Oregon-USC: Ducks look to soar over Trojans again


Oregon-USC: Ducks look to soar over Trojans again

LOS ANGELES (AP) Southern California linebacker Hayes Pullard connects with Oregon tailback De'Anthony Thomas pretty much every day, either by phone or text.

They went to Crenshaw High School together, and they've been anticipating the Ducks' visit to the Coliseum on Saturday virtually since graduation.

``We usually talk about other things, but this week it went to football right away,'' Pullard said.

They're not alone. No. 2 Oregon's visit to Los Angeles has loomed as the biggest day on the Pac-12 calendar since late last year, when USC demonstrated the Ducks couldn't completely dominate the West Coast.

Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) has won 11 straight games and the Rose Bowl since that 38-35 loss to USC in Eugene, seamlessly replacing key starters on its spread offense while building a defense that might be the Ducks' best yet.

The 18th-ranked Trojans (6-2, 4-2) haven't exactly lived up to the promise of that gritty road win. Two narrow road losses this fall have knocked the preseason's No. 1 team out of the national title race and left them significant underdogs in their own stadium Saturday.

Just don't try to tell anybody on either sideline that this showdown has lost any significance.

``I don't think anything has changed much,'' said Robert Woods, USC's All-American receiver. ``Oregon is still going to come here and play like it's a championship game, and I know we will. I hope they don't overlook us.''

Even a two-loss USC team is an attention-grabber for Oregon, which is roaring down the stretch of another spectacular season. The Ducks haven't even played a close game, trouncing every opponent by at least 17 points while leading the nation in scoring.

``Playoffs started in college football on the first game of the season, and when you lose, you're done,'' Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. ``Look who tumbles and goes. That's not hard for our guys to figure that out. If you have a vision of what you want to get accomplished, you'd better take each game like it's the Super Bowl.''

That's not tough to do while playing in the stadium that hosted the first Super Bowl. Yet if last November's close loss to USC provides the Ducks with any special motivation, they weren't acknowledging it while heading to their first of three road games in four weeks to close out the regular season.

``They've got guys. USC always has athletes,'' said Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who admired Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush on television while growing up. ``It's always about trying to get them to think a little bit. We'll see what we can do, but they've got guys that can really come down and make some plays. ... USC has got some depth issues. Arizona just did a good job tempo-ing them, and it kind of worked out for them.''

The precocious freshman referred to the speed-it-up spread offense run by the No. 24 Wildcats, who erased USC's national title hopes with a 39-36 victory last week. Oregon's offense plays at an unmatched pace, but the Trojans showed last year that it's possible to keep up, particularly if an opponent gets out to an early lead.

``Well, we did it last year for three quarters,'' USC defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron said. ``We were in the right position and made tackles in space. You've got to make plays and get out in space, stick with your assignments, keep it all together. It's amazing the number of plays they run at the speed they run them, and with the precision they run them. Those guys will run the ball down your throat, so you can't just be screaming down the field.''

USC is hoping for help from the fans in its cavernous home stadium, which sold out in mid-August in anticipation of this visit. After USC's other loss this season, a seven-point defeat at Stanford, the Trojans rebounded with four fairly impressive wins. If they could duplicate that feat in November, they might have a shot at an at-large BCS bowl berth.

``I think there was a little more shock in that first loss because we weren't expecting it, but guys are bouncing back and ready to go right now,'' USC quarterback Matt Barkley said.

While USC coach Lane Kiffin was searching for ways to correct the mistakes of the FBS' most-penalized team this week, he made sure his players realize they've still got significant goals within reach - including a possible rematch with Oregon in the Pac-12 title game late this month.

Last year's win in Eugene is among the highlights of Barkley's four years as a starter, but he's still thinking about how to land a berth in a big bowl game as a senior.

``I really think that in both games we've lost, we've hurt ourselves, and we can't do that against Oregon,'' Barkley said. ``They're too good. You can't start to get out of your schemes and what you're trying to do as an offense. We've just got to control the ball, eliminate turnovers and give Oregon the least chances possible to score.''

Barkley is coming off the most prolific game in school history, a 493-yard effort against Arizona that included a record 345 yards receiving by Marqise Lee, who spent much of this week working on midterm exams. A week earlier, Barkley went 19 for 20 with one dropped pass against Colorado.

