Oregon controls the Pac-10 realm


The strangest part about Saturday’s loss to Oregon wasn’t how it transpired. It was how it felt afterward.

It didn’t feel like just a loss. It felt like a revolution.

Past losses have felt like exactly what they were: unexpected defeats. The loss at Washington six weeks ago was a hiccup, a setback the Trojans could overcome.

Defeats in the past — Oregon State, Stanford and even the loss in Eugene two years ago — felt like unfortunate bumps in the road.

But in the minutes and hours following Saturday’s loss at Oregon, it felt like much more than that. It had the feeling of a coup d’état.

Or, in this case, a coup de Pac.

Before the game, the air was full of uncertainty. USC was confident — and rightfully so, as the reigning king of the conference. But Oregon was confident too.

The Ducks strode into the stadium with the expectation that 60 minutes of football would bring about a changing of the guard. And the royalty had no reason to expect it couldn’t maintain order.

Both sides seemed to know that anything could happen in Oregon, a place where the Trojans’ struggles have been well documented.

And a few short hours later, order gave way to chaos.

Throngs of people packed the concourse and the aisles, and more spilled onto the field. They were there to celebrate, but it seemed like more than just a celebration.

No, they had worked themselves into a frenzy, as if they had just stormed the college football Bastille. Their hands were held high, but each hand was more than a sign of victory. It was a revolutionary pike, with the head of the now-deposed king sitting on top.

As I made my way from the roof of the press box to the space just outside of USC’s locker room, I was engulfed in the frenzy. The crowds impeded my progress, preventing me from hearing what USC coach Pete Carroll said to the media.

When I finally made it there, Carroll had stepped out of the spotlight. He was standing on the side, with a look on his face that said it all.

It was the look of a king who had just seen his throne taken away.

Senior safety Taylor Mays stepped up to speak with the media, and the room hushed. Mays spoke with his usual calmness, answering each question honestly. There was no air of resignation in his voice.

But there was a feeling of upheaval just outside the door.

As he spoke, the crowd outside could be heard roaring and chanting. Each time the door to the room opened, the noise peaked, then faded away as the door closed.

A wave of jubilant Oregon celebration washed over the room each time.

Mays finished, and freshman quarterback Matt Barkley followed.

He, too, was collected when he spoke.

But there was no calm outside. The crowd remained audible through the room’s walls, still chanting and roaring.

The revolutionaries were just outside the door, pikes held high.

A few Tuesdays ago, Carroll made a joke about the silent pauses between questions from the media. But those pauses were no laughing matter on Saturday.

Each pause gave the room an opportunity to hear the celebration outside.

It was as stark a juxtaposition as you will find.

Now the new king sits atop the Pac-10 throne: Oregon. The Ducks are riding high on a wave of success that was simply unthinkable two months ago.

But like every other revolution, this one has a chance of failing.

The overthrown said all the right things following the game. Both Mays and Barkley said they were not out of the conference race just yet.

And two years ago, that was true. The Ducks attempted an uprising in Eugene, Ore., yet circumstances conspired to reinstate the Trojans a few weeks later.

That may not be the case this time around, but kings do return. The Trojans may regain their throne next year.

But for now, Oregon can celebrate its revolution.

“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” runs every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Grant at tunkel@usc.edu.