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USC's luster fades after Oregon's victory at Autzen

Posted: Saturday October 27, 2007 11:27PM; Updated: Saturday October 27, 2007 11:27PM
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Jonathan Stewart, who ran for 103 yards and two TDs, is lifted by Josh Tschirgi after scoring Saturday.
Jonathan Stewart, who ran for 103 yards and two TDs, is lifted by Josh Tschirgi after scoring Saturday.

EUGENE, Ore. -- There would be no banner headlines after this game. No breaking news bulletins or upset alerts. No, USC came to Autzen Stadium and did exactly what it was expected to do against Oregon. It lost.

For the first time in six years the Trojans came into a game as the underdogs and no one was surprised when they went home as losers. No one was forced to label the result as the "biggest upset" or the "greatest game" or any other superfluous adjective. Nope. It was a conventional game with a predictable outcome which, in the end, is what made it such a watershed moment.

It was the day the Trojans, which had won a record 27 straight Pac-10 games and five consecutive Pac-10 titles, became a middle-of-the-pack team in the conference they used to dominate. The Trojans, who are now 6-4 in their last 10 conference games, are currently behind Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-10 standings.

After beginning the season with dreams of playing in the BCS National Championship Game or the Rose Bowl, the Trojans are staring at another nightmarish reality they haven't experienced since 2001. If the season were to end today they would likely be headed to the Las Vegas Bowl.

It's been a fast fall from grace for a team that was labeled as the most talented team Pete Carroll had ever assembled and quite possibly the most talented ever put together in college football history based on sheer blue-chip recruits and the hyperbole of Jim Harbaugh.

"I don't know what's going on," said John David Booty, his middle finger still wrapped up as he stood alone in the visiting locker room. "This is not the kind of football we're used to playing around here.

Booty had started the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate, on the cover of preview magazines and a fan favorite who had inspired countless witty bootleg T-shirts playing off his last name. Since cracking the middle finger on his right throwing hand against Stanford, a game in which he threw four interceptions, he has been viewed as the scapegoat for the Trojans' offensive woes. After his replacement Mark Sanchez sealed USC's fate Saturday with two interceptions, one on the potential game-tying final drive, he's beginning to wonder when people will see the big picture.

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