Barkley has been brilliant lately, but the Trojans are marveling at the maturity of Mariota, who has stepped into Darron Thomas' spot in the offense with remarkable fluidity. Orgeron realizes his defense must guard against Mariota's running ability, which can turn good defensive stops into failures.

``This quarterback is way faster,'' Pullard said. ``He just got mature in the offense real fast in the offseason. I don't know how he did it.''

The Trojans also must deal with tailback Kenjon Barner, a Riverside, Calif., native eager to play in front of his friends and family, along with Thomas, who unexpectedly ditched the Trojans for the Ducks late in recruiting in 2011. USC has proved it can handle the Ducks' talented playmakers before, but the Trojans are about to find out whether anybody can do it twice.

``We went up there and didn't give up many explosion plays, which they're famous for,'' Pullard said. ``We have to go in with a similar game plan. We need to pack our running game, pack our defense and don't give up any of those big plays. Everything is about disrupting their flow.''


AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Oregon contributed to this report.

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4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

The Baltimore Ravens will add to their historic franchise this weekend during the 2019 NFL Draft. All eyes will be set on who they take with their first pick, whether that's at No. 22 or beyond. 

With a handful of needs, which prospects should you be aware of? Here are four players projected to possibly land with the Ravens Thursday night.

WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi

Metcalf grabbed the attention of the football world during the NFL Combine, running a 4.33 40-yard dash and posting a 40.5 vertical jump. The jury is still out, however, on how he'll pan out in the NFL. Metcalf missed part of the 2018 season with a neck injury and a foot injury derailed his 2016 season after just two games. Metcalf admitted that his history of injuries was brought up often when meeting with NFL teams, and his apparent 1.9% body fat simply isn't healthy, according to a combine trainer. Nonetheless, draft experts have the receiver as a top option for the Ravens. 

DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

The Ravens are going to need some help on defense after losing Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith in free agency. Ferrell had 38 tackles for loss and 21 sacks over the last two seasons with the National Champions. Standing at 6'4", 264 pounds, the defensive end's combine profile describes him as having "prototypical size, length and strength to offer early help against both the run and pass."

C/G Erik McCoy, Texas A&M

The Ravens could be looking for their center of the future. McCoy earned a starting role with the Aggies during the 2016 season, starting all 16 games after redshirting his freshman season. In his sophomore season, McCoy helped Texas A&M average 406.8 yards per game. From 2016-19, the center helped his team rush for over 2,000 yards. A talent like that could be extremely helpful with Lamar Jackson under center. 

WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

Another wide receiver in the mix, Brown averaged more than 18 yards per reception over two years at Oklahoma, racking up 1,300 yards with 10 touchdowns on 75 receptions in 2018 alone. Nicknamed "Hollywood," the 21-year-old's speed and ability to threaten deep "gives him a chance to become the most impactful wideout in this draft."

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.


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Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

It'd be borderline shocking if the Redskins didn't add a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, and with the first round coming Thursday, one report suggests the team is interested in doing so with a top pick.

ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Wednesday that "sources have indicated Dwayne Haskins is [Washington's] target despite multiple holes at several positions on this roster." She then added that the 'Skins aren't talking to the Cardinals about Josh Rosen.

Now, the question for the Redskins becomes: If Haskins is their target, will they have to move up in the order to get him?

Insider JP Finlay wrote Wednesday the franchise could be willing to make a big leap up to pick No. 3 if Kyler Murray isn't taken first overall. So, you'd think they'd be willing to do the same for Haskins, whether that means swapping with the Jets to get the Ohio State passer third or with another organization if Haskins slips lower.

There's also a chance he lasts until the 15th pick, but that's far from certain. The front office may not feel comfortable enough to wait for him to fall.

A combination of Colt McCoy and Case Keenum could get the Redskins through the 2019 season, but neither sets the squad up for long-term success under center. Haskins could, although he started just one year for the Buckeyes and Jay Gruden has said this offseason how valuable experience is for signal callers entering the pros. 

There should be plenty of appealing prospects available for Washington when it's their turn on the clock. However, landing a QB on a rookie deal would be the most impactful acquisition if that guy pans out. So, if Haskins really is the "target" as reported, look for them to be aggressive in chasing him.

For an in-depth look at Haskins' development and life, check out NBC Sports Washington's "I am The Prospect: Dwayne Haskins."