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Byline: Scott Wolf Staff Writer

USC lost Carson Palmer on Saturday night, but even that staggering blow could not overshadow an emotional 33-30, triple-overtime loss to Oregon.

The Trojans went back and forth with the Ducks before finally succumbing in the third overtime, despite playing the second half without Palmer, who might have broken his shoulder.

USC's David Newbury shanked a 37-yard field goal in the third overtime, and Oregon won it when third-string kicker Josh Frankel kicked a 27-yard field goal.

Oregon lost starting kicker Nathan Villegas to a knee injury and backup kicker Dan Katz missed a field goal in the first extra period.

Both teams missed field goals in the first overtime and scored touchdowns in the second.

As memorable as the game was, USC coach Paul Hackett was mostly upset over the Trojans' performance.

USC set a Pacific-10 Conference game record with 21 penalties.

``That was not about Oregon, it's about us,'' Hackett said. ``We had mistakes all over the place. We had a holding penalty on a touchdown. It's a shame.''

The Trojans nearly won without Palmer, their talented sophomore quarterback around whom they built so much of their offense, when he injured his right shoulder in the first half and did not return.

``It doesn't look good,'' Palmer said.

He would be eligible for a redshirt year if he is forced to miss the rest of the season.

But at least inside Autzen Stadium, Palmer's injury was forgotten as the Trojans fought hard without their star quarterback, and got a wonderful effort from Mike Van Raaphorst (20-36, 227 yards, one touchdown).

After trailing 20-10, USC scored 13 straight points. But just when USC seemed to win it, Oregon tied the score 23-23 when Villegas kicked a 26-yard field goal with 30 seconds left.

Van Raaphorst directed USC on two touchdown drives, including the go-ahead touchdown with 3:08 left when Chad Morton scored on a 1-yard run. That gave the Trojans a 23-20 lead, but a bad snap botched the extra point, which would prove crucial.

Oregon's hope for a comeback seemed finished when Jason Cooper fumbled the ensuing kickoff and USC linebacker Aaron Graham recovered.

But David Newbury missed a critical 30-yard field goal with 2:16 left. It turned out to be a costly miss, because Oregon marched down the field and tied the game with 30 seconds remaining in the contest.

Palmer was forced to watch the game in street clothes in the second half with his right shoulder in a sling. Oregon lost its two top tailbacks, Reuben Droughns and Herman Ho-Ching, to injuries.

Palmer's injury occurred two plays before the first half ended, when he scrambled to the sideline and was hit hard by Oregon rover Michael Fletcher.

USC didn't lose its offense without Palmer, as the Trojans moved the ball consistently with Van Raaphorst. One of Van Raaphorst's best passes was a 26-yard completion to R. Jay Soward (12 catches, 148 yards) in the third quarter.

But after Soward caught the pass at the Oregon 26, he was hit by Tamoni Joinder and fumbled. Linebacker Matt Smith recovered the fumble, and three plays later, Feeley hit Tony Hartley on a 43-yard gain.

Feeley, who was brilliant most of the game, found Ho-Ching on a swing pass for a 9-yard touchdown pass that put the Ducks ahead 20-10.

Van Raaphorst continued to play admirably, hitting true freshman Steve Stevenson on a 28-yard pass in the fourth quarter. Tailback Chad Morton scored on a 2-yard run to cut the deficit to 20-17. Stevenson injured his left ankle on the reception and did not return.

The game, between two of the conference's top teams, lived up to its billing and the Trojans were touting the ramifications even before the contest.

``This is going to determine where we are in the Pac-10 and the whole season,'' Morton said.

But that analysis became muddled after Palmer's injury. Oregon suffered its own catastrophe, when tailback Droughns separated his ribs and tore cartilage and did not return.

The Ducks found other ways to move the ball without Droughns.

Oregon caught the Trojans off guard on its opening possession of the second half. With a fourth-and-1 situation at the Oregon 39, the Ducks lined up to punt. But the snap went to up back Justin Wilcox, who pitched the ball to punter Kurtis Doerr on an option. Doerr ended up gaining 30 yards.

The drive eventually stalled at the USC 2-yard line, and Oregon kicker Nathan Villegas put the Ducks ahead 13-10 with a 19-yard field goal.

