Ducks Slip By Trojans, 24-22
Sept 23, 2001
EUGENE, Ore. - Oregon's Jared Siegel kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12 seconds left as theseventh-ranked Ducks pulled off yet another breathtaking victory over USC,24-22 Saturday night.
'There's obviously still some magic at Autzen Stadium,' Oregon coach MikeBellotti said. 'Our kids just believe they're going to win, and they find away.'
Steve Smith had three interceptions, and Joey Harrington directed his eighthcareer fourth-quarter comeback for the Ducks (3-0, 1-0 Pac-10), who extendedtheir home winning streak to 23.
'I think (Harrington) wants to be an actor, because he always likes to dothat final scene, that curtain call,' Bellotti said.
Carson Palmer had one of the best passing games in Southern California history,throwing for 411 yards to lead a furious comeback by the Trojans (1-2, 0-1).
David Davis' 39-yard field goal put Southern California ahead 22-21 with 10:30left, and Oregon looked finished when kicker David Rosenberg had a 43-yardfield goal blocked with 1:30 remaining.
But the Ducks got the ball back with 56 seconds to go, and Harrington movedhis team 61 yards in just 44 seconds. The key play was a 22-yard pass to KeenanHowry. Three plays later, Siegel came on.
'I looked into Joey's eyes and saw that he was so relaxed,' said tailbackOnterrio Smith, who threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Justin Peelle.
'So I went back to the rest of the fellas and told them we were ready togo. Joey Heisman took the field.'
It was another wild night at Autzen Stadium. A fight broke out 45 minutesbefore kickoff when USC safety Antuan Simmons knocked Oregon cornerback RashadBauman's helmet off after the two argued.
About two dozen players on both sides jumped in and punches were thrown, butcoaches peeled the players off.
In 1998, the Ducks beat USC 17-13, and the following year, Oregon pulled outa 33-30 victory in triple overtime.
With Southern California trailing 21-6 early in the third quarter, Palmer connectedwith Sultan McCullough on a 75-yard touchdown, followed by a 93-yarder toKareem Kelly that brought the Trojans to 21-19 early in the fourth.
For the first time in school history, Oregon has beaten the Trojans fourstraight times. The Ducks have won five out of six in the series after losing15 of 17 from 1972-93.
Harrington, who improved to 17-2 as Oregon's starting quarterback, completed22 of 35 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown to Peelle.
Harrington said he's getting used to the late-game drama.
'In high school I was in that situation a lot, and I learned from it,' thesenior said. 'I've learned how to do it.'
Palmer, who hadn't thrown a touchdown pass in the Trojans' first two games,completed 25 of 40 passes and came within four yards of tying Mike VanRaaphorst's school record of 415, set against Stanford in 1999.
But the Oregon defense tormented Palmer for much of the game. Palmer, whose1999 season ended in Eugene when he broke his collarbone, also was sacked fivetimes.
Kelly had four catches for 165 yards.
Smith's first interception didn't hurt the Trojans, but the other two hurtthem badly.
Late in the second quarter, Palmer looked for Grant Mattos, but Mattosappeared to slip on the new Autzen turf.
Smith stepped in front of him and strolled into the end zone for a 38-yardtouchdown, holding the ball aloft the last 25, to give the Ducks a 14-6 lead.
On the first possession of the second half, Palmer again went to Mattos, butthe ball tipped off Mattos' hands and into Smith's. Three plays later,Harrington passed over the middle to Peelle for a 21-yard score and a 21-6lead.
The Ducks got a strong game from Maurice Morris, who ran for 86 yards afterbeing held to 76 the first two games.
USC kept going at Smith, the right cornerback, even though left cornerBauman injured his left ankle in the first quarter. Bauman was forced to returnwhen his backup, A.K. Keyes, hurt his back trying to make a tackle later in theperiod.
Keyes, who was diagnosed with a narrow spinal column during summer camp butwas cleared to play after consulting several specialists, was carried off thefield on a golf cart, his head strapped to a stretcher, and taken to ahospital.
By LANDON HALL
AP Sports Writer
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