USC Trojans

"Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks

"Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks

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.

Instant Analysis: Oregon defeats USC in heated game

Instant Analysis: Oregon defeats USC in heated game

LOS ANGELES – In a roller coaster of a game, No. 7 Oregon beat USC, 56-24, in front 18 NFL Scouts in a barren LA Memorial Coliseum to begin November with a bang.

The win extends the Ducks’ winning streak to eight games and improves them to 6-0 in Pac-12 conference play for the first time since 2012. Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) remains on the path to the Pac-12 Championship game with zero conference losses. Now the Ducks get to enjoy a bye week before closing out the regular season.

Here are the top three takeaways from the contest.

1. Hideous, yucky, Duck start

Oregon’s first quarter was about as ugly as it gets. Quarterback Justin Herbert lacked awareness, threw an interception and only gained 16 yards and one first down, on 12 offensive plays. The Ducks also struggled to protect Herbert, giving up two sacks to USC. The running game was non-existent (-11 yards) against a USC team that gives up near 200 rushing yards a game.
The Duck defense missed tackles (particularly bad in space) and failed to hold on third down, the Trojans converted 4-of-6 third down conversions. Oregon also was flagged twice for 26 yards. Oregon trailed 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

2. Literal, “Fight” on

Through seven games this season, Oregon was averaging 5.4 penalties for 53.7 yards.

Tonight, Oregon and USC both lacked composure and there were flags galore. Coach Mario Cristobal turned red in the face as the Ducks committed uncharacteristic and costly penalties. In the first half alone, the Ducks totaled 112 penalty yards compared to 113 yards of total offense. Defensive lineman Austin Faoliu was ejected after being called for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on one play. Nick Pickett was also called for targeting and will miss the first half of the Arizona game.

Even as the teams cleared the field at half time, multiple players were talking smack to each other. Oregon somehow led at half, 28-17.

The Trojans were flagged for five times for 59 yards in the first half. Also, USC was flagged for roughing the passer: a cheap shot to Herbert’s knees. Herbert walked off on his own but backup quarterback Tyler Shough entered the game for a few plays.

3. Can you say, roller coaster?

There were a few momentum-shifting clutch plays from the Ducks when they needed it most.

Linebacker La’Mar Winston made a huge stand with USC three yards away from the end zone, getting a strip sack, which safety Brady Breeze recovered. Breeze continued his excellent play with a pick-six in the second quarter.

Wide receiver Jaylon Redd made a Trojan miss, cut up the field and efforted his way into the end zone with tough running to give the Ducks their first lead of the night.

True freshman Mykael Wright surprised everyone with a 100-yard touchdown on a kickoff return as the first half came to a close.

Juwan Johnson looked every bit of the “go-to receiver” fans had hoped he’d be when transferring to Oregon from Penn State. He led the team with seven receptions for 106 yards and three touchdowns.

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More to come with quotes and videos from Coach Mario Cristobal and Ducks players.

Oregon storming LA in white, yellow uniforms and helmets

Oregon storming LA in white, yellow uniforms and helmets

Looking to stay on the path to the Pac-12 Championship game, the No. 7 Oregon Ducks will be donning ­­­­white uniforms with yellow pants and helmets with green accents against USC on Saturday at 5 p.m in Los Angeles, California. Ducks fans are encouraged to wear white to the crucial matchup.

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature large "Mighty Oregon" font resembling last season's "Oregon Football 2.0" uniform with slight differences. The addition of Nightmare Green is the biggest change while notably no black set was released (yet). 

In perhaps the hardest game remaining on Oregon's regular-season schedule, a Duck win would be their first 6-0 start to Pac-12 play since 2012 and make them the first Pac-12 team to accomplish the feat since Washington in 2016.

MORE DUCKS:

Dana Shough's fight and win over breast cancer the "largest championship game" she's ever been in

Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC

Oh, brother! Oregon’s Mycah Pittman vs. USC’s Michael Pittman

10 numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans

Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC

Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods

Do the Ducks play better in the state of California?

Do the Ducks play better in the state of California?

Sunshine, In-N-Out Burger, and familiar faces in the Southern California crowd.

The No. 7 Oregon Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) travel south to face USC this Saturday in what’s going to be an epic Pac-12 showdown of the No. 1 in the North vs. the No. 1 in the South.

And for 48 players on the Oregon roster, this also means they are headed home.

Oregon starting corners Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir are both from the Los Angeles area and both went to high schools approximately 40 miles from USC’s campus.

What’s even more enlightening is the fact that Graham and Lenoir have most likely faced these Trojan receivers before throughout their high school careers.

