"I said this to them a second ago, ‘I've never been more proud of a team in my life, victory or defeat," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. "That's a difficult one to swallow because we came back and gave ourselves opportunities to win. Our kicking game let us down."
Trailing at halftime 20-7, it looked like the same old pattern for the Ducks – turn the ball over, give the opponent good field position and wait for the onslaught. Particularly after last week's horrible performance at home against Arizona, things for the Ducks at halftime were starting to look painful and too familiar. However, somebody must have forgot to tell the Ducks that they were finished because they stormed out and scored 21 points in the second half.
"I liked the way we came out in the second half and battled on offense, defense and special teams," Bellotti said of this team's performance.
After stopping the initial OSU drive and forcing a punt, the Ducks moved 69 yards down field and finished off the drive with a 22-yard run for a touchdown. Stewart had a big day with 94 yards of rushing on 17 carries, three touchdowns and 130 yards of return yardage for a total of 224 yards of total yards. Any doubt about Stewart's willingness to contribute should be washed away with this game.
"I think he listened to what we said about the Civil War this week and wanted to help in anyway he could," Bellotti said of his star running back's contribution against the Beavers.
After the Beavers responded with an 84-yard scoring drive of their own the score was 27-14. The teams traded futile drives back and forth and it wasn't until there was only six minutes left in the game that Stewart busted into the end zone to make it 27-20. Place kicker Paul Martinez's extra point was block, punctuating a horrible day for the senior. He had previously missed two field goal attempts.
Still though the Ducks didn't fold and when Jordan Kent jumped high in the air to pull in a Brady Leaf 26-yard throw and landed in pay dirt, the OSU crowd went silent. Trailing 27-26, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti decided to gamble and go for a 2-point conversion. Leaf kept the ball and waltzed across the line and gave Oregon its first lead of the day, 28-27.
(PHOTO RIGHT) Jordan Kent hauls down a touchdown in the 4th quarter against OSU at Reser Stadium on Nov. 24, 2006. (Photo by Chris Wilson)
Kent finished off the day with 102 yards receiving (his second career 100-receiving yard game of his career) on four catches. Jaison Williams was the leading Duck receiver with six catches for 55 yards. Leaf, made his first career start today and was 25-for-42, 274 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"Give credit to Brady Leaf for coming and leading us," observed Bellotti of the starting Duck quarterback. "He shook of an interception in the first half."
The Beavers took the ensuing kickoff and drove the ball 58 yards in six plays and gave last year's Lou Groza Award winner Alex Serna, a shot from the middle of the field. Serna revived the Beaver faithful with a 40-yarder and the Ducks were faced with an uphill battle trailing 30-28.
With 1:12 left in the game, Stewart took the next kick and bobbled the ball, he regained control of the ball and his composure and took off cutting back against the grain and brought the ball all the way back to the OSU 43. Leaf immediately hit Williams for 12 yards to the OSU 31. The next pass was spiked and with 2nd and 10 to go from the OSU 31 found Jeremiah Johnson for a screen pass and a 4-yard gain. Johnson ran the ball out of bounds at the Beaver 27. Leaf's next attempt to Kent was incomplete and Evensen came out for 44-yard attempt.
"It felt like a good kick off my foot," said Evensen of the attempt, but the next thing he heard was a thud and the kick was partially blocked and went harmlessly into the end zone.
Stewart, a very spiritual young man thanked God for all things that happened, even though the outcome was not too his liking, he didn't stray from the source of his true power.
"Man it sucked," responded Stewart to a question about what he thought of Evensen's blocked field goal attempt. "Still I have to thank God for all the god things."
The Ducks' leading tackler Blair Phillips was lost early in the game to a possible torn lateral ligament. Walter Thurmond was Oregon's leading tackler with six (five solo) and Jairus Byrd had five (four solo). Oregon had more total offense than OSU (427 yards to 343) including 153 yards rushing to the Beavers 88.
Matt Moore had 255 yards through the air on 16-for-27 and a solo touchdown to Jason Vandiver. Leaf was picked off in the first half by Derrick Doggett for a score. Yvensen Barnard scored once on a 6-yard run and was OSU's leading rusher with 68 net yards. Serna hit three field goals of 49, 50 and 40 yards.
While it is hard to end a regular season with three straight losses, the Ducks should take some strength from the fact that they came back in the second half and made the 110th Civil War one to remember. A gutsy, thrilling performance that should give the team and their fans something to look forward to in the future.
"It's hard when you give that kind of effort and look up at the scoreboard and not win," admitted Bellotti of the game. "I think our kids won today. They showed what they can do and I am very proud of them."
Williams moved to second all-time UO single season receptions list and now has 68 catches this season.
Stewart's three touchdowns is career high for one game.
Wide receiver Kyle Weatherspoon first quarter reception was his first of the year as he played his first game of the year.
Defensive end Darius Sanders is now tied for 9th all-time on the UO single-season sacks list with 9.