Overtime Loss, But May Have Found Quarterback

The 111th Civil War ended up in double-overtime, but it was an end-around run by James Rodgers that proved the difference as the Oregon State Beavers (8-4, 6-3) outlasted the Oregon Ducks (8-4, 5-4) by a score of 38-31. The game was higher scoring than most had anticipated. Since both teams were bowl eligible the only question that remains now is what bowl the two teams may be headed to.

(PHOTO) Justin Roper (11) gives the Oregon Ducks a 28-21 lead in the third quarter of Oregon's 38-31 loss to Oregon State on Saturday, December 1, 2007 at Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"We wanted to run the reverse or the fly sweep, we knew it had to be a big play but I didn't know it was going to be our first play," said Oregon State's Mike Riley of Rodgers' game winning run.

Oregon had a great opportunity to end the game in regulation, but Matt Evensen was unable to kick a 40-yard field goal as time expired. Oregon State's normally sure-fire kicker, Alexis Serna, had an attempt blocked by Walter Thurmond with only a minute left in the game. The Ducks took possession and moved into scoring territory. With time expiring and out of timeouts, the Ducks lined up and Evensen attempted a 53-yard attempt that went wide right. However, Oregon State bailed out Oregon with a personal foul penalty and the ball advanced 15 yards, securing a first down. Oregon had 20 seconds left to go and chose to move the ball to the middle of the field. Unable to lineup for a spiked ball which would have stopped the clock and allowed Evensen time to set up, the Ducks quickly lined up and tried the 40-yarder. Inexplicably, the kick fell well short as time expired and the game went into overtime.

"It was first down, so we had four downs," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti of the last series in the fourth quarter. "We wanted to center the ball, and then spike it, but we had some confusion. There was a miscommunication on the sidelines in terms of what we were doing. We had plenty of time to get the play off, we still would have liked to spike it, and then kick it at our leisure."

Oregon had the first possession of overtime and was unable to score a touchdown, held to only a field goal. Oregon State answered with a field goal of their own, which meant a second overtime period. On the first snap of the second overtime, OSU quarterback Lyle Moevao handed to Rogers who sprinted around the right end and into the endzone for a 25-yard touchdown run. After the OS point after the Ducks took their turn, but when Jonathan Stewart couldn't find a hole to convert on fourth and one, the game was over.

"That play should have been measured, but the officials ran off before it could be," explained Bellotti of the last play in overtime. "Obviously, they perceived it not to be far enough for a first down, but I would have liked them to measure it, but they ran off the field before I could. I'm not as fast as Joe Paterno. I couldn't catch them."

Stewart was a workhorse all game carrying the ball for a personal record for attempts of 39 times, gaining 163 net yards. This was the thirteenth time in Stewart's career that he has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. Stewart holds the school record for number of 100-yard games, he also broke Saladin McCullough's single-season school rushing mark of 1,343 yards as he recorded a total of 1,469 yards of rushing for the season.

"He is not at full speed," said Bellotti of Stewart. "I would say he is probably only at 80 percent. He was hurting before the game even started, but he gutted it out and did everything we asked of him. In order to win, we knew he had to run the ball 30 or 40 times. He battled and I'm very proud of him, in terms of toughness."

The surprise of the game though was Justin Roper, who may have saved his scholarship with his performance today. Roper replaced starter Cody Kempt in the first quarter and threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jeffery Maehl on the very first play that Roper quarterbacked. Kempt suffered a head injury and did not return to the game.

Overall, Roper was 13-for-25, 144 yards, two touchdowns and was picked off once. The one interception resulted in a touchdown for the Beavers as Derrick Doggett grabbed the ball after it had bounced off Ed Dickson's shoulder pads and returned it 28 yards for a score. Other than that miscue, Roper's day was pretty good. Maehl was Roper's main target, catching four passes for 86 yards and the touchdown. Dickson had three catches for 17 yards and Jaison Williams had two grabs for 16 yards. Garren Strong scored his second collegiate touchdown in the second quarter and finished the day with two receptions for 14 yards.

Roper also ran eight times for a net of 20 yards rushing, including a 7-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

"Cody (Kempt) was doing some good things, but he went down, and (Justin) Roper came in and executed our offense and gave us a chance to win," commented Bellotti on the Duck quarterback situation. "For his (Roper) first real extended playing time, overall he showed some poise and athleticism. He matured a great deal today."

Beaver quarterback Moevao was 20-for-37, 245 yards and an interception. Former Beaver walk-on Matt Sieverson had the biggest game of his football career with 145 yards rushing on 27 carries and a touchdown of 38 yards.

"I am extremely happy," said Sieverson of the game. "This game really makes my college career, and this is the game you want for your best game. It's really something special; I can't put it into words."

Defensively, Jairus Byrd recovered a fumble and ran it back into the endzone with only 54 seconds left in the first half, tying the game at 21-21. Matthew Harper was the leading tackler for the Ducks with 11 (seven solos) and a forced fumble. Thurmond had 10 tackles (eight solos), a forced fumble, and an interception. Nick Reed had nine tackles (five solos), including one for loss and two quarterback hurries. A.J. Tuitele had a fumble recovery. Oregon was unable to record a sack.

"Our defense did a tremendous job of taking the ball away," observed Bellotti. "They didn't start out well, but they finished strong. Oregon State did a good job of protecting the passer, and we couldn't get to the quarterback, but we were still able to make some plays."

For the game the Ducks had 339 yards of total offense compared to OS's 459. Both teams were flagged for 55 yards of penalties – Oregon State drew six flags while the Ducks had five.

Dogget was Oregon State's leading tackler with 18 (11 solos), an interception, and a pass break-up.

In a season of what could have been, the loss to the Beavers was rather anti-climactic. Three weeks ago, the Ducks had a healthy Dennis Dixon and were in line for a shot at the national championship. When Dixon went down, so too did the importance of the 111th Civil War and this last week many Duck fans looked at the game with less enthusiasm than did their Oregon State counterparts. The game though turned out to be exciting and entertaining as the scrappy Beavers utilized every inch of talent they could muster to overcome the more talented Ducks. The win breaks the home field advantage streak in the series and it is the first time since 1996 that the visitor won at the opposing team's home stadium. The 55th straight sellout Autzen Stadium crowd of 59,050 was treated to a hard fought contest that took two overtimes to determine a winner.

Oregon now awaits word on where they will go for post-season play. A few weeks rest will do wonders for Stewart, and Roper's performance today should convince the young quarterback he is capable of performing on the big stage of Oregon football.

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