LOS ANGELES -- The USC Trojans tried to keep up in an offensive showcase with the Oregon Ducks on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, but it wasn't enough in the end, as Oregon came away with a 62-51 victory.
The numbers were as staggering as the final score would indicate, as the two teams combined for 1,345 yards of total offense and punted only twice. The Ducks set USC opponent records for points, total yards (730) and individual rushing yards (321 from Kenjon Barner). The Trojans countered with Matt Barkley throwing for 484 yards and five touchdowns, while Nelson Agholor (162 yards) and Marqise Lee (157 yards) provided huge production from the wide receiver spot. Lee also added 251 kickoff return yards, a new Pac-12 record.
The Ducks were certainly as good as advertised on offense. Time after time they were able to make plays when they needed them, and they were relentless in putting points on the board. The Ducks didn't punt until there was less than 4 minutes to go in the game after having scored 55 points.
If it wasn't Barner gashing the Trojans defense for big gains, it was redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota having his usual efficient night, as he completed 20 of 23 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns while adding 96 yards rushing.
What will be remembered for USC in this game -- besides the lack of defense -- are the missed opportunities that prevented the Trojans from keeping pace with the quick-strike Oregon offense. The Ducks came into the game leading the nation in scoring offense, so the Trojans knew they were going to have to score early and often.
On the opening USC drive -- after Oregon had taken just more than a minute to score a touchdown on its first drive -- a potential touchdown pass to Agholor was ruled incomplete, forcing the Trojans to settle for a field goal. Later, Barkley threw an interception to Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on a play in which Ekpre-Olomu could have been called for pass interference against Lee.
Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity came toward the end of the first half, when the Trojans recovered an Oregon fumble and drove to the Ducks' 15-yard line. A score there would have sent the Coliseum crowd into a frenzy, but a fumble by Lee was recovered by Oregon and USC went into the locker room down 34-24.
"We knew it would be a shootout and I felt like we had to play perfect on offense and score on every drive," USC quarterback Matt Barkley said. "Those three drives we had that weren't productive, it came back to hurt us because we left points on the board, and that's what I'm thinking about right now."
You can't say the USC offense lacked resolve in this game. Every time the USC defense would allow the Ducks to score, the Trojans offense simply came back on the field and refused to allow Oregon to run away and hide. It went back and forth all night until the beginning of the fourth quarter, when USC was forced to punt. Oregon converted that punt into a touchdown, going up 55-38.
At that point, it seemed as if the game could be in hand for the Ducks, but the Trojans gave it one last try. With less than 6 minutes remaining, a Barkley touchdown pass to Randall Telfer made it 55-45. USC tried an onside kick that was recovered by Nickell Robey, but he was ruled out of bounds on a very close call. It was that kind of night for the Trojans -- they were close so many times but were never able to completely close the gap.
In many ways, this game was an accurate reflection of the two teams and where they stand right now. The Trojans offense is good, very good, but Oregon's offense has been consistently better this season, and it was again tonight. As far as defense, there wasn't a whole lot of it, but the Ducks made the plays when they mattered most, forcing three key turnovers (two Barkley interceptions and the Lee fumble).
"I talked to the guys about the need to make big plays in this game, but unfortunately we came up short," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "Now we need to go back to work. We have a really good team coming in and there is still plenty to play for."
The Trojans will look to regroup with Arizona State coming to town next weekend. USC's hopes for a berth in the Pac-12 title game, and a potential rematch with the Ducks, are still alive. And if the rematch happens, it would probably be a good idea to have a few spare lightbulbs on hand for the stadium scoreboard.