Ducks Find Some Heroes

Pullman -- Just when #3 Oregon needed heroes to salvage a game against a tough Washington State Cougars squad, several showed up. When two key players left, two more stepped up and in the end Oregon had a 43-23 win on the road to improve to 6-0, 3-0 in conference and perhaps a move into the very elite in the world of college football.

(PH0TO) Oregon wide receiver Jeff Maehl, center, stiff-arms Washington State safety Tyree Toomer (15) during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. Oregon won 43-23. (AP Photo/Dean Hare)

"I said on Tuesday, if anybody was listening," said Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly, "Washington State is a tough team."

Kelly's observation last Tuesday during his weekly media conference was meant to warn everyone, his team, the fans and anybody following what is going on with Oregon football; that even though Washington State has been the bottom dweller in the conference over the last few seasons, there was some changing taking shape in the Palouse. A tough, hard-nosed football team came out onto the turf Saturday in Martin Stadium to show that they weren't afraid of the Oregon Ducks, and they let the play on the field prove that point. See for the description of the first half action: Ducks Hold 29-17 Halftime Lead

Oregon went into halftime with a 29-17 lead minus running back Kenjon Barner and quarterback Darron Thomas. Barner was taken to Pullman Regional Hospital in Pullman and is reportedly in stable condition. It is not known if he would return to Eugene tonight with the rest of the team.

Despite the emotional upheaval of having a player carted off and the star quarterback leave the game with an obvious injury to his throwing shoulder, a hero emerged -- senior quarterback Nathan Costa. Costa took control of the team with his pinpoint passing (13-15, 151 yards and a touchdown) and his running (84 yards on eight carries and touchdown.) Costa found open receivers in key third down situations and completed passes. He also ran for first downs to keep drives alive.

"Never before have we had two quarterbacks ready to go," Kelly said of Costa's entry into the game, "it seemed seamless today."

Thomas suffered an injury to his right shoulder but came back onto the sidelines in the second half. Thomas had his helmet with him and according to him, could have played if necessary.

"I'm alright, I just tweeked my shoulder a little bit," Thomas told reporters following the game. "I just landed on it funny when I got tackled. I'll be ready for the next game, just precautionary reasons I didn't finish the game. Coach Kelly and I came to that decision together."

Combining Costa's numbers with Thomas', the Ducks threw for 304 yards. Both Thomas and Costa found another hero of the game -- Jeffery Maehl, who had 10 catches for 119 yards, a career high. Maehl, now has caught a pass in the past 27-straight games. Maehl now is seventh on the all-time receptions list at Oregon, moving ahead of the former Bobby Moore (now Ahmad Rashad).

Oregon, led by Costa scored on a 70-yard drive when Costa ran the ball in from 18 yards out, resulting in the Ducks leading 36-17. Later on in the third quarter the Ducks allowed the Cougars to score a touchdown, which is only the second touchdown scored in the second half of all six game played so far this season against the Ducks. Daniel Blackledge grabbed a pass from Jeff Tuel and converted it to an 18-yard touchdown. Tuel finished the day going 25-for-40, 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jared Karstetter was his main target as Karstetter had 10 catches for 106 yards. Freshman sensation Marquess Wilson had four catches for 57 yards.

Oregon scored again in the fourth quarter when Costa found Maehl for a 34-yard scoring reception.

LaMichael James was the leading rusher for the game with 136 net yards. His longest run of the day was for 55, but it turned into a near disaster when he fumbled and WSU recovered. Oregon turned the ball over three times on fumbles, and also hurt themselves with nine penalties for minus 80 yards, while WSU was only flagged five times for minus 31 yards. James' fumble after his long run could have been a disaster as Washington State moved the ball to Oregon's 12 but Casey Matthews jumped up and intercepted Teul at the Duck 2 and returned the ball out to the 6. Costa took over and drove the ball all the way back down field to hit Maehl to make the final score after PAT 43-20.

Defensively Oregon was led in tackles by Scott Grady with seven (all solos.) Spencer Paysinger also was credited with seven tackles (six solos) including a sack and a pass break up. Eddie Pleasant had seven tackles (five solos) including two sacks and a tackle for loss (TFL). Brandon Bair had seven tackles (four solos) with three and half TFLs. Kenny Rowe and Boseko Lokombo were given credit for one and a half TFL's each. Matthews had five total tackles (two solos) and the interception.

C.J. Mizell was the game's leading tackler with 12 (nine solos).

Cliff Harris had one punt return for touchdown of 67 yards. The punt return for touchdown was the third this season for Harris, that sets a new school record and leads the nation in special teams scores.

Next week the Ducks have a much needed bye. On Oct. 21, the Ducks face UCLA for a 6 p.m. showdown on an ESPN Thursday night game.

"Everyone is looking forward to not having a game this next week, rest up and get some players back," Thomas observed rightfully so.

One thing the Ducks will have on their mind for the next two weeks is that they are the biggest target around, and fortunately there are heroes like Costa, Maehl, Harris and Matthews to keep that target a little less in focus for the opposition.

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