were able to move the ball and confuse the Duck defense but we went away from it eventually despite the fact that it was working. Sultan McCullough came out in the media this week and said the Trojans were going to run the ball down their throats and, since USC seemed to have an advantage on the line, the strategy seemed like a good idea but Sultan wasn't able to get going and his only touchdown came on a simple screen pass. Kareem Kelly made it clear that the deep pass needed to be part of the offense and he came through on that end with a 93 yard touchdown catch and another key big pass play that could have gone for a touchdown if he had stayed on his feet. Kareem also spent much of the game on the bench, however, and will need to step up his efforts to be the elite receiver he thinks he can be. The long touchdown to Kareem was a vintage play call by Chow and showed how he will set up a defense to get the play he wants. The Trojans had run the bubble screen several times and Oregon corner Steve Smith, who had a career day, kept on inching up trying to read the play and Chow called the fake screen/deep pass at just the right time. There's a good reason why Chow has been so successful in his career and the Trojan offense could not be in better hands to figure out the best plan but right now it is clearly a work in progress as he searches to find the answers.
One of the primary reasons Kevin Arbet has seen action as the nickel back is his blitzing ability from the corner spot and he had a key sack and put pressure on Harrinton to help force the Omar Nazel sack. Arbet is also back on punt returns replacing Kareem Kelly…..Nazel not only had the sack but radio sideline reporter Tim Ryan also praised him for the emotion he showed on the sidelines to keep his teammates fired up throughout the game. Ryan said the animated Trojan sideline this season is a sharp contrast to what we have seen in recent years…..The poor kick coverage on special teams played a huge role in the game and you can be sure that Kennedy Pola will put in a lot of work on the practice field this week. The Ducks consistently got big returns although Troy Polamalu did stop Howry on the late punt return that would have been so very important if the defense was able to make the stop…...Keenan Howry was the 4th WR on the USC recruiting list the year we signed Kelly, Marcell Allmond and Steve Stevenson but Howry has been the most productive member of the group so far in his career. The Trojans also passed on LB Kevin Mitchell and he caused problems in the Trojan backfield all night…..The Trojans looked like they caught a break early after Frank Strong recovered a fumble in Oregon territory but the OL gave up two quick sacks to force a USC punt…..Norm Chow called plays from the booth after being on the sidelines for the first two games
The intensity started prior to the game when Antuan Simmons and Rashard Bauman got into a shouting match which escalated into a mini brawl between players on both sides and ended with head coaches Pete Carroll and Mike Bellotti exchanging words that made it clear there is no love lost between the programs right now. The game itself was a close fought battle between two teams that were fairly even on the field and wasn't decided until a field goal in the final seconds but in the end the Ducks showed that they are a team that believes in itself and believes that they wi