Autzen Stadium was as loud as it was cracked up to be, but it wasn’t about the noise.
The Trojans were flagged six times for false start, but it wasn’t about the penalties.
And USC had just as many takeaways as Oregon, but it wasn’t about the turnovers either.
For the first time since Pete Carroll arrived ay USC, the Trojans lost a game not because of a last-minute field goal or extreme misfortune. Instead, the Trojans were completely dismantled in a 47-20 rout, explained by words that haven’t been heard in Sothern California in a very long time.
“We knew what was coming. It wasn’t like they out-schemed us, it wasn’t like they were more athletic than us — we just got beat,” USC safety Taylor Mays said. “They beat us straight up playing football.”
The Ducks ripped the Trojans to historic proportions, putting up 613 yards of total offense on a defense that was at one point thought to be among the nation’s best. It was the second worst defensive performance in USC history, surpassed only in 1946 against Notre Dame.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James embarrassed the Trojans on the ground, helping the Ducks rack up 398 rushing yards. Not since 1977 when Texas A&M rushed for 486 yards had USC played so awfully against the run.
And the 47 points the Trojans gave up was the most since 1996, when UCLA scored 48 in double overtime.
“This was a real mess for us tonight. Oregon did everything they wanted to do,” Carroll said.
Masoli had a monster game, passing for 222 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 165 yards and another touchdown. The Trojans couldn’t seem to corral the Oregon quarterback, as he bounced off would-be tacklers and evaded sure sacks.
“The runs that he popped, whether they were scrambles or by design, just broke our back,” Carroll said.
James was just as impressive, putting up for 184 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound tailback is built similar to Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers and was just as effective.
“We just lost track of him back in the backfield about four or five times,” Carroll said.
And what about the Trojan defense? I mean, there were 11 guys in USC jerseys on the field, but I don’t think many people would consider that defense.
At the beginning of the season, the defense was USC’s foundation. Remember how it tamed Terrelle Pryor at Ohio State? Remember how it corralled Jahvid Best at Cal?
But after a second half letdown against Notre Dame, the whispers started. After giving up 36 points and 482 total yards to the Beavers, some eyebrows started to raise.
Then it all came crashing down. Oregon scored practically every time it touched the ball. USC forced the Ducks to punt just one time in the entire game.
To its credit, the offense hung in there in the first half, putting up 17 points and keeping the game within reach. But then it too started to sputter in the second half, probably because it was trying too hard to overcome an ever-growing Oregon lead.
It’s been a long time since a USC team looked so outmatched. It’s been a long time since USC got smacked and instead of fighting back, just rolled over.
“They hit us in the mouth and they kept hitting us in the mouth,” Mays said.
The mood in the locker room after the game was not surprisingly one of disbelief. From the starting quarterback to the fourth string punter, nobody ever expects to lose like this.
“I never thought this could happen,” quarterback Matt Barkley said.
What makes this particular loss so debilitating for USC is the shock that Barkley and other players expressed. In close losses, like the one at Washington earlier this year, a team can point to a few plays that changed the game, whether it be turnovers, blown coverages or dumb penalties.
After a blowout, there are no scapegoats — not a moment here or player there that could have changed the outcome. After being dismantled, you’re left only with shaken confidence and the knowledge that the team on the opposing sideline is better than you.
The challenge now is for the Trojans to prevent this loss from defining their season.
“We lost this game, but we don’t want to give up the rest of our season,” linebacker Michael Morgan said.
And they won’t. The Trojans will probably respond and win the rest of their games.
But the sting of this sound beating will be with them for a long time.
“Middle Ground” runs Mondays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Josh at email@example.com.