Ducks Victorious in Season Opener

The 2008 Oregon football season was kicked off in impressive fashion, as the Ducks rolled to a convincing 44-10 victory Saturday over the Washington Huskies at Autzen Stadium. The 21st ranked Ducks survived an early run by Washington's Jake Locker and crushed the visitors from Seattle in the second half.

(PHOTO Jeremiah Johnson (24) scores a touchdown in Oregon's 44-10 victory over Washington. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"This was a great win," beamed Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. "Any opening day victory is awesome, and any time you can open with a conference win is awesome. It's difficult to prepare for a team on the first week, especially when they have a talent like Jake Locker."

Jeremiah Johnson was certainly one of the stars of Saturday's contest, as he rushed for a career high 124 yards on 15 carries, scoring two touchdowns along the way. The Ducks first score was set up by a breath-taking 44 yard run by Johnson, who took advantage of a gaping hole provided courtesy of the Oregon offensive line as he rushed up the sideline and weave his way down to the Huskies four-yard line. Johnson scored on the ensuing play and picked up another touchdown in the third quarter, as he capped off an impressive performance returning from the season-ending knee injury he suffered last year.

"He's ready to go," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti regarding Johnson, "He's excited, and happy to have a shot at being the number one featured back. He's got finishing speed now, with no effects from the surgery. I'm excited as heck about Jeremiah (Johnson)."

Johnson not only was a principal performer he also carried out his role as leader well. Late in the second quarter, Jeremiah Masoli came in for a roughed-up Justin Roper and it was apparent Masoli was pumped up – maybe too much so. Johnson though soothed the sophomore's nerves and things went well after that.

"In fall camp I told him (Masoli) that you never know when it might be a Jeremiah and Jeremiah in the backfield," Johnson said. "I said it to him again on the sideline he broke out in a big smile and it was like, I'm ready J." ()

Masoli finished the game as the Ducks leading passer by going 9-for-17, 126 yards and two touchdowns. Roper ended up the night 7-for-11, 114 yards, one touchdown and an interception. According to Bellotti, Roper suffered a concussion but should be ready for next week's game against Utah State.

Terence Scott was the leading receiver for the game with six catches for 117 yards including a 60-yard touchdown grab. Jaison Williams had four catches for 61 yards that also had a long touchdown pass play of 48 yards. Jeff Maehl had a long catch for a score of 25 yards and had a total of 49 yards on five receptions.

"I've said all camp that Terence (Scott) was our most pleasing development," confessed Bellotti. "He is a leader, he's blocking well and he's catching the football."

The Oregon defense was equally outstanding, with the Duck run defense setting the tone for the dominating effort on Saturday. Coming into the game, many were concerned that the defensive line, and in particular the defensive tackles, would be the biggest the liability for the Ducks as they move through the season. Evidently this particular unit took this skepticism to heart, as they held Washington to a paltry 95 yards rushing, playing with a passion and intensity that wasn't always present throughout fall camp.

"I thought we played the run very well," commented Bellotti. "Most of their rushing yards came from (Jake) Locker scrambling out of the pocket on passing plays. Our defense is as advertised. They shut down the run, defended the pass, and were able to pressure the quarterback."

The leading tackler for the night was Spencer Paysinger with a total of 12 (five solo) but it was the play of the interior defensive linemen that held the Huskies to such low yardage.

"I was not surprised," replied Linehan to the question on how effective the Oregon defense was against the run. "The guys up front could get the job done and we played hard, I knew we were capable of that." ()

While there was much pomp and circumstance leading up to the Ducks season opener vs. Washington on Saturday, coaches, players, and the sellout crowd of nearly 59,000 in attendance paid tribute to former Oregon defensive back, Todd Doxey, who tragically drowned on the McKenzie River in July. Without question, this served as inspiration to the Duck football team, as they jumped out to an early lead on the Huskies and failed to look back.

"Losing a guy like that is always hard," said Oregon running back Jeremiah Johnson, "but the T-Dox I know wouldn't have wanted us to put our worries on him…so we went out and play with him in our hearts."

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