Final Thoughts - Oregon review

If it's November, it must be time for good football by the Trojans and, if the game is being played at the Coliseum, it must mean another victory for the Trojans. How nice it was to see both these scenarios play out on Saturday with an efficient and well played USC victory by a score of 35-10 against the Oregon Ducks.

We all knew what was at stake in this game, especially with the 7:15pm start time allowing USC fans to watch several teams ahead of us in the BCS standings fall which meant that if the Trojans could maintain their focus and take care of Oregon, we would be right back in the thick of the national championship race. What looked so remote only two weeks ago after the loss to Oregon State was now once again a distinct possibility, provided the Trojans got a victory over the Ducks, and USC certainly recognized the opportunity at hand and completely controlled the game as much as any we've seen since the opener against Arkansas.

The Trojans and Ducks exchanged punches early in the game, Oregon had a nice opening drive that failed to score (thanks in part to Oscar Lua and Kaluka Maiava) and the Trojans followed that with a big play to Dwayne Jarrett before a John David Booty interception ended the drive.

The first score came when C.J. Gable popped in a short touchdown run behind a block from Thomas Williams to give USC a 7-0 lead. Gable was in the game because Chauncey Washington was having his knee looked at and Emmanuel Moody had been taken off the field in a cart with an ankle injury.

The Ducks got the ball back and Dennis Dixon was promptly intercepted by Taylor Mays who then made a nice return inside the ten yard line. Chauncey came back in the game and took a handoff into the end zone to make it 14-0 in favor of the Trojans.

At that point it was clear the Trojan defense had a handle on the Ducks spread offense as Jonathan Stewart was being held in check running the ball and Dennis Dixon was having trouble finding a receiver. Unfortunately for Dixon and his offensive teammates, the Trojan pressure was just beginning. Lawrence Jackson, the talented USC defensive end who had surprisingly been held without a sack to this point in the season, notched his first sack on the possession following the Chauncey touchdown. We saw good play from Kevin Ellison as Carroll is playing him closer to the line more and more as the season goes along. Terrell Thomas had terrific coverage on one long pass attempt. The USC linebackers were also flying to the ball. To show how good the defense has been playing lately, when Oregon scored a field goal in the third quarter to make it 14-3, it ended a streak of 77 unanswered points for the Trojans which went back to the third quarter of the Oregon State game.

The Ducks kicked off after their field goal and Gable promptly returned it near midfield. It looked like the Trojans were getting ready to answer the Oregon score when Dwayne Jarrett took the ball rolling left and tried an option pass downfield to a receiver who was triple covered. The ball was intercepted and there was plenty wrong with the play from the odd timing of the call to the fact that the pass should never have been thrown into that kind of coverage. Regardless, the Ducks turned the ball right back over, Rey Maualuga forced a fumble that was recovered by Dallas Sartz, and the Trojans had the ball again. At that point, we couldn't afford any more missed opportunities, it was time to start giving the ball to Chauncey and a few plays later it was Washington pounding into the end zone from three yards out to make it 21-3.

A three and out for the Oregon offense gave the Trojans the ball near midfield and it took Chauncey two plays before racing 43 yards down the right sideline with a burst that shows his hamstring is healthy enough these days. That score made it 28-3 in favor of USC and the game was well in hand.

Chauncey would end the night with 115 yards on 15 carries but you got the sense he could have done so much more. He really is rounding into one of those backs who seem to gain strength as the game goes along and the more you give him the ball the better he runs. I like those kind of backs.

Of course, before the game could end there had to be some drama with instant replay, after all this was Oregon we were playing. Early in the fourth quarter the Ducks scored an apparent touchdown on a pass from reserve quarterback Brady Leaf to Stewart. The play was challenged and the call on the field was reversed as the game officials said Stewart had come back on the field after being out of bounds. Mike Bellotti then protested that call and after another agonizingly long delay the call was reversed again and the Ducks had their touchdown.

During the instant replay fiasco it became clear that Pete Carroll was extremely fired up to win this game and he had to love the way his team responded after the Oregon touchdown by driving right down the field and capping a touchdown driv of their own with a Booty pass to Jarrett to make it 35-10.

On the next Duck possession, Lawrence Jackson notched his third sack to cap a night that also included ten tackles (4 for loss). As he returned to the bench to cheers and high fives from his teammates, Jackson let out a big sigh and smiled as he yelled "I'm back, baby, I'm back".

With the way the Trojans played on Saturday it could be easy to make the same type of statement about the status of their play. This looked like Trojan football, especially Trojan football in November under Pete Carroll at the Coliseum. There are still some kinks to get worked out as the coaches prepare the team for a visit from Cal next week but all indications are that this is a Trojan team heading in the right direction. Where will that direction lead? Who knows, although the BCS standings released today show USC in the #3 spot with the #1 and #2 teams on the list playing each other next weekend. That scenario, of course, means that the Trojans appear to be in control of their own destiny and that is certainly all that Carroll and company can ask for at this point in the season.


USCFootball.com Top Stories