By Johnny Curren
After having shown signs of improvement over the last month, the USC defense was shredded by quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. and the potent Oregon offensive attack in Eugene on Saturday, with the Ducks rolling to a 48-28 victory.
The Trojans secondary, in particular, had its struggles throughout the contest, with Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. completing 20 of 25 passes for 407 yards and six touchdowns – the most ever thrown by a USC opponent – with one interception.
USC was able to trade points with the Ducks early on. Following Adams’ 48-yard touchdown pass to Bralon Addison, Trojans quarterback Cody Kessler threw a 27-yard touchdown to Darreus Rogers, who made a beautiful leaping grab on the play.
Then, after a 52-yard Evan Baylis touchdown reception, Kessler was able to find Tyler Petite for a 12-yard touchdown pass, and the game was tied up at 14-14 with over 12 minutes left in the half.
Oregon surged ahead at that point, however, with Adams throwing two more touchdown passes in the quarter, and Aidan Schneider adding a field goal to give the Ducks a 31-14 lead at halftime.
The Ducks made it 38-14 following a 21-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Dwayne Stanford to open the third quarter, but then the Trojans turned the tide briefly.
The USC defense, finally able to mount some pressure on Adams, forced the Ducks offense to punt on their final three drives of the quarter. In that same period of time, Ronald Jones II scored on a 12-yard run, and Adoree’ Jackson returned a punt for a 41-yard touchdown, and the Trojans only trailed 38-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Adams and the Ducks got things rolling down the stretch, however, and a number of costly penalties committed by the Trojans also helped do Clay Helton’s team in.
USC tailback Justin Davis had a solid showing in defeat, rushing for 141 yards on 16 carries.
Kessler, meanwhile, finished the night 30-of-41 for 238 yards passing and two touchdowns. Rogers led the Trojans with six receptions for 57 yards. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who played through an ankle injury suffered in the second quarter, also had 57 yards receiving on five grabs.
Oregon running back Royce Freeman, the leading rusher in the Pac-12, ran for 147 yards on 20 carries.
The Trojans were penalized a total of 12 times for 124 yards on Saturday, and they were outgained by the Ducks in total offensive yardage 577-417.
USC (7-4 overall, 5-3 Pac-12) will next play UCLA (8-3, 5-3) at home next Saturday, with the Pac-12 South Division title, as well as a trip to the conference championship game on the line.