The importance of the USC defense in Saturday night's 38-35 victory over Oregon can't be overstated. No matter how many points the Trojans scored, the Ducks were eventually going to make a charge. Their offensive attack is too good to think it wasn’t going to happen.
Sure enough, the Ducks did mount a comeback. There was a point in the game when Oregon really got a roll, but even that didn’t last too long. When Oregon's train gets rolling, it usually doesn't stop. But it did last night.
It can even be argued that the second-half success by the Ducks –- particularly in the fourth quarter –- had something to do with a tired USC defense. The Trojans defenders were worn out on the final few drives after a long day of terrific pursuit and coverage. They had enough to barely hang on, but that was what their team needed.
Coming into the game, there was concern about Oregon's offensive speed and the USC defense's ability to keep pace for a whole game. Let’s face it, the previous two seasons Oregon had done a great offensive job moving the ball against the Trojans, particularly on the ground. USC made some defensive adjustments this year with a nod to getting more speed on the field. While there was a sense that the additional speed would help, it was hard to predict whether it'd be enough.
On top of that there were some injuries. Defensive tackles DaJohn Harris and Christian Tupou were banged up, as were safeties T.J. McDonald and Jawanza Starling. How would the depth of the USC defense hold up? It was a big question in the days leading into the game.
With all those factors involved, you have to tip your cap the Trojans defense and their coaches. The pursuit on run plays was fantastic. Rarely did a Ducks ballcarrier break free into open space. The Trojans only allowed 22 total yards after contact on run plays outside the tackles. Oregon's long run of 13 yards was the shortest long run in a game against the Trojans this season. The Ducks offense needs the big play from their run game and the Trojans defense simply didn’t allow it.
That reality is just huge for this defense. Giving up huge chunks of yardage was a trademark of the Trojans defense last season, and it carried over into the early portion of this season. Not last night. That kind of turnaround doesn’t happen by accident and the men who planned this out deserve their share of credit too. Nice job all the way around.