Ducks Use Some Autzen Magic

Eugene, Ore. -- Could the story have a more fairytale ending? Could the Oregon Ducks have needed Autzen Magic more than they did on Saturday against the Oklahoma Sooners? Scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, overcoming mistakes and injuries, calling upon unlikely heroes, the Ducks found the magic in defeating the Sooners 34-33 in front of 59,269 screaming fans.

The Ducks needed all the mojo they could get despite recording more first downs (26-19) and yardage (501-381). The magic came in Luke Bellotti's on-side kick and Patrick Chung recovering the ball with just 1:06 left on the game clock. How magical it felt as the surge of hope and belief radiated from the home crowd. The Ducks had a chance to prove everyone wrong that thought they had no chance over a traditional power. To avenge a loss in the Holiday Bowl, and mostly to keep hopes alive that this season could be something very big. While most people stayed in their seats, holding onto hope in the fourth quarter of the game, some decided they'd had enough and headed toward the exits.

"I noticed some people leaving," said a jubilant Mike Bellotti in the post-game interview room. "I saw 10-15 fans walking out and I thought, ‘They're going to be really made when we come back to win."

The Ducks had managed to get themselves into a hole. After an impressive first drive of the game and an equally good performance in the first quarter, it looked for sure that the Ducks would score at will and hold Oklahoma out of the endzone. Led by Dennis Dixon's career-best passing day (26-for-41, 341 yards and two touchdowns), Jaison Williams monster receiving day (nine catches, 177 yards and a touchdown) and Jonathan Stewart's workhorse effort (23 carries, 144 yards and a touchdown) Oregon was all set for an effortless win.

Too bad the Sooners didn't quite see things that way.

Coming back from a 13-6 halftime deficit, Oklahoma depended on a super performance by running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 211 yards on 34 carries and a touchdown. Peterson is easy to admire with his power and speed. During the fourth quarter he carried the Oklahoma offense, tearing up Oregon's defenders. The Sooners' offensive line used their experience and reputation and created much uneasiness among the Duck faithful.

"They tracked Adrian Peterson, and we knew that coming in, that if the scores were close they would run him the second half," commented Bellotti on how things went in the second half of the game. "We turned the ball over and our defense got tired because the offense didn't stay on the field for very long. Adrian Peterson is not an easy back to tackle, he takes a lot of energy."

Quarterback Paul Thompson, the converted wide receiver was effective on 13-for-23 for 174 yards and a touchdown, and much the chagrin of the Ducks, he held made no turnovers.

Dixon wasn't so lucky. Headed into the game, Dixon had not turned the ball over by interception or fumble. Today he was picked off twice with the second appearing to be the death-knell for Oregon's biggest game since Michigan came to town a couple of years ago.

Oklahoma tied the game in the third quarter on a Thompson 1-yard run and a subsequent extra point. Oklahoma then took the lead a few minutes later when Thompson floated a pass out to talented Malcom Kelly for a 31-yard scoring play. Oregon evened things up when Dixon hooked up with Williams for 30-yard score. Then things got sticky for the Ducks.

Peterson went wild running for 145 yards in the fourth quarter. He scored the touchdown that gave Oklahoma a 27-20 lead and it seemed the Ducks were doomed to break a six-game losing streak to the men from Norman.

"We had a lot yardage, probably should have had more points," observed Bellotti of his team's effort. "I thought our defense played an unbelievable first half. They got worn down in the second half, and we had some people get banged up."

Trailing 33-20, the Ducks pulled up some memories of Captain Comeback. With 3:12 left in the game, Dixon moved the team down field as if it were simply a scrimmage in practice -- Dixon passing and Stewart running. No panic or mistakes on a drive that lasted a bit over two minutes culminating with Dixon scampering 16 yards for the touchdown.

"I was very with the way Dennis Dixon came back," Bellotti said. "Pleased how Jonathan Stewart showed toughness by playing the whole game. He had no back-up."

Bellotti indicated that Jeremiah Johnson had strained his hamstring during practice this week and the problem reared up at the most inopportune time during the game. Consequently, Stewart did all the work today carrying the ball.

"He's a great running back," Stewart's Oklahoma counterpart Adrian Peterson said Oregon's No. 28. "He ran hard and made some big plays."

All that was needed then for Oregon was someone to come in, execute a perfect on-side kick. Enter Luke Bellotti, the head coach's son. The ball was in a short-field position and Dixon wasted little time taking advantage of the opportunity. A screen to Stewart for 15 yards followed up pass interference penalty on the Sooners, moving the ball to Sooner 10. One more snap and one more completion for Dixon, this time to Brian Paysinger and the dream-come-true was nearly a reality.

Well, make that an exciting reality because on the ensuing squib kickoff, was returned 55 yards and within Oklahoma field goal kicker Garrett Hartley's range. Time for some more Autzen Magic, and this time it was Blair Phillips blocking a field goal for the first time in his career. The Oklahoma field goal failed, and Oregon wins.

"Give Oregon credit," said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops. "They did what they had to do in a tough situation to come from behind and win.

Bellotti during the post-game interview became a emotional when he started talking about putting faith in his players. "Kids want to make a play," Bellotti said before he composed himself. He had a right to be proud of his team and the effort they exerted today. Bellotti obviously had not given up on his team and they too believed.

The Ducks won with the sort of ending that sometimes are told children at bedtime. Keep believing and it will come true. The Ducks believed and didn't quit. Final score 34-33 and all it took was overcoming some early mistakes, enduring the injuries and not quitting. Plus a little help of something called Autzen Magic.

eDuck Top Stories