Trojans Glad to Have That One for the Road : USC: Royster scores twice as running game finally gets going in the second half against Oregon, 30-14.
USC, faced with elimination from the Rose Bowl race in its second conference game of the season, dominated the second half Saturday night and defeated Oregon, 30-14, before a crowd of 45,948 at Autzen Stadium.
Breaking open a game that was tied at halftime, 6-6, the Trojans scored 24 points in the first 22 minutes of the second half, taking control with a power running game led by tailback Mazio Royster and a suffocating defensive effort that seemed to demoralize the Ducks.
The second-largest crowd in Autzen Stadium history watched as the Trojan defense scored one touchdown and set up another in USC’s first road game of the season.
A 30-yard interception return by defensive guard Jason Uhl gave USC (2-2, 1-1) a 23-6 lead with 11:28 left and was followed two plays later by a fumble recovery by teammate Matt Gee at Oregon’s 21.
Royster, who rushed for 132 yards in 29 carries, scored his second touchdown five plays later.
It was the first time this year Royster has gone over 100 yards and the seventh time in his career.
Both teams were attempting to rebound from upset losses, prompting Oregon Coach Rich Brooks to say last week that, in terms of the conference race, the loser of the USC-Oregon game would be “in serious trouble.”
But the situation seemed more dire for USC, a 32-25 loser against Arizona State last week at the Coliseum in its conference opener.
Four teams from the Pac-10 have advanced to the Rose Bowl with two conference losses--Oregon State in 1941, Oregon in 1957, Washington in 1981 and UCLA in 1985--but none opened its conference season with two defeats.
Oregon won its conference opener, 40-14, over Washington State. Brooks, however, was concerned because, after a 28-13 victory over Texas Tech the next week, the Ducks fell flat last week in a 24-17 loss to Utah at Salt Lake City.
Brooks called the loss embarrassing and accused his players of “sleepwalking” through the loss, saying they lacked emotion.
USC Coach Larry Smith thought he knew the reason for it.
“You could see it in the film,” Smith said last week. “They weren’t ready to play. They were looking ahead to us.”
The Ducks looked ready for the Trojans from the start.
USC took the opening kickoff and, on its first play, flanker Curtis Conway was hit in the backfield by Oregon linebacker Andy Conner after taking a handoff from quarterback Reggie Perry on a reverse.
Conway fumbled and nose tackle Marcus Woods recovered for Oregon, but the Trojans got a break when the officials ruled that Conway already had been downed when he lost control of the ball.
Perry was sacked on the next play and, before the next, the Trojans were penalized five yards for delay of game.
Oregon took advantage of the field position and, after gaining only nine yards in three plays after a seven-yard punt return by Brian Brown, took a 3-0 lead on a 51-yard field goal by senior kicker Gregg McCallum, equaling the longest kick of his career.
USC pulled even with 10:14 left in the half on a 31-yard field goal by freshman Cole Ford, whose kick was set up by a 35-yard fumble return by strong safety Stephon Pace. Pace took the ball on a hop after tailback Donovan Moore lost control after taking a pass from quarterback Danny O’Neil.
Led by O’Neil, who completed his next three passes for 41 yards, Oregon moved 68 yards to a first down at USC’s 12-yard line.
The drive stalled, however, after Moore ran for two yards on first down. Pressured by linebacker Kurt Barber, who hit him as he passed, O’Neil threw incomplete on second down. His third-down pass was caught out of bounds and Oregon had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by McCallum.
USC, mostly quiet offensively in the first half, then drove 53 yards to Oregon’s 20. After Perry overthrew Johnnie Morton in the end zone on third down, Ford kicked a 37-yard field goal to make it 6-6.
In an interview broadcast Saturday on ESPN, USC tailback Mazio Royster said the Trojans missed the leadership ability of former quarterback Todd Marinovich. “Get this guy behind the center and you know that he can do it,” Royster said of Marinovich. “When morale is low, this guy could rally the troops. I think that’s what’s missing in a young quarterback like Reggie Perry. That’s definitely what’s missing.”