To USC cornerback Shareece Wright, the most stunning aspect of No. 1 Oregon's offense isn't its speed or its sophistication, or even the Ducks' standout skill players.
No, Wright and the Trojans were bowled over by Oregon's elegant simplicity.
"They didn't even run a lot of plays," Wright said after the Ducks' 53-32 win at the Coliseum. "They just run them to perfection and wait until the defense breaks down."
Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac-10) makes it look easy to be this good. With a dominant win over the Pac-10's longtime power, the Ducks maintained their unbeaten season and tightened their hold on the top spot in the AP poll for the third straight week, moving within four games of a perfect season and a likely spot in the national title game.
For a few minutes, Southern California thought it had figured out the nation’s top-ranked team. The Trojans scored two quick touchdowns and stopped Oregon’s high-octane offense twice, setting the Coliseum abuzz with anticipation of an upset.
For much of the second half, the Ducks' offense largely consisted of repeated quick snaps followed by handoffs to LaMichael James, who almost always ran between the tackles on the way to 239 yards rushing, the second-most ever allowed to one player by a USC defense.
Quarterback Darron Thomas gave another efficient performance, passing for 288 yards and four touchdowns -- matching the most ever thrown against USC. Thomas threw three of his four scoring passes to Jeff Maehl who had eight catches for a career-high 145 yards while Lavasier Tuinei had seven catches for 78 yards and a score for the Ducks, who racked up 599 total yards.
Oregon trailed in the third quarter for just the second time all season after USC took a 32-29 lead in a 2 1/2 -minute outburst. The Ducks still had 26 minutes left to demolish the Trojans, with national rushing leader James leading the Ducks to 24 consecutive points to close their first win at the Coliseum since 2000.
Trojans coach Lane Kiffin thought the game fell apart when they led 17-15 and had the ball in Oregon territory midway through the second quarter, but Barkley fumbled a shotgun snap after getting distracted by Kiffin yelling from the sideline. On the next play, Maehl made a 45-yard TD catch, artfully tipping the ball before catching it with one hand.
Oregon's defense was barely adequate against USC by most football standards, surrendering 32 points, 377 yards and 27 first downs. Yet normal standards simply don't apply to the Ducks, whose offense's speed and effectiveness all but guarantees a half-dozen touchdowns in each game. The defense again got plenty of work because Oregon's offense made three touchdown drives that lasted less than a minute.
Oregon has scored at least 42 points in every game this season, and USC's 32 points were the most the Ducks have allowed. Just four games remain in the Ducks' quest for the ultimate prize, and the doubters are shrinking with each weekly performance.
USC entered the Coliseum as an underdog for the first time in 51 games since 2001, but the homecoming crowd blanketed the Coliseum in USC’s cardinal color. Despite a vibrant homecoming crowd cheering on its underdog Trojans, USC lost at the Coliseum for the fourth time in seven games. Ronald Johnson caught a TD pass in what’s likely to be the biggest game of USC’s bowl-less season under NCAA sanctions.