Maehl continues to impress for Oregon

LOS ANGELES — It was a long way from the small town of Paradise, Calif., but Jeff Maehl found himself in Paradise on Saturday in one of college football's biggest arenas.

Maehl caught three touchdown passes for Oregon as the little-sought after receiver led the top-ranked Ducks to a 53-32 victory over USC at the Coliseum.

Maehl seemed to do it all, getting wide open for touchdowns of 15 and 30 yards sandwiched around a circus catch of 45 yards that was made for YouTube.

The first two scores helped the Ducks take a 29-17 lead, and the last one — after USC scored twice in the first four minutes of the second half — gave Oregon the lead for good, 36-32, after he crossed the middle all alone and took the pass from Darron Thomas into the corner of the end zone.

Coach Chip Kelly said he had no idea why Maehl wasn't more highly recruited — as a defensive back, no less — but he's thankful that Maehl's father played high school ball with Oregon assistant coach John Neal, who is in his eighth season with the Ducks and initially recruited Maehl to join his group in the secondary.

"He's from a smaller town in Northern California," Kelly said. "I thought the recruiting services knew everybody. Maybe they missed a few."

Maybe they did. Oregon was the only school to offer Maehl, who looked at home in the Coliseum. He caught eight passes for 145 yards.

The reception that had everyone talking was the deep pass he caught in the end zone; he tipped the ball into the air and he caught it while he was hitting the ground.

"I thought the corner was a little closer to me, and I really shouldn't have even jumped," Maehl said. "It hit my hands and fell right into my lap."

Officials reviewed the play, but Maehl said he was confident the play would stand.

"He's a tremendous athlete and a tremendous competitor," Kelly said. "He's got a skill set — you should see him play basketball. You should see him run and get in and out of cuts. And then his work ethic ... from this year to last year he's gained 11 pounds of muscle. He's worked very hard at being a receiver and he's an unbelievable player."

Yet Kelly said the best thing about Maehl, who had 12 receptions last season against Arizona, "I'm just glad we can start rating them, 'What's the best Jeff Maehl game?' And hopefully, it's next week."


THE USC THORNS: LaMichael James ran 36 times for 239 yards and three touchdowns to post the second-most ever gained on the ground against USC — 2 yards less than Curtis Enis of Penn State gained in 1996 on 27 carries. The last person to rush for 200 yards against the Trojans was Vince Young, who gained 200 for Texas in the national championship game in 2006.

Remarkably, James' big yardage seemed to be awfully quiet. He broke off a 42-yard scoring run in the second quarter that gave Oregon a 15-10 lead, and he had a 45-yard carry on the Ducks' final drive that ended with his 8-yard run with 2:45 left in the game.

He also scored on 2-yard run late in the third quarter that capped an 11-play, 82-yard drive.

James went over 100 yards for the 15th time in his career, breaking the school record previously held by Jonathan Stewart (2005-07). He has eclipsed 100 yards six times this season, with a season high of 257 yards against Stanford.

Darron Thomas' four touchdowns also tied a record for an opponent of USC. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 288 yards.


WEARING THEM OUT: Oregon's scoring drives in the first half were 15, 42, 45 and 33 yards, but the Ducks won the game by driving on USC. Oregon led at halftime, 29-17, but an interception by lineman Jurrell Casey at the 21 set up Matt Barkley's 5-yard scoring pass, and a 55-yard punt return by Ronald Johnson and a penalty at the end of the play set up an 11-yard drive that ended with Barkley's 1-yard sneak for a 32-29 USC lead.

But it was all Ducks after that.

They answered with drives of 12 plays and 11 plays that covered 69 and 82 yards, respectively. They added a field goal after driving 11 plays for 47 yards, and an 80-yard drive that led to a score in seven plays.

"We played real well in the third and fourth quarter and that's what we needed to do," said offensive lineman C.E. Kaiser. "The first two quarters we didn't have those real long drives.

"It seems like we get one or two of them (long drives) in the third quarter and it really helps us out."


HARRIS' BIG NIGHT: Cliff Harris had punt returns of 13 and 41 yards that set up quick touchdown drives and, in only his second start, an interception at the end of the first half inside the 10-yard line.

Asked if he should have scored on the 41-yard return when he started high-stepping and was caught, he made a concession. "I was a little gassed," he said. "I tried to give a little stutter step and he didn't go for it."

Kelly said that Harris is "a dynamic punt returner for us, (and) did a nice job. With Anthony (Gildon) being out, we're not as deep as we'd like to be in the secondary. Our secondary guys are playing a lot more snaps. We like to rotate a lot of guys on defense, but those guys answered the calls. I thought Talmadge (Jackson III) played really well today and Cliff did, too."

Said Maehl: "Cliff comes up with big plays for us every week. It's something we expect from him and something he expects of himself. He goes into every game thinking he's going to score a touchdown back there."

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