“They know what they’re going against,” says Anthony Newman in the latest Talkin’ Ducks podcast. “They can’t wait to get out there and play against this southern California team. This is going to be a great matchup in the passing game.”

Listen to the full Talkin' Ducks Podcast with Newman and Jordan Kent below:

MORE ON THE DUCKS:

Why Oregon will beat USC: Three keys to victory

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: Justin Herbert comes through when it counts

Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC

Why Oregon football will beat USC: Three keys to victory

Why Oregon football will beat USC: Three keys to victory

No. 7 Oregon is the only remaining team in the North Division without a loss and looking to stay on the path to the Pac-12 Championship game. The Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) are looking for their seventh-straight victory to improve to 6-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2012. USC (5-3, 4-1) is tied for first with Utah in the Pac-12 South division.

Numbers to know: Under head coach Mario Cristobal, Oregon is 9-0 when it rushes for 200 yards in a game.

Fun fact: USC has four players from Oregon on its roster, compared to the 48 Californians on Oregon’s roster.

[READ: Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC]

Betting line: Oregon is a road favorite. The Ducks opened as 4.5-point favorites against the Trojans. The over/under is 62.5 total points.

Three keys to an Oregon win

In a game that I’m expecting to be tight, there are three things the Ducks must do be victorious in Los Angeles.

1. Win turnover battle

The Ducks lead the nation in interceptions and lead the conference in turnover margin. UO’s secondary has eight interceptions in the last three games but also got burned by WSU and UW. The Ducks defensive backs need to return to dominance against probably the best receiving corps (including Michael Pittman Jr., Mycah Pittman’s older brother) in the conference.

If Oregon can continue to play mistake free (they have zero giveaways in five of their last six games) the Ducks have a huge upper hand. Quarterback Justin Herbert has just one interception over his last 360 pass attempts in Pac- 12 road games with 24 touchdowns over that span.

2. Run, Verdell (or whoever has the hot hand), Run!

Oregon’s rushing attack has been explosive as of late, thanks to impressive performances from sophomores CJ Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio. Verdell leads the Pac-12 in rushing (753) following his 257-yard performance last week against Washington State. His 313 all-purpose yards against the Cougars are the most by an FBS player this season.

USC is giving up close to 200 rushing yards per game. The Trojans ninth ranked rushing defense in the conference provides an opportunity for Oregon’s running backs to control the game.

3. Pressure Kedon Slovis

Despite injuries at the quarterback position, the Trojans own the 20th ranked passing offense in the country, second in the Pac-12.  Since missing the Washington game, quarterback Kedon Slovis has been very accurate, with a 68 percent passing completion rate, eight touchdowns and a pick in his last three games, coming off of a 406 yards and four-touchdown performance vs. Colorado.

Oregon’s defense had its fair share of struggles against Washington State. The Ducks struggled getting pressure on quarterback Anthony Gordon, had no answer to his quick passes and committed uncharacteristic, unsportsmanlike penalties.

Basically, that can’t happen for Oregon to be victorious.

How and where to watch

Time: Saturday, November 2 at 5 p.m. (PT)

Where: LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California

TV: FOX

Radio: Portland on 1080 "The Fan", Eugene on KUGN-AM 590

More Ducks:

Dana Shough's fight and win over breast cancer the "largest championship game" she's ever been in

Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC

Oh, brother! Oregon’s Mycah Pittman vs. USC’s Michael Pittman

10 numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans

Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC

Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods

Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC

Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC

Oregon wide receiver Juwan Johnson is in the groove and it could get ugly for USC. The Penn State graduate transfer has unfinished business against the Trojans. In his redshirt season with then-No. 5 Penn State, USC hit a field goal as time expired to steal the victory in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl in history.

“We have some history and I have a little sour taste in my mouth from the last time we played them,” Johnson added. “You have to treat it like another game. If you try to hype up or dumb down a game, we are going to get beat like that.”

Johnson is excited to face the Trojans again, this time wearing green and yellow on Saturday at 5 p.m. (PT) when the No. 7 Oregon Ducks face USC for the first time since 2016.

Coming off a clutch performance in Oregon’s win over Washington State, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Johnson has been elevated to first-team offense and will have a more prominent role. His two massive catches on the Ducks’ final drive set up the game-winning field goal. Perhaps even more impressive is his impact by doing the little things: he pancaked two defenders to lead the way for running back CJ Verdell’s 89-yard touchdown.

“He needed to get his feet wet a little more so he could show everybody what’s going on," fellow wide receiver Jaylon Redd said. “He’s been waiting patiently. I feel like it’s about to get real, real, real ugly out here right now.”

