BCS Disaster: USC Upsets No.4 Oregon 38-35

By Lars Hanson

For the first time in Chip Kelly’s tenure at Oregon the Ducks lose a regular season game that a team had only one week to prepare for. Lane Kiffin’s Trojans came into tonight’s game against Oregon treating this game as their bowl game for 2011 and it sure felt like one.

Oregon, ranked fourth in the last BCS standings at 9-1 looked to be primed and ready for another National Title after Iowa State upset No.2 ranked Oklahoma State on Friday. Now Oregon will have to wait and see if they get a chance to play in the Rose Bowl after tonight’s 38-35 loss to USC.

With the temperature near freezing in Eugene the Trojans and Ducks put on a show that will surely have a long lasting effect on the entire college football landscape. From the start there was a feeling in the air that this was going to be USC’s night. Monte Kiffin had the Oregon offense dazed and confused throughout the first half allowing just one touchdown on seven drives.

Offensively Lane Kiffin had Matt Barkley looking flawless throwing for three touchdowns in the first half and controlling the time of possession. However there are two half’s in every game and Chip Kelly turned the tides early in the second half to get the momentum back in Oregon’s favor.

After Andre Heidari converted on a 26-yard field goal early in the third quarter it was all Oregon and runningback Kenjon Barner from 12:44 in the third til 0:05 in the fourth. Barner capped off a four play 43 yard drive early in the third quarter to pull the Ducks within 10 before the Trojans added two straight touchdowns to push score to 38-14 late in the third.

Play-making freshman De’Anthony Thomas added a 96-yard kickoff return touchdown to pull it within 18 heading into the fourth. At that point it was just how long could Kiffin and the Trojan defense hold off Oregon’s offense. After Barner scored his second touchdown of the game early in the fourth Barkley and Co. had the chance to put the game away.

Barkley, who at this point had already thrown four touchdowns in the game, threw a costly interception at the Ducks 31-yard line which led to a quick touchdown from LaMichael James with just over seven minutes left in the game. With USC still in front 38-35 the Trojans looked to run down the clock and seal the victory.

After seven plays and four-and-a-half minutes Barkley botched a hand-off to Marc Tyler which gave Oregon one last chance to tie, or win the game. The Ducks started with 3:13 left in the game at their own 14 yard line and a full slate of timeouts to work with.

With the game resting in his fathers hands Lane Kiffin could only watch from here on out. In a cold and clear night in Eugene, Oregon Duck fans were screaming about as loud as the human ear can handle as Oregon moved down the field. After Thomas completed five passes, the last to senior wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei at the USC 20 yard line Oregon was within field goal range.

After a false start penalty on Oregon and a neutral zone infraction on USC Alejandro Maldonado lined up for a 37-yard field goal to make or break Oregon’s National Title hopes.

Maldonado pulled the kick wide right and sent Oregon’s National Title dreams wide right as well. For Oregon they will now fall at least out of the top eight if not the top 10. With their next game being back in Autzen next weekend against Oregon State in the Civil War rivalry game Oregon can’t afford to lose back-to-back.

For Lane Kiffin this is the biggest win he’s had since taking over for Pete Carroll, if not in his entire career. After the game Kiffin remained humble “this was just great four our kids, with everything they’ve gone through to have this win it’s just special.”

Matt Barkley can now put his name in Heisman contention after his performance tonight going 26 of 34 for 323 yards and four touchdowns along with the lone interception in the fourth. Freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee had a career night with eight receptions for 187 yards and one touchdown.

USC (9-2, 6-2) now can have the satisfaction knowing they truly won the first Pac-12 South title even though they can’t play in a bowl game. On the flip side Oregon (9-2,7-1) will have to win next weekend and have Stanford lose out to win the Pac-12 North.

Tonight’s upset adds to the mess known as the BCS.

You can follow Lars on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/larshanson

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