USC Upsets Oregon in Eugene
Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. is considered among the loudest in the country. The decibel level routinely rises to a point at which it is physically painful. And at the end of USC’s showdown with the No. 4 Oregon Ducks on Saturday night, there was a lot of pain in Autzen Stadium. But it wasn’t expressed in the form of noise. It was just dead silence.
Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado missed a game-tying 37 yard field goal attempt wide left as time expired, and the Trojans escaped with a stunning 38-35 victory. The win is without a doubt the biggest in Lane Kiffin’s tenure as head coach; the so-called “signature victory” that, according to many, he had yet to achieve.
"To break the longest home winning streak in the country says a lot about this team and how far they’ve come," said Kiffin. "The way these guys have come together these last five or six weeks is great to see."
USC jumped out in front early behind a beautiful 59 yard touchdown strike from Matt Barkley to Marqise Lee. After forcing a turnover on downs, Barkley lead the Trojans on a 66 yard scoring drive, this time finding Robert Woods from 12 yards out to give USC a 14-0 lead.
Oregon cut the lead to 14-7 after they went 88 yards in just over two minutes, but the Trojans answered right back. Barkley found Lee for 32 yards to move to the Oregon six, and then again hit Woods on third-and-goal for a 21-7 advantage.
The Ducks looked as though they would get one score back before halftime, having driven to the USC nine. But USC safety Jawanza Starling recovered a LaMichael James fumble with just 23 seconds remaining in the half to preserve the 14 point lead.
"That was a huge turnaround for us," said cornerback Nickell Robey. "They were about to score and change the momentum of the game. Jawanza (Starling) came up with a huge recovery and it made a huge difference."
The Ducks are considered a second half team, but USC imposed their will early after halftime. The Trojans forced a three-and-out on the Ducks first possession of the half, then blocked the ensuing punt, setting up a 26 yard field goal to give USC a 24-7 lead. The Ducks found the endzone on their next possession, but so did the Trojans. The final three plays of the scoring drive featured a 22 yard Curtis McNeal scamper, a 41 yard toss from Barkley to Lee, punctuated by a three yard touchdown run by Marc Tyler.
The Trojans again found the endzone on their next drive with a Randall Telfer touchdown catch from five yards out to give USC a 38-14 lead. Then the game turned.
DeAnthony Thomas, a one-time USC commit who spurned the Trojans for Oregon, took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to the endzone. The legendary Autzen Stadium crowd, so quiet for most of the game, was back in it.
The Ducks scored on their first drive of the fourth quarter, moving 75 yards in two minutes to cut their deficit to 38-27.
Then, a Barkley pass intended for Telfer was tipped and intercepted at the Oregon 40 yard line. The Ducks put the ball in the endzone from there in just under 90 seconds, and their two point conversion attempt was successful. Just like that, it was a three point game.
But the Trojan offense responded, methodically moving the ball downfield and eating more than four minutes of clock as they drove to the Oregon 11. And then the unthinkable happened. A botched handoff occurred between Tyler, a fifth-year senior, and Barkley, a captain, dynamic team leader and three-year starter at quarterback. The Ducks pounced on the loose ball, and their explosive offense was given two-and-a-half minutes to move 86 yards.
The Ducks eventually moved to the USC 20, setting up Maldonado’s attempt. But it was clearly wide as soon as it was kicked, sparking complete bedlam on the Trojan sideline.
While the Autzen crowd was dead silent, many stayed for several minutes after the game to watch USC celebrate with their small contingent of fans and the band. Barkley, McNeal and senior fullback Rhett Ellison were among those who climbed the ladder to lead the Spirit of Troy.
Cries of “SC is back!” were heard from many of the players as they celebrated on the field.
Said safety T.J. McDonald, “We'll go into any stadium, anywhere, and play anybody. People sometimes forget: This is SC.”