Ducks running back Kenjon Barner, who scored five touchdowns, beats Trojans… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
It’s not often that USC plays the role of an underdog, gamely hanging in there against a more high-powered opponent.
But the Trojans played it very well Saturday at the Coliseum in dropping a 62-51 decision to second-ranked Oregon.
And Oregon, a touchdown favorite over USC, looked every bit the Bowl Championship Series contender in producing the most yardage ever given up by a Trojans defense.
The star was not quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was terrific, or speedy running back De’Anthony Thomas, who was fairly quiet.
It was Kenjon Barner, a running back from Riverside, who etched his name into the dark pages of the USC record book, unofficially accumulating 321 yards rushing -- the most ever by an opposing back.
Five of those runs – covering 27, five, nine, five and 22 yards -- ended in the end zone. That was a USC opponent record, too.
USC’s top offensive players also showed up.
Quarterback Matt Barkley completed 35 of 54 passes for 484 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. Receiver Marqise Lee had 12 catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns, plus 251 yards in eight kickoff returns.
The teams combined for 1,345 yards of offense, with Oregon accounting for 730.
An SEC defensive struggle it wasn’t.
Mariota hurt USC passing and running. He completed 20 of 23 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 96 yards in 15 carries.
Asked how, as a redshirt freshman, he stays so cool and plays so efficiently, he said in a television interview afterward: “I have all the confidence in the world in the guys around me. They make me feel confident. I rely on them; they rely on me. It’s a team effort.
Oregon improved its record to 9-0, 6-0 in Pac-12 Conference play. USC fell to 6-3, 4-3.
In the first half alone, there were 58 points and 864 yards of offense.
Oregon ran 47 plays and had 460 yards.
USC ran 39 plays and had 404 yards.
The Ducks led, 34-24, largely because of three turnovers by USC – two interceptions of Matt Barkley passes and a key fumble just before halftime by receiver Marqise Lee.
Oh, that and the fact the Trojans couldn’t stop Oregon from scoring touchdowns the first five times it had the ball.
Mariota completed 14 of 16 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns in that stretch. Barner had 169 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 16 carries during the span.
Barkley had already passed for 303 yards, completing 17 of 26, with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
USC struggled early, falling behind by 17 points, 21-3, early in the second quarter.
But the Trojans rallied and had momentum, driving to the Oregon 15 late in the second quarter when Lee took a short pass from Barkley and instead of getting out of bounds, tried to reverse field and ended up fumbling.
USC trailed by 10, and the mistake probably cost the Trojans a field goal at the very least.
The error seemed even bigger when USC opened the second half by driving 65 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown.