USC coach Pete Carroll thinks Cal just got caught up in an Oregon whirlwind last weekend and expects the Bears to play much better when the No. 7 Trojans visit No. 24 Cal on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The Bears were humiliated by the Ducks 42-3 last Saturday at Autzen Stadium, the worst loss in coach Jeff Tedford's eight seasons at Cal. Oregon outgained the Bears 524-207 and scored 42 points in a row after Cal kicked a field goal on its first possession.

"I saw an Oregon team that was on fire," Carroll said Tuesday during a conference call with the Bay Area media. "With their crowd, they kind of caught momentum early on and just didn't let up in all phases. I don't think there's any question (Cal will play better). They've played some great football in their other games, and we know how they'll play at home."

Oregon's defense brought Cal's offense to a standstill, cheating defenders toward the line of scrimmage to help hold Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best to 55 yards rushing. The Bears couldn't take advantage of the Ducks' run-oriented defense through the air, as quarterback Kevin Riley completed just 12 of 31 passes for 123 yards under some serious duress.

"That was an extraordinarily effective game for Oregon and surprised everybody," Carroll said. "We try to study that stuff and make sure we understand how they got it done and what they did and see if we can find something to help us."

  • Carroll said USC tailback Stafon Johnson "had a very good morning" and is able to communicate nonverbally one day after undergoing emergency surgery on his throat. Johnson had an operation to repair a crushed neck and larynx after suffering injuries in a weightlifting accident Monday.

    "He's responding and communicating," Carroll said. "He's had an uplifting morning for everybody else. His spirit is very good, and everybody is very hopeful for a great return."

    Johnson's season is over. He leads the Trojans with five touchdowns, and his 157 rushing yards rank second on the team. Cal fans will see more of C.J. Gable in Johnson's absence.

  • One item on Cal's checklist Saturday will be to try to get USC quarterback Matt Barkley out of his comfort zone. Barkley is a true freshman who will be playing in just his fourth college game.

    "One of the things is stop the run and then try to rattle him because he is a true freshman," Cal linebacker Mike Mohamed said. "Make the reads tougher on him, bring pressure so there's always a guy in his face, try to flush him out of the pocket — see if we can get him flustered."

  • Pac-10 sacks leader Nick Perry missed USC's latest practice because of a bruised knee. The freshman defensive end has six sacks in four games. Carroll says he doesn't know whether Perry will be able to play Saturday.

    The Associated Press contributed to this notebook.