Johnson is feeling confident, healthy and in the groove, just in time for a pivotal matchup at L.A. Memorial Coliseum. USC (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) is tied for first with Utah in the Pac-12 South division and the Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) look to stay atop the North and on the path to the Pac-12 Title game.

It could be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game. It definitely will be a test. Perhaps the hardest game remaining on Oregon's regular-season schedule, it’s the kind of game players transfer for.

As Johnson grew up in in Glassboro, New Jersey, his childhood dream was to play for Oregon. From across the country he was in awe the Oregon brand, LaMichael James, Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas. Huff is his favorite Duck receiver, and Johnson followed Huff’s career when he was with the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons.

All the uniforms, tradition and brother rivalries aside, Johnson has a chance to turn a sour taste very sweet.

Oh, brother! Oregon’s Mycah Pittman vs. USC’s Michael Pittman

Oh, brother! Oregon’s Mycah Pittman vs. USC’s Michael Pittman

Oregon freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman would beat big brother, USC senior wide receiver, Michael Pittman Jr., running from house to house, trick-or-treating.
Although Mycah, whose mom dressed him as a skeleton, was smaller, he’d “easily” get to the candy first. 

“He’s not beating me, I’d trip him or something,” Mycah said of his older brother, Michael. “He has the long legs, long arms and long strides but I’d trip him to make sure I get my edge on him.”

Fast forward a few Halloweens and now the two brothers will face each other from different sidelines this Saturday at 5 p.m. when the No. 7 Oregon Ducks face USC for the first time since 2016. It’s a pivotal matchup at L.A. Memorial Coliseum for USC (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) who is tied for first with Utah in the Pac-12 South division and for the Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) to stay atop the North and on the path to the Pac-12 Title game.

The Pittman’s cousins, second cousins, grandmas, grandpas, aunts… Basically the whole family will be in the crowd. Yes, there has been trash talk between the Duck and Trojan every night this week via FaceTime.

“I FaceTimed him and I was like ‘If we beat you, I’m big brother now’," Mycah said. "Just trash talk like that."

Mycah keeps tabs on his brother Michael’s weekly accolades: the USC senior leads the conference in receiving yards with 755. Last week, the Biletnikoff Award candidate totaled 156 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including the winning touchdown in USC’s win against Colorado.

“I don’t know how they’re going to play him," Mycah said of Oregon’s defensive plan for Michael. "I’m not in the defensive meeting rooms, but I know he’s going to be a problem… I don’t know what we’re going to do with him.”

Michael, who rides horses in his spare time, wants to get into tie-down roping after his football days. The rodeo will likely have to wait, as the NFL will soon be calling for Michael Jr., the oldest son of Michael Pittman Sr., Super Bowl winner and 11-year NFL running back.

Mycah is also living up to his namesake, earning playing time and passes from Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Since stepping foot on campus, the Mycah hype has been full go. During fall camp, he was the most talked about true freshman, making Oregon fans reel in excitement. A shoulder injury, from (of course) making a diving catch in practice set back his plans, changing course to rehabbing and exercising mental reps. The injury kept him from playing in UO’s first four games.

Since returning, six of Mycah’s 10 catches have gone for a first down and he’s proven to be electric. Now that the former top three wide receiver recruit from California is feeling comfortable with the college pace, he’s ready to cut loose. Mycah has 150 receiving yards on 10 receptions and one touchdown but he’s ready for more.

He’s also ready to beat big bro.

"I hope (Michael) has a great game, but obviously I hope we end up getting the ‘W’," Mycah said.

10 numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans

10 numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans

Oregon takes a seven-game win streak to USC for a 5 p.m. Saturday showdown at LA Memorial Coliseum.

The crucial matchup is the first meeting between Oregon and USC since 2016. The No. 7 Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) look to stay atop the Pac-12 North Division. A win for the Trojans (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) would keep them on the path to the Pac-12 Championship game and eligible for a bowl game, after not qualifying last season.

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know about perhaps the hardest game remaining on Oregon's regular-season schedule.

THE MAGIC NUMBER

Under head coach Mario Cristobal, Oregon is 9-0 when it rushes for 200 yards in a game.

[Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC]

VERDELL JOINS THE GREATS

CJ Verdell set the Autzen Stadium rushing record on Saturday against WSU. Also, his 257-yard rushing performance is the most since Kenjon Barner’s 321 yards at USC in 2012, the first and only Duck to rush for over 300 yards.

OH, BROTHER

The Pittman and Winston brothers will each be on opposite sidelines. USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and Oregon wide receiver Mycah Pittman are brothers, as are USC outside linebacker Eli'jah Winston and Oregon outside linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr.

COMING HOME?

