1. Contain the Oregon Running Game
The USC defense as a whole played well enough to win on Saturday, limiting an Oregon team that averaged 46 points a game to nearly half that total. But for the first time this season the Trojans defense failed to shut down the opposition's running game.
Stewart had a game-high 103 rushing yards on 25 carries including two touchdown runs. The junior tailback had several big runs in crucial situations on Saturday, including gaining 15 yards on a 3rd and 14 play at the end of the third quarter.
With the 103 yards he eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark and became the first Oregon player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season since 2004.
Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon proved to be as elusive as advertised rushing for 76 yards on 17 carries. Dixon lived up to the hype on Saturday and should be considered a real candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Coming into the game Oregon was 10-1 since the start of the 2006 season when they had a 100-yard rusher. On Saturday junior tailback Jonathan Stewart rushed for 103 yards and the Ducks improved their mark to 11-1 when having a player rush for 100 yards or more.
2. Get the USC Receivers Involved
USC junior wide receiver Patrick Turner had his best game of the season Saturday against the Ducks. Turner ended the day with an impressive 7 receptions for 107 yards a TD.
Vidal Hazelton also had a solid game for the second straight week. Hazelton had a team-high 8 catches for 88 yards.
But unfortunately for USC, the efforts of their wide receivers proved to be too little too late. While Turner and Hazelton combined for 15 catches for 195 yards and a touchdown, the pair had only 4 catches in the first half.
The USC receivers put up productive numbers against Oregon, but they weren't involved in the game plan early enough to have a substantial impact on the game.
The Trojans need to find a way to get Turner and Hazelton involved early to develop a consistent passing game that will keep opposing defenses honest. Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian didn't open up the USC offense until the Trojans were already down 24-10.
It has been said over and over again, but it bears repeating. The Trojans need to take shots deep down the field early in the game to soften the coverage.
Once the Trojans decide to take a few shots downfield it will help to open up the short and intermediate passing game as well as the running game.
3. Get Sound Play on Special Teams
The Trojans definitely succeeded in outplaying the Ducks on special teams. USC caused two turnovers on special teams and managed to not make any major mistakes of their own.
On the opening kickoff of the game USC reserve wide receiver Brad Walker recovered a Andre Crenshaw fumble and the Trojans appeared to be in business. The Trojans got possession at the Oregon 21 yard-line but were stopped on 4th and 1 when freshman Joe McKnight was hit behind the line on a questionable end around call.
The Trojans were able to convert the turnover into three points when David Buehler connected on a 30-yard field goal.
Even though the Trojans clearly outplayed Oregon on special teams, they were still unable to overcome all of the costly penalties and three second half turnovers and were knocked off on the road by the fifth ranked Ducks 24-17.