Trojans Didn't Duck Away

Robert Woods (US Presswire)

USC's young team had a roster full of banged up players, many of them playmakers who ended up making a bang in 38-35 upset win over Oregon.

Reporting from Eugene, Ore.-- Robert Woods, Dion Bailey and Lamar Dawson were among the list.

Injured players spread across the USC sideline, wincing or stretching, bearing an endless pounding in unfamilarly cold conditions.

Yet the same players banged up in Autzen Stadium were the same playmakers who made a bang in the Trojans' 38-35 win over the Oregon Ducks.

C'mon. C'mon, players continued to shout.

"We [knew we] were going into a streetfight," running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu said. "We were not going into a street fight with our hands down by our side. We came out swinging."

During the practice week, Lane Kiffin said Woods would "most likely" not play versus Oregon because of nagging ankle and shoulder injuries. The Trojans' star receiver appeared healthy enough to catch two touchdown passes Saturday to help his team create a comfortable lead early.

Bailey, the freshman linebacker who suffered a concussion a couple weeks ago, limped off the Ducks' pristine field in the game's final quarter with what appeared to be a serious right ankle injury. Some re-taping and stretching later, the Trojans' leading tackler hopped back onto the field and bit through the pain.

"I feel like I really messed [my ankle] up, but last big game we had, I got hurt and went out," Bailey said. "I wasn't doing that this game.

"I had to stay in and help my team get the victory."

'C'mon. We Can Do It' the Trojans told one another.

Football is afflux with nicks and bruises. It's as commonplace as helmets and Gatorade. What is rare is young players resisting the bench and not complaining when afflicted with pain.

"We've been talking to them about finishing in everything they do," wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore said. "Today was a perfect example. They never stopped."

On one play in the third quarter, tailback Curtis McNeal rushed for 21 yards to set fellow back Marc Tyler up for a score. McNeal pounded through two tiers of Oregon defenders and nearly crawled onto the sideline where he underwent treatment on his back. Less than three minutes later McNeal carried the ball three times for 19 yards.

Kiffin said his team's toughness "speaks volumes about who these guys are."

"They just go in there, they don't care," he said. "They switch positions, they jump in, they play special teams. T.J. McDonald is covering kickoffs. Whatever it takes, they just wanted to win."

"We're resilient. We want to keep playing until the end," McDonald said, who recorded eight tackles and a blocked punt in the win.

Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley (26 of 34 for 323 yards and four touchdowns) epitomized such resilience by remaining calm after a critical interception in the fourth quarter. Despite USC failing to score the remainder of the game, Barkley's leadership never did.

"He went out there and just played the game he was supposed to play today," linebacker Shane Horton said. "We knew what we could do and we did it tonight.

The senior added: "It's the best win that we've had."

For a team that displays major depth issues in practice, remains underdogs on the national landscape and is perceived to be without motivation, these Trojans continue to defy odds and Fight On.

"People are going to hype [this win] up saying we're back and everything," Bailey said. "We know that we never fell off."

The Trojans' toughness is infectious; it's fueled by chips on shoulders stemmed from low expectations of Southern California's future.

Yet these athletes are as talented as they once were. The coaching staff as skilled. The league competition nearly the same. And the team overall is definitely as tough. These Trojans, then, are not separate from USC's past, but, rather, an extension.

"We said it would take every guy on this team [to win]. And it took every guy on the team," special teams coach John Baxter said.

"Guys fell down and other guys stepped up. That's what a good team is."

At 9-2, including a win over the nation's fourth-ranked team, these Trojans are more than good. They're great.

C'mon.

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