USC has four players from Oregon on its roster (S Talanoa Hufanga, DL Brandon Pili, DL Marlon Tuipulotu and OLB Eli'jah Winston). Compared to the 48 Californians on Oregon’s roster.

A WIN WOULD…

Give Oregon its first 6-0 start to Pac-12 play since 2012 and make them the first Pac-12 team to accomplish the feat since Washington in 2016.

IS THAT GOOD?

Oregon has outscored its opponents 267-91, including 142-34 in the second half, during its seven-game win streak.

INSANE RATIO

Quarterback Justin Herbert has just one interception over his last 360 pass attempts in Pac- 12 road games with 24 touchdowns over that span.

RUNNING BERSERK

CJ Verdell leads the Pac-12 in rushing (753) following his 257-yard performance last week against Washington State. His 313 all-purpose yards against the Cougars are the most by an FBS player this season.

BALL HAWKS

Oregon leads the nation with 14 interceptions and is one of five FBS teams with two players (Jevon Holland has four, Verone McKinley III has three) with three or more picks.

HOME SWEET, COLISEUM

USC is 4-0 at home in 2019, beating: Fresno State, Stanford, Utah and Arizona.

[RELATED: Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods]

Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods

Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods

Post-season predictions season has arrived and is here to stay.

It’s likely the Oregon Ducks are headed to the Pac-12 title game, 99 percent likely to be exact. With zero conference losses, Oregon now holds the tiebreaker against every Pac-12 North opponent except for Oregon State.

In the national picture, the No. 7 Ducks are now the second-highest rated one-loss team in the AP Poll, trailing only one-loss Florida, who has a game looming against No. 8 Georgia.

With all the chatter about Oregon’s (hardly) alive College Football Playoff chances, Rose Bowl projections and conference game expectations… How do the Ducks mentally stay present?

“That’s always going to be the monster that we’re faced with, with our generation,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “I think you quickly acknowledge the fact that it’s there but you also acknowledge the fact that we are having success, we’re climbing, but we’re also climbing because other teams had some mishaps on Saturday. That’s the bottom line and that’s the truth.”

Cristobal is referencing the three top 10 teams that lost in week eight: then-No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 9 Auburn. He stressed the importance that Oregon sticks to its “simple” mindset that the most important game of the season is the next game.

While the Ducks are focused on the task at hand, they also lean on inspiration from other athletes. Every “Fast Friday” the coaching staff plays a video to set the mind of the team before their upcoming game.

Ahead of Oregon’s gutsy last minute triumph over Washington State, the video featured the roar of Tiger Woods’ return, which sincerely resonated with the team.

"It started off with Tiger Woods talking about how you never arrive. I think his first Master’s victory was 20-plus years ago… It really hit home with the team,” Cristobal said. “I don’t think you ever arrive. I think it’s a cardinal sin as it relates to sports and individual competitors to ever think that. I think ever since last year we have been learning how to sometimes grind out a tough win, sometimes jump on a team, sometimes be able to withstand a surge from the other team.”

Oregon is off to its first 5-0 start in Pac-12 play since 2013, taking a seven-game win streak to USC for a Saturday showdown at LA Coliseum. The Trojans are leading the Pac-12 South and brimming with talent.

“This year we’ve had a little bit more success up until this point in the season, but fully knowing that there are so many things we have to get better in in order to continue to have success,” Cristobal said. “Your margin for error becomes smaller and smaller, therefore technique and fundamentals really come into play at this time of year. Wanting to play hard and have a lot of passion, it’s awesome, it’s a major ingredient but the other ingredients have to matchup and those ingredients are technique and fundamentals.”

It may be prediction season for media and fans, but for Oregon it’s still regular season, with four tough conference teams looming.

[READ: Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC]

Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC

Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC

The No. 7 Oregon Ducks are high after their gutsy last minute triumph over Washington State at home. However, the injury bug did strike on Saturday. Oregon football Coach Mario Cristobal provided injury updates on the Dye brothers.

[A once-in-a-decade player ignites Oregon's run game]

Troy Dye is listed at starting inside linebacker this week after breaking his thumb against Washington and not playing against Washington State. Dru Mathis started in his place. Against USC, Troy Dye is good to go, he will practice beginning on Tuesday. 

Travis Dye is listed on the depth chart as co-starter at running back alongside CJ Verdell, Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Darrian Felix. According to Cristobal, he is healthy, ready to practice on Tuesday and will play vs. USC

Travis Dye suffered a helmet-to-helmet collision against Washington State and immediately went to the locker room. He did not return.

Off to its first 5-0 start in Pac-12 play since 2013, Oregon takes a seven-game win streak to USC for a Saturday showdown at LA Coliseum.