LOS ANGELES - Under a hazy pink and purple sunset on the City of Angels, USC fans exited Memorial Coliseum with more than six minutes left in the third quarter as the No. 7 Oregon Ducks rolled to their eighth straight victory. The Ducks beat the Trojans, 56-24, handing USC its worst home loss since 2009.
The pivotal Pac-12 game, in the entertainment capital of the world, was quite the roller-coaster production.
Entering the second quarter, USC lead by 10 points and the Trojan band chanted “overrated” at the Ducks. Around the same time, I was searching an online thesaurus for more words for “ugly” and getting bombarded by “Justin Herbert is overrated” tweets.
After all, in the first half alone, the Ducks totaled 112 penalty yards compared to 113 yards of total offense.
Then, it began to click for Oregon. Despite lacking composure at times, which made Coach Mario Cristobal turn red in the face, the Ducks responded to a double-digit deficit with clutch momentum shifting plays.
The Duck defense forced four turnovers. Freshman Mykael Wright scored on a 100-yard kickoff return. Junior Jaylon Redd muscled his way to score his ninth touchdown in the last eight games. Herbert’s efficiency shined: finishing 21-for-26 for 225 yards with three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
The (literal) largest electric play came from wide receiver Juwan Johnson in his first start as a Duck. The Penn State graduate transfer became the first Oregon player to haul in three touchdown catches in a game since Bralon Addison in the 2015 Civil War. The 6-foot-6 pass catcher had seven catches for a career-high 106 yards and most importantly... a winning attitude.
“(Juwan) was electric tonight… One of the best things he did this week was text me in the middle of the night and ask to be on the kickoff team and ask to help with kickoff coverage,” Cristobal said. “When you have that kind of an attitude, good things happen.”
Fresh off a clutch performance against Washington State, it appears Johnson’s prominent role will only grow from here.
“Coming off some injuries, Juwan is a guy that I knew would step up big,” Herbert said. “I don’t think the public has seen his best yet. We knew all along he would be a special player.”
The Ducks’ third straight comeback victory keeps them on track to the Pac-12 title game. When the College Football Playoff Rankings are released on Tuesday, Oregon will be in the mix as contenders. Oregon’s smack down of USC will escalate the playoff talk.
"Without question," Cristobal said, "I feel we need to be in that conversation."
Entering Oregon’s bye week, the Ducks feel the best is yet to come.