Ducks turn to defense to derail Trojans

EUGENE — The potency of Oregon's high-octane spread offense is well documented this season. After all, the offense came into Saturday's game averaging 550.9 yards and 46.6 points per contest behind dual-threat Heisman hopeful quarterback Dennis Dixon, running back Jonathan Stewart, a powerful offensive line and a bevy of other weapons.

But where's the love for the Oregon defense?

"The offense does get a lot of attention, but I think after this game, the defense will get a lot of attention," free safety Matthew Harper said.

Likely that's the case and Harper is a big reason why.

He made two critical interceptions against Southern California in one of Oregon's best defensive efforts this season. The Ducks held the Trojans to 378 total yards, and just 36 yards in the first quarter.

USC managed 101 yards rushing in the game. Last season, running back Chauncey Washington totaled 119 yards rushing alone in a 35-10 win over the Ducks. He was held to 42 yards on 11 carries Saturday.

"Oregon did a great job

"Oregon did a great job defensively," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We couldn't get anything going and defensively they were a lot better than I anticipated."

Oregon also looked far improved from its effort last week at Washington when the Huskies' Jake Locker picked apart the Duck defense for 257 yards and four touchdowns. The Ducks also allowed four scores of 26 yards or more.

USC's longest touchdown Saturday was a 14-yard pass late in the contest.

"This group has been incredible," defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "I love the way the kids are flying around."

The Ducks forced three three-and-outs in the game and three turnovers and were the difference makers, compensating for an offense that struggled at times against a stingy USC defense.

"I think our offense is outstanding," Aliotti said. "I think that we (defensively) are getting stops when we need them. As long as we can keep them out of the end zone and keep them down to 24 or less, I think we have a chance to win.

"Most games I don't know if we are an elite defense or not. But they were an elite defense today. I'm very proud of them."


OREGON QUARTERBACK Dennis Dixon is receiving mention in the Heisman Trophy race this year. The senior was steady on Saturday, though he only threw for 157 yards and no touchdowns on 16-of-25 passing.

He did, however, create problems for the Trojans with his running ability. He ran 10 times, many on impromptu scrambles, for 41 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. He finished with 76 yards on 17 carries.

Dixon also completed 11 straight passes at one stretch in the first half and managed a rushing touchdown in his eighth-straight game.

"That defense is really explosive, really fast, and you have to take what you can," Dixon said of USC. "They are some tough cats to handle."

As for his Heisman hope?

"As a quarterback you love to be the best quarterback in the nation but then again I've got so much work to do," Dixon said. "I can only get better throughout the year."


JONATHAN STEWART, with 103 yards on 25 carries, is now over 1,000 yards rushing for the season with 1,043. He is the 13th 1,000-yard rusher in school history and the first since Terrence Whitehead in 2004. Stewart also broke the 100-yard barrier for the 11th time in his career, which ties the Oregon record ... Saturday's game was the first ever matchup between two top 10 teams in the 41-year history of Autzen Stadium. It was Oregon's first victory against USC since a 24-22 win on Sept. 22, 2001. The victory is also Oregon's first over a top 10 team since downing Michigan 31-27 in 2003.

Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail

Share This Story