Saving the Best for Last

Eugene -- The situation was deteriorating just like the weather and it was looking a lot like the California game just a week ago when mistakes and blunders would cost the Oregon Ducks another football game. But with just over two minutes left to go in the game and trailing by a point, the Ducks drove the 74 yards to win the game by a final score 35-28 over the Stanford Cardinal.

(PHOTO) LeGarrette Blount scores the game winning TD. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"He had a little two minutes and three time outs," said Offensive Coordinator Chip Kelly of Jeremiah Masoli and the last drive. "We practice the two-minute every week. We laugh when the coach puts a minute and 58 seconds and three time outs, that's a long time for our offense."

The Ducks may have been laughing to themselves but for everyone else watching the game, they were on the edge of their seats. The Ducks after having led by as much as 14 points the Ducks had managed to find themselves on the edge of a disastrous conclusion to the 2008 season.

Oregon led at halftime 20-17 and Stanford tied the game after Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli attempted to handoff to Jeremiah Johnson but the ball fell onto the turf and was recovered by Stanford's Tom McAndrew. The Cardinal tied the game on a 20-yard Aaron Zagory field goal but things looked up for Oregon later in the third quarter when LeGarrette Blount took the ball and ran into the endzone from 38 yards out. Leading 27-20 things looked like it would be an easy Oregon win, but the Cardinal didn't quit and the Ducks didn't quit making mistakes.

"We made enough mistakes in this game to go beyond the whole season," accessed Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti of the game. "But we came back and played hard the entire game on both sides of the ball. We were not always efficient and effective, but the keys were trust and belief."

In the fourth quarter the Ducks fumbled during the first possession of the quarter but the Duck defenders bailed out the offense by forcing a punt. Punt return specialist Jairus Byrd attempted to field the David Green punt, but reminiscent of a nightmare play last week when Byrd fumbled a punt inside the 10-yard line that was recovered by Cal. This week though, Byrd managed to recover the ball on Oregon's 7. As if it were on instant replay, after two tries to move the ball up field, an errant snap sailed over Masoli's shoulder and through the endzone for a safety.

The Ducks kicked off on a free kick and Stanford used 10 plays to move the ball 65 yards and burned off 6:23 from the dwindling amount of time left in the contest. On the last play of the drive Anthony Kimble ran left but the ball was jarred from him Oregon's Patrick Chung. Luckily for the Cardinal the ball bounce straight up allowing Kimble to dive for it. He crossed the goal line and the play was rule a touchdown after a review reversed the on field call that would have spotted the ball at the 3.

"Three things can occur on a fumble and the worst one occurred for us," admitted Bellotti. But, we rallied, stopped the two-point conversion, and marched right down the field. That is the poise and attitude of a veteran team."

Perhaps that review was the biggest break the Ducks had all day because it allowed Oregon 2:15 to turn its fortunes around.

Stanford was out of timeouts and probably wanted the clock to go on hyper drive. The Cardinal kicked off and would have had the Ducks pinned on about the Oregon 9 after another muffed attempt the field the kick, but an off sides call on the kicking team forced another kickoff. This time Andre Crenshaw returned the ball to the Oregon 26 and it was time for the Duck offense to earn their keep.

Masoli misfired his first pass to Terence Scott and it appeared the two engaged in a short conversation. After that, Masoli found Scott twice for 12 and 18-yard gains respectively and the ball was at the Stanford 46 with renewed hope pulsing from the Duck faithful. After missing Scott on a fourth straight pass, Masoli hit Johnson for another first down and a gain of 11 to Stanford's 35. The Ducks were in field goal range but still had over a minute left on the clock.

"Coverage wise they were letting Terence (Scott) go a little bit," recounted Kelly. "I knew we didn't have to throw the ball down the field, it was more of a catch and run type deal rather than throw over the top."

Johnson picked up a couple yards running on the next snap and but was missed by Masoli on another pass after that.

Masoli then made one of the great runs of the season but scampering 25 yards to the Stanford 8. With the clock ticking down and under a minute, many wondered why the Ducks didn't use one of their three timeouts. Johnson ran for 2 into the middle of the field to the 6 and Masoli ran other play to the 3. With just seconds on the clock the Ducks tried one more running play and this time Masoli gave the ball to LeGarrette Blount, who pounded the ball in for his second touchdown of the day and the game winner. Oregon called on Blount again for the 2-point conversion that gave Oregon a 7-point lead. With all that there was only six seconds left in the game and the contest concluded when Stanford tried to lateral its way down field on the last kickoff, only to be stopped at its own 19.

"There was no reason to call timeouts, we practice it all the time," Kelly maintained. "I don't know what a timeout would do other then let the crowd watch the game a little longer.

"If we didn't score, we would have called timeout and kicked a field goal," said Kelly of the final drive.

To Scott, the final drive is what football is all about.

"It's like clutch," said Scott of the last two minutes. "There's no time for mistakes. Hopefully I made all my mistakes during the week in practice. I wanted to make sure when the ball came my way that I caught it, regardless if it is snowing, raining or if it was sunny outside."

Johnson led all rushers with 135 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. He had a long run of 47. Blount had 90 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns. Masoli had 46 yards on 12 totes and Scott contributed two carries for 25 yards. Kimble ran for 106 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. Tavi Pritchard ran the ball eight times for 42 yards. Toby Gerhart also had eight carries but for 21 yards.

"We had five turnovers, but we focused and still won the game," said Johnson. "I feel really good, I am ecstatic."

Masoli was 11-for-21 for 144 yards and a touchdown. Pritchard was 15-for-22, 138 yards and a touchdown.

"There were some mistakes on our side, but we have a great offense and experience played an important role in today's game," observed Masoli of the game.

Johnson had the most catches for the Ducks with three grabs for 43 yards but Drew Davis had the most yardage at 51 on two catches. Scott's two catches amounted to 28 yards and to him, the rain was no factor.

"Catching the ball is all in the head," according to Scott. "It doesn't have anything to do with the rain or anything like that. It's all mental. Did you prepare to catch the football?"

Masoli's heroics may ease the criticism some have had for the Oregon program that is now 7-3 for the season and 5-2 in the Pac-10 race.

"I tell Jeremiah all the time to let it happen, not make it happen," said Kelly of his quarterback.

Today and certainly in the last drive Masoli let things come to him, even if it was at the last part of the game.

Johnson moved into a tie for 10th on Oregon's career scoring list with 176 points.
The 135 yards for Johnson is the third time this season he has cracked the 100-yard rushing mark.
The Ducks rused for more than 300 yards for the sixth time in 10 games this season.
Johnson and Blount had rushing TDs in the same game for the fourth time this season.
Blount had his sixth multi-touchdown game of the season and is one rushing score away from tying the single-season record of 15 set by Saladin McCullough in 1996.
Tight end Malachi Lewis made his first career start today.
Place kicker Morgan Flint kicked the first field goal of his career (37 yards) in the first quarter.
Autzen Stadium recorded its 60th consecutive sellout dating back to 1999.
After going nearly eight years without allowing a safety, the Ducks have let two go in the last two games.
The win today was Oregon's first over a team with a winning record this season.
Oregon clinched a winning Pac-10 mark with its fifth conference victory of the season matching last year's Pac-10 total.
Scott is the only Duck receiver to catch at least one pass in all 10 games this season.

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