The Oregon Ducks (4-2) are feeling like Jordan 96-97 by repeating as Pac-12 Champions Friday evening with a 31-24 defeat of No. 13 USC (5-1) in LA Coliseum.
Oregon stormed out to an early 14-0 lead off of two, first-quarter interceptions from senior Dede Lenoir and sophomore Jamal Hill gifting the Ducks offense prime field position.
From then on, the Trojans and Ducks traded touchdowns and USC missed a field goal with two seconds left in the half to enter the locker room trailing Oregon 21-14.
On the season, the Ducks had blown two halftime leads and the Trojans were 3-0 when down at halftime. The Trojans made it close, but fell for the first time all season in the end.
Here are the key takeaways from the contest.
Oregon's Defense Brought the Juice
All season, Mario Cristobal has stressed to his team that his players need to bring their own juice with no fans in attendance and the Ducks looked as dialed in as we've seen them since the 2020 Rose Bowl.
In the first two Trojans possessions, the Ducks didn't allow a single completion and even picked off Kedon Slovis to set up a Jaylon Redd touchdown on the opening possession of the game.
Heading into the contest, linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia was aware the Trojans were entering the title game confident based on what they would see on film.
"[USC] probably thinks they can run the ball and throw all over us because of the mishaps we had in previous games," said the linebacker. "We're just going to come and keep our head down, play hard. Play our game we know we can play. Be physical at the line of scrimmage and we'll go off from there."
The Oregon defensive line played its best game of the season constantly pressuring Slovis and altering USC's offensive rhythm.
Nice to see you Anthony Brown!
The graduate transfer from Boston College made his Oregon debut throwing a touch pass to Jaylon Redd on Oregon's opening posession and entered the game a few more times in short yardage packages.
USC clearly was not prepared for Brown, likely thinking he was inserted as a better runner than Shough. Joe Moorhead used that expectation to pass for the game's opening score.
Brown even played behind center the entire final offensive posession. Good for him.
Tyler Shough has an interception problem
The Oregon signal caller entered the title game as one of the conference's most productive quarterbacks, but he had struggled mightily in the second half vs. Cal, failing to lead a scoring drive in the 21-17 defeat.
He showed some nice accuracy at time Friday, but also under-threw his receivers multiple times including a back-breaking interception late in the first half. If he puts proper air under the ball rather than throw a bullet pass, Mycah Pittman would have ran in for a touchdown.
Uncreative third-down calls
The Oregon Ducks had plenty of chances in the fourth quarter to dial up something big for a third-down conversion but instead elected to run the ball on third-and-long twice. The first time it failed, USC bailed out Oregon with a roughing the punter pentalty, but the second stop caused Oregon to settle for a field goal.
Oregon needs to be more aggressive than settling for short yard gains on third-and-long.
Jamal Hill had the most impressive Oregon interception in quite some time in the fourth quarter. Watch here.
Oregon forced three interceptions on the game, including USC's first one in the fourth quarter all season.
"Oh [my teammates] love it man," Tyler Shough said when asked how the California-native Ducks feel about winning in their home state.
"They love to say they come back home to L.A. and we own it just because this is a statement game for a lot of them, coming back home."
The Next Game
Oregon will play in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, January 2nd. Opponent is TBD.