EUGENE, Ore. (U-WIRE) -- Oregon fans have a saying that it never rains at Autzen Stadium. But Saturday there was a downpour that had people running for their cars in the fourth quarter. A storm of receivers with something to prove had arrived.
USC's receiving corps of Kareem Kelly, Keary Colbert and Mike Williams wanted to send a message.
Their message was heard clearly in a quieted Autzen as they combined for 23 receptions, 397 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-33 USC victory against Oregon before 56,754 fans, the largest crowd to ever attend a football game in the state.
The Trojan receivers were not pleased with a massive billboard on the backside of the Hotel Figueroa in downtown Los Angeles featuring Oregon receivers Keenan Howry, Samie Parker and Jason Willis. Kelly said he and the rest of the receivers took the advertisement as disrespect.
"It was especially disrespectful of them to put that billboard up in the summer and to glorify that they are the best receivers in the (Pac-10 Conference) without knowing the type of talent we have over here," Kelly said. "We took it really personal. We took it personal from the day we started camp until the day we played them which was today."
After the game, Kelly, Colbert and Williams did their own version of the billboard's pose in front of ABC's camera.
"Every time we have a home game we have to pass the billboard because it is in downtown -- our hotel is in downtown, and it is an insult to us," Kelly said. "It was a slap in the face. We wanted to prove to the country and the West Coast that we have some real receivers over here."
Williams said receiver coach Lane Kiffin put a picture of the billboard on his receivers' playbook as motivation.
"We took it personally because we thought our three were better than their three," Williams said. "We were hungry. We felt like we had a point to prove as far as our receiving core and the game plan opened it up and we showed everyone what we could do."
Williams has shined all season but on this particular day the freshman shined the brightest in his young career. He caught 13 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns. His receptions and the yardage set the freshman record for most catches and receiving yards in a single game. He has caught a touchdown pass in the last five games and has now eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four straight. Williams gained a good amount of his yardage on short passes in the slot, a play he and quarterback Carson Palmer execute well and often.
"They were so afraid that we are going to run past them that they are going to give us that," Palmer said.
Kelly has been overshadowed by the emergence of Williams and Colbert this season, but he had six catches for 94 yards and one touchdown Saturday. Palmer connected with Kelly for a 31-yard touchdown to take a one-point lead on USC's first drive of the second half. Kelly tied the Pac-10 record for most consecutive games with a catch at 43 after Howry broke it in the first quarter.
"We moved the ball around, what we should do more often because it works to our best ability," Kelly said.
USC's offense was balanced. Earlier this week, Palmer said USC would need a running game in order to beat Oregon, and tailback Justin Fargas had the best game of his career. He rushed for 139 yards on 27 carries, and ran 15 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
"It felt really good to get a rhythm," Fargas said. "To be a part of the team win, it felt good."
Palmer also had a big day throwing the ball, completing 31 of 42 attempts for a school-record 448 yards. His five touchdowns tied Rodney Peete's record for most touchdown passes in a game by a USC quarterback.
"I don't know how anyone could do better," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "I don't know how anyone could be doing more than he's doing."
The Trojans improve to 6-2 on the season but more importantly are 4-1 in the Pac-10. The win keeps Rose Bowl hopes alive. The Trojans ended a four-game losing streak against the Ducks, handing the Ducks their first back-to-back losses at home since 1997.
(C) 2002 Daily Trojan via U-WIRE.
USC wide receivers Mike Williams (1) and Kareem Kelly (2) had a combined 320 yards and three touchdowns against Oregon in Saturday’s 44-33 win at Autzen Stadium. (Mason Poole)