Eugene, Ore.- The cornerstone of Pete Carroll's run of seven consecutive Pac-10 titles has been defense. Ironically, defense is the main reason that streak could end this season.
The USC defense, unable to keep up with Oregon's up-tempo spread attack, got victimized on the ground and through the air on USC's way to a 47-20 loss Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
It was the worst loss of the Carroll era at USC, and the most-lopsided defeat since a 27-point loss to Washington in 1997. The loss puts USC two games behind Oregon in the Pac-10 race with the Ducks.
"This was a real mess for us tonight," Carroll said. "Oregon did everything it wanted to do. I thought going in, we'd have a much better time defending their stuff, but we just had a horrible time with it."
The Ducks went through the Trojan defense like a hammer through papier-mâché. Oregon gained 613 total yards of offense- the second most ever allowed by a USC defense and the most since Notre Dame gained 623 yards in 1946.
"When we get going," Oregon head coach Chip Kelly said, "we get tough to beat."
It was the Trojans' worst loss to Oregon since the first meeting of the 56-game series- a 34-0 win for Oregon.
Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli ran the Duck offense with supreme efficiency, running for tough yards on designed runs, breaking loose for big gains on scrambles and sitting in the pocket when the Ducks' asked him to pass.
Masoli rushed for 164 yards on 13 carries and threw for 222 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-31 passing.
"Masoli was ridiculously effective," Carroll said. "We really had our chances to make things happen, but we couldn't tackle him in the backfield. He was running around and converted some big plays.
"The runs he popped, whether by scramble or design, just broke our back."
In addition to Masoli, running back LaMichael James torched the Trojans. The redshirt freshman ran for a career-high 183 yards.
As a team, Oregon rushed for 391 yards and four scores. The 391 yards allowed were the most since USC's win over Texas A&M in the 1977 Blue Bonnet Bowl. It was also the first time USC allowed two 100-yard rushers in the same game since 2001 against Kansas State.
"LaMichael did great," Carroll said. "We had trouble tackling him. We had him stopped in the backfield three or four times, and he spun around, ducked around, got out and made some big plays. And, we had a terrible time tackling Masoli tonight, and we didn't think that would be the big issue."
The USC defense isn't alone in this, though. The USC offense just didn't have enough to keep up with Oregon's attack. The Trojans were able to put together four scoring drives, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Matt Barkley threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes, finding Ronald Johnson and Damian Williams. Barkley's 4-yard pass to Williams tied the score at 17 with just over three minutes to play in the first half.
However, after that, USC managed just three points after the half.
"We ran out of juice to finish the game the way we wanted to finish it and get back in it," Carroll said. "We needed some plays; we needed some things to happen. And, they weren't there."
Barkley finished 21-of-38 for 187 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"We scored and put some points on the board, but when it came down to it, it wasn't enough," Barkley said.
The USC offense got out of its normal flow and started to press because the Trojans felt like they needed to score to stay in the game.
"You have to keep the mindset that you can't win the game in one play, one series," Barkley said. "There was a sense of urgency... We knew we had to match everything they were doing."
The Trojans head back on the road next Saturday, when USC travels to play Arizona State, where USC's mental state will be tested by another road game.
"It's embarrassing," Taylor Mays said. "When you look at this game, we have to look at ourselves. We got beat. You can't point your finger. There aren't any question marks because they did what we expected.
"But, we'll come back, and we'll be fine."