With Palmer, the two teams played a dead even game. That was reflected in more than the 10-10 halftime score. USC had 17 yards rushing, Oregon 20. USC had 135 yards passing, Oregon 130. The Trojans had 152 yards in offense, while the Ducks had 150.

Things could not have started any better for the Trojans. Droughns fumbled on the first play of the game, and free safety Ife Ohalete recovered at the Ducks' 24.

USC's first play was a 23-yard pass from Palmer to Stevenson. The Trojans then proved they can score in their goal-line offense as Morton ran it in from the 1. Offensive guard Faasea Mailo lined up at fullback on the play.

Oregon responded later in the quarter by going 65 yards before its drive stalled at the USC 29. Villegas kicked a 46-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.

Then it got worse for the Trojans. Palmer was intercepted by free safety McLemore and the Ducks took over at the USC 39.

Tight end Enyi Nwamuo had the big play, a 22-yard reception, and then had a 1-yard touchdown reception just over linebacker Zeke Moreno's outstretched hand.

The Trojans tied the game 10-10 on the ensuing drive when David Newbury kicked a 29-yard field goal.

Despite bringing out loudspeakers in practice, the Trojans offensive line had five false starts.

USC vs. Oregon: A closer look

The Hero:

Mike Van Raaphorst. The second-string USC quarterback played an excellent game after Carson Palmer was injured.

The Goat:

Oregon's offense. After building a 20-10 lead, the Ducks seemed to go to sleep.

Key stat:

Nothing in the final numbers could be as significant as the shoulder injury suffered by USC quarterback Carson Palmer.

Notebook: Trojans like the night life, for a small fee


There may not be much benefit to playing a night game in Autzen Stadium, especially for USC, unless you consider the financial reward.

The Trojans netted an additional $260,000 by having the game switched to 7:15 p.m. and televised on Fox Sports Net.

Of course, the players don't really care about the late start, even though they didn't get back to Los Angeles until 2:30 a.m. this morning.

``Our guys love late games because they get to sleep in,'' USC coach Paul Hackett said.

But one drawback is the that Duck fans seem even louder in the evening.

``The quackers that the fans have always affect you,'' USC free safety David Gibson said. ``I just know that stadium is a tough place to play''

Tough turf: USC is easily a faster team on artificial surface, but don't count tailback Chad Morton as a fan of the OmniTurf that Oregon has used for years.

``It's OK. I don't particularly like it,'' Morton said. ``I wish we playing them down (in Los Angeles).''

Radio switch: The night game forced some shuffling in USC's radio broadcast booth. Play-by-play broadcaster Lee Hamilton was scheduled to leave the game at halftime, then fly from Eugene to Portland to Chicago and finally Pittsburgh in to announce today's NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and Steelers.

Former USC defensive lineman Tim Ryan, normally a sideline reporter, took over play-by-play duties while Paul McDonald continued as color commentator.

Same plane: USC's chartered plane to Eugene returned to Los Angeles on and took UCLA to the Bay Area for its game at Stanford.

That might explain how some stickers ended up on the seat trays for the second flight that had handicapped parking logos with the letters UCLA at the bottom.

Droughns' luck: Oregon tailback Reuben Droughns injured his ribs in the first quarter and was not expected to return. He missed last year's game against USC after he broke his leg the week before.

A night of firsts: USC tight end Pat Swanson caught the first pass of his career, a 32-yard reception in the first quarter. True freshman wide receiver Steve Stevenson, not true freshman Kareem Kelly, made the first start of his career. He is believed to be the first freshman to start a game at wide receiver since Johnnie Morton in 1990.

Arbet returns: USC freshman cornerback Kevin Arbet, who sprained his ankle early in the Hawaii game and missed last week's game with San Diego State, suited up against Oregon.


3 photos, box

PHOTO (1 -- color) Carson Palmer lets go of a pass in the first quarter as Oregon's Caleb Smith pursues.

(2) USC's R. Jay Soward eludes Oregon defenders as he runs after a reception.

(3) USC quarterback Carson Palmer gets rid of the ball as Oregon defender Caleb Smith closes in. Palmer injured his right shoulder late in the first half and did not return.

Don Ryan/Associated Press

BOX: USC vs. Oregon: A closer look (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 26, 1999
Previous Article:TROJANS LOSE 33-30 IN THIRD OT.

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