Sunday, October 28, 2007

Southern California 17, Oregon 24

thanks Yahoo!

Oregon defensive back Matthew Harper could sense it. Southern California was trailing by touchdown and on the march in the final moments. The home fans were on their feet, urging the Ducks to make the one last play it needed to take down the kings of the Pac-10. Harper was confident. "We knew somebody would make the play, and luckily it was me," he said.

Harper's interception on USC's final drive preserved a 24-17 victory and put No. 5 Oregon on the short list of national title contenders. As for No. 9 Southern California, just defending its Pac-10 title could be a long shot at this point.

Jonathan Stewart ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns and Dennis Dixon completed 16 of 25 passes for 157 yards for Oregon (7-1, 4-1), which was fifth in the BCS standings this week. Dixon, who's starting to get some serious Heisman hype, also ran for 76 yards and a touchdown.

The Ducks, who came into the game ranked second nationally in total offense, managed only 339 yards -- more than 200 below their average -- against the Trojans' third-ranked defense. But it was turnovers, including a fumble recovery and a pair of interceptions, that gave Oregon the advantage over Southern California (6-2, 3-2). USC came into the season ranked No. 1 and a heavy favorite to play for a national title. Now the Trojans will need lots of help to gain even a share of the Pac-10 crown it's won at least a part of for five straight seasons.

Trailing 17-10, USC was driving late in third quarter thanks to some clutch third-down passes by quarterback Mark Sanchez, who was making his third straight start in place of the injured John David Booty. Oregon, though, halted the march when safety Matthew Harper picked off Sanchez at the 15-yard line. The Ducks took advantage of the turnover by staging a 58-yard drive that culminated in Jonathan Stewart's 1-yard touchdown run.

That made it 24-10, but USC countered with a scoring pass from Sanchez to David Ausberry to pull within one possession. And things really looked scary for Oregon when the Trojans got the ball back again with about 3 minutes left. That's because Harper came up big again for Oregon when he picked off Sanchez for the second time as USC attempted to tie the game in the final seconds. A record crowd of 59,277 went bananas when Harper made his game-clinching interception.

It was the first time in Autzen Stadium's 41-year history that two top-10 teams played. The game drew a stadium record of 59,277 fans, including former Ducks Joey Harrington, now with the Atlanta Falcons, and Haloti Ngata, who is with the Baltimore Ravens.

USC had won the last three games against the Ducks, including last year's 35-10 victory in Los Angeles. The Trojans now can only look forward to next week at home against Oregon State, and see how the season shakes out.

Things won't get any easier for the Ducks, who play host to Arizona State next week. "We've got something for A-State," Williams said. "Just like we had something today for USC." Oregon's final three games are against Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State – all "show-up games," Bellotti said. Tough as their upcoming opponents may be, the Ducks' biggest challenge may come off the field. Now more than ever, Oregon will be talked about as a national title contender. Stewart and quarterback Dennis Dixon are being mentioned as Heisman candidates.

Go Ducks!

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