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6-Points: Oregon 31, USC 24

Dec 18, 2020

AP Recap

Thems the Breaks

All season long, USC found magic in the biggest moments, snatching victory away from the jaws of defeat. Tonight, on the precipice of a Pac-12 title, the Trojans once again tried to master the high-wire act, but the cord finally snapped underneath them. "We had an opportunity and we didn't make it happen this time," said head coach Clay Helton. "Our hearts are broken in that locker room."

Pass Unhappy

The game effectively ended when Kedon Slovis threw his third interception of the night, a strange play that looked like he was trying to throw the ball out of bounds but instead found an Oregon defender. "I really think Kedon was trying to throw that ball away," Helton explained. "It looked like it came out of his hand a little funky." The USC running game was ineffective, amassing only 38 yards, so the offense relied on Slovis to sling it 52 times, but he was more mistake-prone than usual. "We all believe in him," WR Drake London said. "He's going to have some hiccups here and there, but it's Kedon Slovis, we all trust him."

Tilted Field

Oregon's three first half touchdown drives covered a combined 82 yards as the Ducks benefited from great field position all night. In the second half, forced into longer fields, Oregon's offense was far more conservative, scoring just 10 points and giving USC several opportunities to come back. In the end, Oregon won the game despite a season-low 243 total yards. USC out gained Oregon by 115 yards, but the Ducks were perfect in the red zone (4 TDs in 4 trips) while the Trojans settled for a field goal and missed a field goal.

Killer Mistakes

Along with the three turnovers, the Trojans showed a lack of discipline, committing 9 penalties for 98 yards. "It was an emotional game," said S Isaiah Pola-Mao. "Coach always says, 'When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down.'" Talanoa Hufanga, who played another tremendous game with 12 tackles and 2 sacks, committed a roughing the punter penalty which cost the Trojans a possession. And Pola-Mao, who racked up 10 tackles and 1.5 for loss, helped Oregon out with a personal foul when the Ducks were backed up in their own end.

Never Say Die

Despite all those mistakes, USC still almost fought its way back, converting on three 4th downs in the fourth quarter. "We didn't have any doubt at all," London said. "We believed in each other. Unfortunately, we just came up short." While the loss leaves a sour taste, the 2020 Trojans will be remembered for their fight. "It's only for our kids' heart and toughness and willingness to fight back that we put ourselves in position to go tie the game at the end," Helton said. "That's all you can ask for after being down like we were in the first half. This time around, we didn't get it done."

What's Next?

On Sunday, the Trojans will find out their postseason destination. When asked if the Trojans will accept a bowl bid, Helton responded, "I haven't thought one second past this game." If they do, they are likely headed to the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29. With that game being only 11 days away, USC's injured stars, which include Vavae Malepeai (out tonight with a knee sprain), Amon-Ra St. Brown (removed tonight with a shoulder sprain) and Slovis (post-game shoulder x-rays), won't have much time to heal.