While the game didn't necessarily begin the way Jeremiah Masoli may have ideally envisioned, it ended rather impressively for the sophomore from San Francisco, who carried the ball an astounding 24 times accounting for 170 of the Ducks 323 total rushing yards on the evening.
"I think it was UCLA's game plan to have our quarterback carry the football," said Oregon Head Football 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."
Masoli got off to a rocky start on the Ducks first series of the game, fumbling the ball on the first snap, badly overthrowing an open receiver on second down, and getting sacked on the third play from scrimmage leading to an ugly three and out. Yet, Masoli's confidence didn't waver, as the Oregon defense stymied the Bruins on their first possession, and Masoli engineered an impressive 9-play, 70-yard scoring drive that was capped off by an easy 5 yard touchdown run by Masoli himself to give the Ducks an early 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter provided much of the same as far as Masoli's efforts on the ground were concerned. He rushed 14 times for 128 yards in the first half alone (breaking Dennis Dixon's previous record setting first half rushing total vs. Houston in 2007), though, it was play in the passing game that highlighted this particular period. Masoli's 24 yard scoring strike to true freshman quarterback/running back/wide receiver Chris Harper was executed to perfection and gave the Ducks considerable momentum as they headed in to halftime with a 14-0 lead.
"That was fun," exclaimed Masoli of his touchdown pass to Harper in the second quarter, "I mean we were practicing that all week and Coach Kelly said that that would be a big play for us and he was right. We just executed the play it was designed for and I'm just glad (Harper) caught it...I was just hoping and praying he wouldn't drop it."
In the second half, the Oregon offense slowed to a bit of a grind, as UCLA's defense stiffened up and prevented the Ducks from establishing any kind of continuity offensively. In fact, Masoli's touchdown pass to Harper in the second quarter was the his longest pass play of the day as Masoli finished with a paltry 42 yards through the air.
"The offense struggled a bit," said 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."
With that, the Bruins were able to climb back in the game as they took advantage of prime field position. UCLA scored on a 1 yard touchdown run by running back Derric Coleman making it 14-7. Surprisingly, the Bruins attempted an onside kick which ultimately failed giving Oregon outstanding field position on the UCLA 37 yard-line. Masoli led the Ducks on a quick scoring drive that ended with a 6 yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount. The Bruins answered quickly with UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft leading a drive that was capped off by a 2 yard touchdown run by running back, Kahlil Bell, making the score 21-14 at the end of the third quarter.
The Ducks and Bruins exchanged field goals in the fourth quarter making it 24-17 before Blount ripped off an jaw-dropping 69 yard run in which he broke a handful of tackles before sprinting through the secondary on his way to the endzone. Once again, UCLA answered the Oregon score with a touchdown of their own to make it 31-24, yet the comeback was not to be, as the Bruins failed once again to recover an onside kick and Ducks effectively ran out the clock. Blount finished the game with another terrific rushing performance gaining 111 yards on a mere 7 carries, but the night definitely belonged to Masoli.
"I definitely think I played the game the way coach wanted me to," stated Masoli, "but who would have predicted [nearly] 30 carries? We have to take it as the defense gives it to us and be aggressive like that when we see an opening. We'll do whatever it takes on offense to win."
Masoli Comes Up Huge In Duck Victory
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