Oregon came out of the gates slow against USC Saturday. However, they were able to force a couple of turnovers to get themselves going. That resulted in a halftime lead. Following that, Oregon was able to come out and absolutely dominate the second half, all the way to a 56-24 win.
Oregon Handles USC
Turnovers were undoubtedly the difference in the game. Oregon only turned the ball over one time. While that was the worst throw you will see Justin Herbert make, the defense stepped up and only allowed three points off of it, despite USC starting with the ball inside the ten.
On the other side, Oregon forced four USC turnovers, and they scored a touchdown off of all of those turnovers. The defensive backs intercepted three Kedon Slovis passes. Those interceptions came from three different players: Deommodore Lenoir, Verone McKinley III, and Brady Breeze. The interception by Breeze was taken back for a touchdown, and Breeze also recovered a Slovis fumble forced by La’Mar Winston Jr.
It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing win at times, but great teams take advantage of turnovers. And for a team that is as good as any at turnover margin, this was a game where that flashed.
Breakout Game For Juwan Johnson
It’s not hard to see why. Johnson has a frame and catch radius that hasn’t been seen in Eugene in some time.
However, Johnson has dealt with a calf injury this season that kept him out until the win over Cal, but even in his action, he had only caught six passes. Now two of those were on the final drive in the win over Washington State, so they were very timely.
All-in-all he finished the game with seven catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns. This catch is probably the best example of what Oregon thought they were getting in Johnson.
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) November 3, 2019
Having Johnson healthy for the stretch run will be huge. Oregon has really spread the ball around to different receivers this season, which is much different from last season. But nobody has the size and strength that Johnson has on the outside. Overall he just gives a much different dynamic to the offense.
Both the defensive backfield and the front seven looked like they learned from facing the Washington State air raid. There were times of poor coverage in this game, but overall it was much tighter.
The longest pass play of the night for USC was 20 yards. If you would’ve told Mario Cristobal and Andy Avalos before the game that the longest pass USC would complete with the receiver trio would be 20 yards, they would be ecstatic.
Not only that, but Oregon actually threw for more yards on the night (266 to 264). That was while throwing the ball 29 times compared to USC’s 57 attempts. This was also the lowest completion percentage that Slovis has posted this season. If this secondary is going to give up 4.6 yards per attempt through the air, Oregon has a great chance of finishing the regular season 11-1.
Also, not to be overlooked is the front seven. The pass rush has been non-existent the past two weeks, but on Saturday the defense recorded three sacks. One from D.J. Johnson, Drayton Carlberg and Kayvon Thibodeaux each. Not just that, but several passes were either deflected at the line of scrimmage or pressures that forced Slovis to misfire.
Having Troy Dye back on the field had to play a factor in the overall improved play of the defense. Dye only finished the game with four tackles, one for loss, but his leadership in getting the defensive front set up before each play and his ability to play in pass coverage are things that generally don’t show up in the stat sheet.
Pac-12 refs are terrible. Nobody that has watched this conference for any length of time is going to dispute that. However, Oregon finished this game with 15 penalty yards. That’s something that can’t continue. If USC would’ve only turned the ball over one or two times, this game could have been a lot tighter. Mario Cristobal acknowledged after the game that it’s something they have to clean up.
Playing with an edge and with passion are good things, but when it starts to cost you and either kill drives on offense or extend drives on defense, that’s when it’s too much.
But again, the conference has some serious work to do with its officiating.
Oregon vs USC Broadcast
A minor note, but wow that was a bad broadcast.
Oregon Beats USC: What’s Next
Oregon will have a bye week this upcoming week. That will be a good chance to rest some minor injuries that players are dealing with, or in the case of Dye, rest up his broken thumb as much as possible.
It will also provide a chance to work on themselves and clean up the penalties and try and get the tackling back on track. Although, the tackling was back at a higher level in the second half.
Following the bye week, Oregon will be hosting Arizona.
Top Photo: Harry How/Getty Images