Notes, quotes and video from USC's 53-32 loss to Oregon Saturday at the Coliseum:
That surely wasn't what the Trojans had in mind when they talked up this game for two weeks. There were a boatload of reasons for the loss -- a lack of consistent play-calling, confusion at the line and a variety of others -- but the turnover battle is a good place to start. USC turned the ball over three times, Oregon twice. The Trojans had talked all week about the importance of winning the turnover battle; they didn't. "Coach said if we turn the ball over it's going to be hard to beat this team," running back Marc Tyler said. "And we turned the ball over three or four times."
In the end, the bulletin-board material conjured up by some of the Trojans this week -- Jurrell Casey's comment especially -- appeared to be a big motivating factor for the Ducks, who came out fired up and stayed fired up for the duration of the game. "Coaches, they try to say we don't listen to it, but we hear it eventually," Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews said. "Obviously we knew we needed to come out and shut them up and we feel we did a good job doing that. "Apparently we're just a quarterback and a running back and that's it, right?"
For a Trojans' offense that looked nearly pitch-perfect two weeks ago on the same field against Cal, a game with no real offensive stars was a departure from the expected. Matt Barkley (26-of-49 for 264 yards, one touchdown and two picks) looked more like a freshman than the sophomore Heisman candidate he'd been developing into in the past few weeks, Tyler and the running backs never got started and even Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods were held under 70 yards each. "Maybe it was the route-running, the play-calling or the blocking assignments," said Johnson, who had the Trojans' only touchdown through the air. "We just gotta go back and fix that.'
USC assistant head coach Monte Kiffin said a number of times in preparing for this game that his Tampa 2 defense was not built to stop Oregon's spread-option attack. Whatever modifications he implemented over the past two weeks weren't either, as the Ducks were visibly prepared for most of what the Trojans offered at them. And if they weren't, they appeared to adjust quickly. Oregon coach Chip Kelly said postgame that his staff went back and looked at Kiffin's play-calling tendencies against running quarterbacks as far back as his time in the NFL to get a gauge for what the Trojans could do. "It was what we expected," Kelly said afterward. "We broke down every game Monte coached at USC and at Tennessee and what he did against Michael Vick with the Falcons. We felt we had a pretty good idea of what they would do and we had some pretty good counters ready."
Kiffin ran his squad incessantly during the off-week with the hope that it would limit the effect of Oregon's run-run-run offense, especially in the final quarter. He said Saturday he thought it paid off -- so did middle linebacker Devon Kennard -- but some players disagreed. "[Being tired] had to be [a factor]," said senior cornerback Shareece Wright, who wasn't at the top of his game Saturday, getting burned by Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl on a number of occasions."We thought we weren't tired. We tried to be tough. They didn't even run that many plays, but they executed them to perfection. They waited for the defense to break down and make mistakes, and that's what we did.
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas looked sharp, especially when throwing the ball. He and Maehl were almost free to connect as they pleased, with the senior receiver totaling eight catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns. USC safety Jawanza Starling indicated that the primary reason the Ducks' passing game was so effective was that USC consistently bit on play-action fakes time and time again, saying that the Trojans "gave him most of the things he got." Said Thomas of his offense's performance: "Some defenses are going to stop you. You can't score every time. We had to make some adjustments and go of of that. We knew this would be a game and that we would have to compete."
On at least two big passes down the middle that went for or led to scores, it's safe to say either Kennard, Starling, or safety T.J. McDonald was the guilty party -- or even two or three of them at a time. McDonald took the blame for one of the instances, but the sophomore also said the Trojans' problems with Oregon came down to simply getting set at the line of scrimmage. "To tell you the truth, the toughest part with this offense is getting lined up," he said. "When you get lined up and you use your keys, that's when we were able to do well. When we get momentum, we were able to slow the game for ourselves and execute. We knew that was going to be the challenge coming into this game and it just didn't work out for us."
Final notes: Dillon Baxter, injured since the end of the Stanford game, carried the ball just twice Saturday -- both in garbage time, for 14 yards. Senior running back Allen Bradford, bothered by a sprained toe in recent weeks, ran just three times for nine yards. Fullback Stanley Havili had 38 yards on 10 carries but had to come off in the fourth quarter with what looked like shoulder issues; Tyler carried the load with 17 rushes but also came up lame on one run. In all, the running back corps was very banged up. That may have been a bigger factor than was let on. ...While Chris Galippo was billed as the starter at weakside linebacker in replacing Malcolm Smith, it was Shane Horton who played most of the game at the spot, totaling 11 tackles.
Kiffin addressed the media after the game in a packed press conference room and actually cracked a few jokes. He also called his offense "terrible." Twice.
See what else the not-pleased coach had to say Saturday:
See what Barkley had to say after what turned out to be his worst performance of the season: