EUGENE - The Oregon Ducks watched their hopes of returning to the BCS national championship go away with Saturday's loss to USC.
And, despite coach Chip Kelly's insistence that the Ducks don't let outside influences affect them, the players were certainly aware that their chances of returning to the BCS title game had improved when Oklahoma State lost on Friday night.
In fact, some Duck players celebrated in the team hotel.
"I can tell when something's wrong," receiver Josh Huff said. "We practiced great the whole week, but Friday night I didn't feel so good about the game.
"Just because when Oklahoma State played Iowa State and lost, some of my teammates were in the hallway running around (celebrating) and I was kind of upset about it. I felt like they lost focus on what we had at hand" against USC.
"I thought we prepared well this week," said tight end David Paulson, acknowledging that the Oklahoma State loss "maybe" affected players' focus. "Maybe (the Oklahoma State) game might have got into some guys' heads. But, I don't know."
"You're going to get caught up in that a little bit," cornerback Troy Hill said. "A little distracting. We've got to come out with a lot more focus next time."
Said running back Kenjon Barner: "We all watched the game. I don't feel like it had any affect on this team. We knew we still had a great opponent (USC) coming in here."
Quarterback Darron Thomas had proclaimed that the Ducks' goal was to return to the BCS title game, and win it. Now, that's not going to happen this year.
"I wasn't thinking about the national championship" before the USC game, he said. "Maybe if we had won this game. Our team was focused on USC, not the big picture."
• Oregon dropped to 10th in the latest BCS standings, behind: LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Stanford, Boise State, Houston and Oklahoma.
• Kicker Alejandro Maldonado had been 6 of 10 on field-goal attempts this year.
And, even with a USC penalty that made his potential game-tying attempt only 37 yards, he missed it left. The kick was within his range; Maldonado had made 40-yarders the past two games.
"I was trying to do my job, and I didn't come through," he said.
Maldonado said "lockin' down my leg; foot was up" was the reason he missed the kick.
Maldonado was supported well in the UO locker room. LaMichael James told Maldonado that plays throughout the game, not the kick, led to the loss..
"Maldonado's going to keep his head up, not his head down," Thomas said. "We believe in him. He's got 104 guys supporting him. Nobody's putting it on Maldonado for that loss."
• The Ducks had the ball with 2:31 left and moved quickly into USC territory to try to score the winning or tying points.
But Kelly let the time run down, finally calling a timeout with eight seconds left to evaluate whether the Ducks could hit on a game-winning play. Thomas rushed for no gain at the USC 25. After a USC timeout, the Trojans got whistled for offsides.
Oregon entered the final 2:31 with three timeouts and used only one of them. And, it appeared the Ducks were playing for the tie, although they did take some shots with two Thomas passes.
Thomas has the right to call timeouts and he said "that's on Coach Kelly. My coach handled it the right way."
Does Thomas wish the Ducks would have used timeouts?
"We can all wish for a lot of things," he said. "We practice 'clutch' every day. We did everything we could."
Said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, of trying for a game-winning touchdown: "They were laying off in coverage. We ran the ball a couple times, got good chunks of yardage (by Barner). They were changing up a little bit. We threw the ball away a couple times, which we should have done."
• Oregon freshman sensation De'Anthony Thomas had once committed to USC, and he has several friends on the team.
"It was very disappointing, but nothing we could do," he said, of the loss. "Come back on Monday and work even harder."
Thomas had three carries for three net yards, three receptions for 49 yards and three kickoff returns for 162 yards (including a 96-yarder for a touchdown) for 214 all-purpose yards. The kickoff return TD was the second of his season. His 1,711 all-purpose yardage through 11 games ranks eighth on the single-season UO list.
Yet, was he the best true freshman on the field? USC's Marqise Lee had eight receptions for 187 yards.
"He's a great player," said Thomas, from L.A.'s Crenshaw High. "Everybody on that team is a great player, most of them from the city section. It's great to see them play."
Thomas was high school teammates with USC linebacker Hayes Pullard and offensive lineman Marcus Martin. "It was great to play against them. I can't wait to play against them again," he said.
Said USC coach Lane Kiffin, of Thomas: "He was obviously awesome."
Lee, from Serra High and Inglewood, really impressed Kelly.
"That kid is amazing," he said. "I don't know if freshmen can apply for the NFL draft ..."
• Pullard said, of De'Anthony Thomas, his high school buddy:
"We chatted it up, talked about how we missed each other. When he comes back to Cali this summer, we're going to have to click back up. Basically, we miss each other, we love each other. We had our little vibe when we were in high school and kind of miss each other a lot. He just said, 'Keep balling, bro,' and I told him the same thing and, 'Whether you're here or not, I'm going to still love you, regardless of what you do.'"
• Kiffin said QB Matt Barkley should be in the Heisman Trophy talk, even with USC having NCAA sanctions and Reggie Bush having given back his 2005 Heisman Trophy.
"We were here nine years ago and Carson Palmer lit these guys up and all of a sudden moved himself into the lead and ended up winning it," Kiffin said. "If you're going to vote because he's on probations or sanctions or stuff like that, then he ain't going to win. But, if you look at what he's done with a bunch of young (teammates), I can't imagine there's other guys out there putting up numbers with a bunch of young guys out there."
With his four touchdown passes Saturday, Barkley has 33 this season. James, a Heisman finalist last year who had the chance to be another finalist this year, had only 78 yards on 20 carries (3.9 per) and one score.
• Freshmen defensive backs Troy Hill (twice), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell, as well as sophomore Avery Patterson, got beat by USC receivers.
Lee smoked Hill twice for key pass receptions.
"My mistakes," Hill said. "He's a good player."
• Some UO players had never lost at Autzen Stadium. The 21-game UO home winning streak that USC snapped stretched back to Sept. 20, 2008 (Boise State, 37-32).
"It wasn't a good feeling," James said. "I don't care where we lose a game, but especially you don't want to lose a game at home."
• James said the USC loss would motivate the Ducks for the Civil War matchup with Oregon State, 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at Autzen Stadium. "I'm sure it'll be a much different outcome," he said.
• Darron Thomas acknowledged that the USC defensive front won battles up front.
"We had to match their physicality," he said. "That's what we couldn't do."
Meanwhile, the USC offensive line helped pave the way for 139 yards rushing (3.7 per carry), and Barkley completed 26 of 34 for 323 yards and got sacked only once.
• The Ducks have done well under Kelly by scoring at the end of the first half or at the start of the second half - or both. Against USC, James fumbled at the end of the first half, and Darron Thomas had two rushes for no gain and fumbled (and recovered) on third down, before Jackson Rice had his punt attempt blocked (leading to a USC field goal). "That was very key," Thomas said, of the two sequences.
• James moved into first place on UO's all-purpose yardage list (5,310).
• Linebacker Michael Clay had 12 tackles for the third time this season.
• Linebacker Dewitt Stuckey and defensive end Dion Jordan had injuries.
• Thomas has thrown TD passes in 23 consecutive games (every start of his career), second to Wisconsin's Russell Wilson 35 games in a row with a TD pass.
• USC had a bowl ban this year and last, and next year has a limitation in scholarships - penalties levied by the NCAA.
"They haven't been decimated," Kelly said. "The right guy (Barkley) stayed."