At the end of the game, the seats usually packed tight with Trojan Nation fans were overwhelmed with green and yellow as every USC fan left the Coliseum after No. 7 Oregon scored eight consecutive touchdowns in a 56-24 blowout over USC Saturday — knocking the Trojans out of first place in the Pac-12 South.
“Every one of us feels bad now,” head coach Clay Helton said. “But the world doesn’t care about us feeling sorry for ourselves. The world cares about you getting up and doing your job.”
The first quarter gave USC fans a shred of hope that the Trojans would find a way to at least keep the game close. USC opened the scoring with a first drive touchdown to freshman wide receiver Drake London, the first of his collegiate career.
An impressive defensive performance courtesy of a six-yard sack from sophomore linebacker Kana’i Mauga and an acrobatic pass breakup from redshirt sophomore cornerback Greg Johnson forced a three-and-out. USC tacked on three points on the ensuing drive.
The USC defense looked solid early on, holding senior quarterback Justin Herbert to just 27 first-quarter passing yards and posting two sacks for a total of 16 yards lost. The defense only allowed one first down, which was then stopped on the second set of downs.
Tonight was the second time this season Oregon entered the second quarter scoreless.
Everything after the first quarter was a different story; Herbert led the massacre with 225 yards, an 81% completion rating and three passing touchdowns, all to redshirt senior wide receiver Juwan Johnson. The offense totaled for 405 yards and six touchdowns.
“We never give up as a team, as a defense,” redshirt sophomore linebacker Hunter Echols said. “That’s not in our DNA; that’s not who we are as people. Even if the game is getting away, I still psych myself up.”
Even when Herbert and the offense weren’t on the field, Oregon found ways to score. The Ducks’ special teams and defense each notched a touchdown. The first was a 32-yard pick-six on a ball intended for redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns; the second was on a 100-yard kick return with 20 seconds remaining in the first half.
USC nearly ended the first half with a 10-7 lead over the Ducks. Instead, the Trojans allowed 21 points in 2:36 to enter the half down by 11.
Nothing went well for the Trojans after that. Touchdown after touchdown, the Ducks put up a 56-7 scoring run to humiliate the Trojans on their home turf.
“We didn’t execute at all as an offense,” redshirt sophomore center Brett Neilon said. “Not going to sugarcoat it. We had turnovers that killed us and we just didn’t get it done tonight.”
It’s safe to say that the air-raid was in full effect — freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis now holds the record for USC’s most pass attempts in a game with 56. Unfortunately for the Trojans, Mario Cristobal and Co. had air-defense missiles primed and ready for Slovis. The Ducks defensive unit limited Slovis to a 56% completion rating and boasted three interceptions.
“You can’t turn it over four times and have the penalties we had and play that not-clean a football game and expect to beat that team,” head coach Clay Helton said.
The Trojans racked up eight penalties for 92 yards, including a targeting penalty that resulted in the ejection of redshirt sophomore safety Isaiah Pola-Mao in the first half.
“It definitely affected us. But we have a next man up mentality,” redshirt senior defensive lineman Christian Rector said. “It sucks to lose him, definitely.”
Pola-Mao’s penalty contributed to the downfall of USC’s defense, which continues to lose more players each week. USC’s already severely hampered defense lost Johnson and sophomore linebacker Palaie Gaoteote IV to injury. Gaoteote later returned to the game.
The blowout loss drops USC to 5-4 on the season. The Trojans will likely miss a Pac-12 Championship barring a Utah loss and three USC wins. The Trojans head to Tempe, Ariz. to face the Sun Devils Saturday at 1:30 p.m.