LOS ANGELES -- No. 17 USC (No. 18 AP) played No. 4 USC Oregon (No. 2 AP) better than anybody else has this season but still couldn't stop the Ducks' attack enough to come away with the win. The Trojans now have three losses nine games into the 2012 season.
Here's a report card for their effort against Oregon:
He made some great throws, but Matt Barkley's mistakes really hurt USC in this one. His two picks gave the Ducks the ball twice more, and that was the difference. Marqise Lee was again masterful, although he tried to do too much at the end of the first half and gave away at least three points.
The backs were fine. Maybe if USC ran the ball more, though, the Trojans could have actually kept the Ducks off the field some. It looked as if that was coach Lane Kiffin's strategy early, but it understandably changed when Oregon started to score so quickly.
IN THE TRENCHES
USC's offensive line has slowly improved this season, giving Barkley some more time and creating some space for the run game. But they're still just average at best and rarely dominant for any significant stretches. The defensive line produced some pressure but struggled mightily to contain Marcus Mariota.
Yes, Oregon's offense is incredibly efficient. But couldn't the Trojans at least force the Ducks to punt, like, once, before the final few minutes? The only stops they got all game were the one punt, the fumble and the Ducks' missed field goal try. The secondary play from USC was particularly poor, especially from senior safety T.J. McDonald.
Marqise Lee's big kick return really helped USC stay in it in the second half, and Andre Heidari did a nice job doing what he was asked to do. The Trojans came quite close to recovering that late onside kick, which would have made this an A grade.
Give Kiffin some serious credit: His team went down 21-3 but rebounded to make a real game out of it. Discipline wasn't really an issue, either. Also, the third quarter that has plagued the Trojans so much this season was even between the two teams. A better coaching effort, without a doubt, but not enough.