Stay in the Race

Tempe -- After spending a week off healing wounds the Oregon Ducks (6-2, 4-1) took to the road and were on fire when they played the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-5, 1-3) and laid a 54-20 shellacking on the home team. Jeremiah Masoli made a case for being Pac-10 Player of the Week and the Duck defenders put on a clinic shutting down the ASU running game while keeping Sun Devil passing at bay.

(PHOTO) Jeremiah Masoli lead the Ducks to a big win over ASU.(Photo by Chris Wilson)

"I thought we played with energy tonight," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. "We were efficient. Our defense played exceptional football."

The Duck defense held ASU to 333 yards of total offense including 107 rushing and 226 passing. The Sun Devil offense was stymied all night. In the first half they were only able to amass 89 yards of total offense and with only four first downs. The Ducks on the other hand had 537 yards of total offense, 233 passing and a whopping 304 yards running the ball. Oregon kept the pressure on all game and even in the first quarter when three significant plays occurred, the Ducks came out on top.

In Oregon's first possession on the third play the ball was snapped high to Masoli and went over his shoulder. Masoli rounded up the ball and had presence enough to throw the ball out of bounds saving a huge loss into an incomplete pass. The series was saved and the drive continued for two more snaps when Jeremiah Johnson broke off a 43-yard touchdown run.

"That was a huge play," Bellotti said of Masoli's heady play saving the loss. "That was a dangerous play because you are taking a chance instead of falling on the ball and take a great loss, you pick it up, we also had no linemen down field which is really amazing because it was a running play. That was a huge play because we saved a down and saved a series and drive."

On the very next series Jairus Byrd picked off ASU's Rudy Carpenter at the Oregon 13-yard line. However the Ducks managed to fumble when another errant hike was made to Masoli who had to jump for the ball, when he came down to hand off the ball to Johnson, the two bumped into each other and the ball went onto the turf. ASU had the ball at Oregon's 8. Carpenter then threw his second interception two plays later when Walter Thurmond III corralled the ball at the Oregon 2-yard line. From that point on Oregon's offense was able to move the ball the other way.

"Our message to our young players was this, to stay in the race. To make sure they understood what playing in the second half of the season was going to be like, and you start by winning on the road."

"It doesn't matter where the drive starts we're going to take pride to keep them out," admitted the Oregon headman. "I thought those situations that stressed us were key to our victory.

The Duck defense set the tone of the game in the first half by stymieing ASU's running game to 35 yards on 18 carries. With ASU unable to rely on the running game, any thought of play action went out the window.

"Stopping the run to get them into passing situations is part of our game plan every week," pointed out Bellotti. "We were able to execute that game plan tonight."

While the ending statistics may make the game seem a little more balanced, it wasn't. This game was one-sided from start to finish. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti made an interesting point that the one of the reasons his defensive unit may not shine statistically as brightly as others is that Oregon's defense had been involved a lot more in the game that other squads. After seven game the Ducks have "defended more plays than anyone else in the country."

While the Sun Devils had 226 yards of passing most of that was accumulated well after the game's outcome was in question.

Linebacker Jerome Boyd was the leading tackler for the game with 10 (nine solos) including a tackle for loss. Spencer Paysinger had six tackles including a sack. Patrick Chung also recorded a sack to go along with his four tackles.

One of the most entertaining plays of the night was when LeGarrette Blount appeared to be stopped on a run only to roll over his would-be tackler ala Maurice Morris in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl also played in Sun Devil Stadium. When it appeared that the play was over, Blount continued to run as his knee had not touched the ground and went on for 26 yards to score. For the game Blount had 58 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson also had 58 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Masoli was the game's leading rusher with 85 yards on eight carries with a long of 36 and touchdown. He also passed for 147 yards on 17-of-26, one touchdown to Terence Scott and one interception.

Justin Roper returned to action, his first since the third game of the season and he was perfect 4-for-4, 86 yards including a 62-yard scoring play to Chris Harper. Harper made it look easy as he caught the ball at the line of scrimmage and outran everyone else to the goal line. Harper ended the night as the leading receiver with five catches for 85 yards. Scott also had five catches for 60 yards and the score.

Notes:
SR PK Matt Evensen set a career long with his 52-yard field goal in the second quarter. His only other FG of 50+ also came at Sun Devil Stadium, a 51-yarder as a freshman in 2005.

Johnson recorded the seventh multiple TD game of his career, giving him 26 all-time rushing touchdowns - one behind Jonathan Stewart (2005-07) for third at UO.

Arizona State had not surrendered more than 28 points in a game this season (vs. USC) before Saturday.

For the second time this year (at WSU was the other), Johnson and LeGarrette Blount each had multiple touchdowns. Blount now has 5 multi-TD games in his brief UO career.

JR CB Jairus Byrd moved took over 3rd place by him on the Oregon career interception list and now has 16.

The Ducks surpassed 40 points for the fourth time this season and 50 points for the third time.

Oregon surpassed 300 yards rushing for the fifth time in 8 games this season.

The Ducks have now won 4 straight in the series and the last 3 at Sun Devil Stadium.

UO's 54 points were the second most for the Ducks in the 29 meetings against ASU (56-55 W in 2000).

SR WR Jaison Williams had one catch in the game, giving him 163 career and moving him into 3rd place all alone on the UO career receptions list.

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