The story: It was the worst loss of the Pete Carroll era and likely marked the end of USC’s run of Pac-10 titles, as the Trojans were dismantled by the resurgent Oregon Ducks, 47-20, before a record and raucous Autzen Stadium crowd.
Led by redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James’ career-high 183 yards, No. 10 Oregon (7-1, 5-0 Pac-10) rushed for 391 yards and averaged 8 yards per carry, wearing down a USC defense that had shown cracks against Notre Dame and Oregon State.
“This was a real mess for us tonight,” Carroll said. “Oregon did everything they wanted to do.”
Punting only once all night, the Ducks were 9 for 9 in the red zone and scored on five consecutive drives in the second half to blow the game open.
The 47 points surrendered were the most since a 1996 double-overtime loss to UCLA, and All-American safety Taylor Mays said he never saw it coming.
“No, never,” Mays said. “Not with the talent that we have, not with the coaches that we have, not with how hard we practice and the potential that we have as a team. And that’s why this loss hurt.”
The No. 5 Trojans (6-2, 3-2) hung tough for a half, largely on the strength of receiver Damian Williams’ seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Williams, who was limited by a bruised glut all week and appeared to struggle with the injury in the second half, finished with nine receptions and 82 yards.
Joe McKnight chipped in with 95 yards on 15 carries, but USC managed just 327 yards and committed six false start penalties.
Matt Barkley was 21 of 38 for 187 yards, two touchdowns and was intercepted on the last play of the game.
Most valuable player: Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli turned in a masterful performance, throwing for 222 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another 165 yards and a score.
“The runs he popped, whether they were scrambles or by design, just broke our back,” Carroll said.
Play of the game: After a 39-yard Jordan Congdon field goal cut the lead to 27-20, Oregon responded with a 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that began with Masoli’s 26-yard scramble through gaping holes in the USC defense. James capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run and the rout was on.
By the numbers: The 27-point margin of defeat marked only the second time Carroll has lost by double digits at USC. In 2001, Notre Dame downed the Trojans 27-16.
Oregon rolled up 613 yards of total offense, the second-most ever allowed by USC. Only Notre Dame in 1946 topped that total.
USC came into the game leading the nation in sacks per game. They did not sack Masoli.
Finishing the job: In 2007, Oregon handed USC its second conference loss and was well on its way to winning the Pac-10 before quarterback Dennis Dixon injured his knee and the Ducks fell apart down the stretch.
In 2009, the Trojans will need similar circumstances to claim its eighth-straight conference title. Oregon now has a two-game lead in the standings, and with the head-to-head tiebreaker, would need to lose three times for USC to claim the automatic Rose Bowl berth.