Just What the Ducks Needed

Eugene – When was the last time Oregon won a game with less than 100 yards of passing? That's a good question, one that will require a little more research but on Saturday night Oregon threw for just 47 yards, the fewest since losing to Nebraska in 1986. This time however, the score was Oregon 31 and UCLA 24.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Chris Harper (3) celebrates with teammate Jeremiah Johnson after scoring against UCLA in the second quarter of their NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

"I think it was UCLA's game plan to have our quarterback carry the football," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. "But, we also had some plays designed for the quarterback run. Masoli is strong and quick, and obviously one of our most valuable players tonight. He played a very good football game. He was able to run with strength and break tackles, but I don't want him to have to do that every game. He is growing. He brings a running presence to the table, and I think his passing game is fixable. We just didn't protect well enough tonight."

The Ducks seemed to have decided upon a starting quarterback at least until Justin Roper is completely healthy from a case of viral tonsillitis, and Jeremiah Masoli filled in to record the home win by rushing for a game high 170 net yards, one touchdown and a long of 30. It was good Masoli got those running yards because he was 5-for-19 passing for 42 yards and one touchdown to Chris Harper just before halftime.

"The offense struggled a bit," admitted Bellotti. "We didn't block enough, and didn't catch passes. I know it was frustrating for our players. We dropped some passes, and Masoli completed some passes that went out of bounds. It was a combination of passing and receiving tonight."

Masoli becomes only the fourth Oregon quarterback in the modern era of football to rush for more than 100 yards. The last was Dennis Dixon who just happened to be the honorary game captain tonight as his Pittsburgh Steelers have the week off. Add in LeGarrette Blount's 111 yards of rushing, 69 of that on a back breaking score that sealed the win for the Ducks with just 2:22 left in the game.

"I broke a lot of tackles but that's a part of the way I run the ball because I am a big back," Blount said. "In this game I just used my power and balance. I always think I can run for a touchdown on every play. We expect to run the ball with me, Jeremiah Johnson, Jeremiah Masoli, Andre Crenshaw and Remene Alston in the backfield at any given time. This is what we do every game."

The Ducks now improve to 5-2 for the season and 3-1 in the Pac-10 race. The loss drops UCLA to 2-4 and 1-2 in the Pac-10.

The game for the most part though was about defense. Oregon's Mike Bellotti had promised all week that there would be some defensive changes and while many expected to see some new faces, what they saw was a more concentrated effort to stop the bootleg off of play-action. Bellotti has long maintained that stopping the run will stop play-action. Tonight, the Ducks did a great job by holding UCLA to 63 yards net rushing on 37 carries for an average of 1.7 yards per carry. UCLA did get a decent amount of passing yardage. Quarterback Kevin Craft was 27-for-43, 288 yards, one touchdown. However, he was sacked six times.

"We lead the Pac-10 in sacks," said Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti about his defense's effort. "We added to that."

The Ducks seem to come from every angle especially defensive ends Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu. Reed recorded eight tackles (five solos) including two tackles for loss both sacks. Tukuafu had nine tackles (six solos) including two tackles for loss one of which was a sack. T.J. Ward was the leading tackler for the game racking up 11 tackles (eight solos), a tackle for loss and a pass break up. Jerome Boyd had seven tackles (three solos) two sacks a pass break up and a quarterback-hurry. Reed also was credited with two quarterback hurries.

"I think we spread it out a little more," said UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisel. "We always start our games with the hope that we can establish the running game. It's been kind of hard sledding for us. In the first half I think we had twelve third downs, which means we are putting ourselves in tough situations."

Jairus Byrd had an interception to go along with his nine tackles and three break ups and would have been given another interception had a controversial interception call not been made. The play occurred in the third quarter when Byrd appeared to have stepped in front of the Bruin receiver and grabbed the ball in the Oregon endzone preventing a touchdown. However, the official saw things differently and threw the flag for pass interference. Since the play could not be reviewed by rule, the ball was placed at the Oregon 2 and one play later Kahlil Bell dove into the endzone to make the score 21-14. Ward who had an excellent view of the play thought the refs got it all wrong.

"I saw it the whole way," said Ward of the Byrd interception. "It was a terrible call."

Ward was also involved in another play that fortunately has come out to no harm. Craft threw the ball out to wide receiver Terrence Austin who juggled the ball. Ward broke the pass up and in the process collided with Austin who fell to the ground in a heap. The ball went up in the air and was intercepted by Byrd. The Ducks had the ball but the stadium fell silent, as Austin lay motionless on the turf. Austin was transported to Sacred Heart River Bend Hospital where he was treated for a concussion and neck strain. He was released and was able to return to Los Angeles with his teammates.

"I just remember seeing the ball float in the air, so I didn't think I could make a play on the ball so the next best thing was to try and knock it out," described Ward of the play. "Unfortunately he (Austin) got hurt but that's football. I'm not trying to hurt anyone out there."

Special teams gave up field position on one of Josh Syria's punts that put the Bruins in business on the Oregon side of the field but other than two missed Matt Evensen field goals of 42 and 50 yards, special teams held its own.

The Ducks now have a much needed bye week to heal up and prepare for the second half of the season.

"We will benefit from the bye, I am ecstatic for it," Cited Bellotti. "It will allow us to get some guys back. We need to get healthy, get some rest and rehab. We have about ten young men nursing injuries, so this bye couldn't come at a better time."

Reed has recorded a sack for six consecutive games and moved into a tie for thrid on the all-time UO sacks list with 24.5

Byrd moved into a tie for third on the Oregon career interception list with the 15th of his career.

Autzen Stadium hosted a sellout crowd for the 59th consecutive game dating back to the 1999 season. The attendance was reported at 58,728 or the 10th largest in Autzen history.

Official Statistics


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