(PHOTO) Darron Thomas had his first start as a collegiate player on Saturday in Oregon's 37-32 loss to Boise State. September 20, 2008. (Photo by Chris Wilson)
True freshman quarterback, Darron Thomas, lead a valiant fourth quarter charge that came up just short as Boise State clung to victory in the final moments of Saturday afternoon's game before another sellout crown at Autzen. Making his debut late in the third quarter, Thomas rallied the Ducks from a 24-point deficit by throwing for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns in the fourth quarter, cutting the Bronco lead to 5 before time simply ran out.
"I think you could say that," said Oregon wide receiver Jeff Maehl when asked whether or not the Ducks could have scored again had they had just one more possession. "It took us all the way to the fourth quarter to find a good rhythm offensively, so yeah, I think you could say that."
Oregon got off to a promising start in the first quarter behind a ground attack that predominantly featured running backs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. Blount who gained 99 yards on 18 rushes, scored on a brilliant 16 yard touchdown run as he showcased his unheralded athleticism as he leaped over a defender's head en route to the endzone. The Ducks failed on the 2-point conversion try making the score 6-0 at the end of the first session.
"He's a horse he's a load," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti of Blount. "He does some things instinctively that are really exciting to watch as a coach."
The second quarter was a different story however, as Jeremiah Masoli was knocked out of the game with mild concussion and the Ducks bogged down offensively with Chris Harper behind center. The Broncos, meanwhile, appeared to get acclimated to the Autzen noise. Behind redshirt freshman quarterback, Kellen Moore, Boise State exploded for 24 points in the 2nd quarter going in with 24-6 lead at halftime; a lead they ultimately wouldn't relinquish. Moore, who went 24 for 36 for 386 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception, looked calm in the pocket executing Boise State's offensive game plan despite the boisterous crowd.
"We can't worry about the crowd," said Moore. "We needed to play today and we were ready for it. I mean they're good – number 17 in the country or so. We got few young guys on the team here and it's big to get a victory at Autzen."
At the beginning of the third quarter, Oregon took advantage of a timely Boise State turnover off a tipped pass by defensive end Will Tukuafu that was intercepted by cornerback Talmadge Jackson deep in Bronco territory. The Ducks scored two plays later off a 18 yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Johnson who finished the game with 94 yards rushing on 22 carries. Boise State promptly answered on the following drive with a long touchdown pass from Moore to wide receiver, Vinny Perretta (who was matched up on Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews) who went 73 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Boise State kicker, Kyle Brotzman tacked on two more field goals in the 3rd stanza to make it 37-13 Boise State heading in to a wild and gut-wrenching 4th quarter.
With hope waning, the Oregon coaching staff made the bold move to put Thomas in the game late in the third, effectively burning up his redshirt for this season. On the three scoring drives that Thomas engineered, he demonstrated tremendous poise and accuracy sitting in the pocket, targeting, and completing passes to his open receivers. Thomas had a particular affinity for tight end Ed Dickson, who finished with 7 receptions for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day.
"Darren (Thomas) has a great arm," said Dickson of his quarterback. "I'm confident in Darren (Thomas) and (Chris) Harper."
Many will argue that the Oregon coaching staff may have waited too long to insert Thomas into the lineup after Oregon had tremendous difficulty throwing the ball in the first half and third quarter, a matter of opinion that Oregon Head Coach, Mike Bellotti didn't refute.
"I think we were too stubborn offensively and I should have made the call earlier to get Darron (Thomas) in there," admitted Bellotti. "I talked about it halftime but we didn't get to it until the fourth quarter and that was a mistake."
Sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Masoli made his first career start but suffered a concussion in the first quarter and did not return to the game.
Oregon has lost a starting quarterback due to injury for the fifth time in the last eight games. Dennis Dixon at Arizona, Brady Leaf at UCLA, Cody Kempt against Oregon State and Justin Roper at Purdue.
Today's loss was only the second out of conference loss Mike Bellotti has suffered during the time he has been head coach at Oregon.
BSU's 37 points were the most by a non-conference opponent at Autzen since Fresno State scored 40 when the Ducks won 43-40 on 9-20-97.
Today's attendance of 58,713 was the 10th largest in Autzen history and the 58th consecutive sellout.
Junior running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for a touchdown for the third consecutive game and came up a yard short for his third straight 100-yard game.
Today's loss was the first time this season Oregon did not have a 100-yard rusher.
Oregon failed twice at 2-point conversions. This was the first game the Ducks tried for 2.
Sophomore cornerback Talmadge Jackson III made his first career start filling in for Walter Thurmond. Thurmond missed the game due to a groin injury and this was the first time in 21 straight starts Thurmond has not played.
Jackson recorded his first career interception.
Oregon has committed the first turnover in all four games this season.
Boise State Outlasts Oregon in Shootout
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