Slow start holds key to Oregon's ending

EUGENE — In a night full of surprises — from the missed field goal that capped USC's 38-35 victory over Oregon to the very fact that the Ducks climbed back from a 24-point hole in the first place — perhaps the most shocking development occurred in the first quarter.

For the first time all season, Oregon was held scoreless in the opening period, coming out flat on offense and turning the ball over twice (once on a fumble and once on downs). Both of those drives stalled deep in USC territory, and the Trojans took advantage of those opportunities to take a 14-0 lead.

The Ducks never fully recovered.

"You can't make the mistakes we made, especially early, against a good football team like that," Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said. "And they capitalized on it."

Running back LaMichael James was held to just 3.5 yards per carry in that first quarter, well below his season average of 7.9, while quarterback Darron Thomas completed just three passes and took his eighth sack of the season. In all, the Ducks compiled just 36 total yards of offense, and dug a hole that would haunt them for the rest of the night.

"I just don't think we was ready," receiver Josh Huff said. "We weren't mentally ready, and we just thought we was gonna come in against 'SC and just run over them. But they came out and fought hard, and all respect to them."

Oregon would rally late in the game, and had the chance to win on a final drive, but it was simply too little, too late.

"We were creeping over the hole and looking out," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "But just couldn't quite kick our leg over the top and get back out at the end."

u

STUCKEY, JORDAN HURT: Both linebacker Dewitt Stuckey and defensive end Dion Jordan were hurt early in the game on Saturday and did not return, robbing the Oregon defense of two of its most important playmakers. The two standouts had combined for 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss on the year, and their absence was felt as the Trojans picked Oregon apart to the tune of 462 total yards of offense.

"We lost a couple real good football players in Stuck and Dion," Kelly said. "But that's football. You're gonna get tested from a depth standpoint, and we got tested with those guys being out. But they're out, they're out.

"We gotta try to find another way to get it done."

For his part, safety John Boyett wasn't making any excuses either. The time for second-guessing can come later, when the tapes are reviewed.

"Who knows?" Boyett said. "You gotta watch the film. It doesn't matter if you lose guys, guys gotta step up and make plays."

The difficulties in pressuring Matt Barkley, as it turned out, had more to do with USC's game plan than the injuries to Stuckey and Jordan. The Trojans saw what happened to Andrew Luck against the Ducks last weekend, and adjusted accordingly.

"They got the ball out real quick," defensive end Brandon Hanna said. "They didn't take a whole lot of time to throw the ball, so that made it real tough. They did a good job."

Of Oregon's four tackles for a loss, just one was a sack, credited to the team after an intentional grounding penalty in the first quarter.

u

FIRST AUTZEN STADIUM LOSS SINCE 2008: Chip Kelly knew his first home loss would have to happen at some point. He would have preferred for it not to come on Saturday night, but it was only a matter of time. When Alejandro Maldonado's field goal missed wide left and the clock struck zero, Oregon had its first loss at Autzen Stadium since falling to Boise State in 2008.

"None of us had delusions that we'd never lose a game in Autzen Stadium," Kelly said. "If people think you're going to through every day, you're going to win every game, everything's going to be great for you, you know, not gonna happen. We know that."

Before Saturday's loss, Oregon's 21-game home winning streak was the longest in the FBS.

u

JAMES SITS OUT: After fumbling the ball near the goal line just as the first half came to an end, LaMichael James appeared to re-injure the right elbow that was dislocated against California back on Oct. 6. Having carried the ball 17 times in the first half for 70 yards, James was limited to just three carries for eight more yards for the duration of the game.

Kenjon Barner carried most of the load in the second half (12 carries for 109 yards), and James insists he could have played.

"I don't know man," he said when asked why he was sidelined. "I don't know. I was fine."

James finished the game with 20 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown, while Barner led the way with 15 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

Share This Story