Oregon Weathers the Storm and Wins 42-31

San Diego – Oregon Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti said a couple of days before the 2008 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl that it would be important for his defense to "weather the storm" that the Oklahoma State Cowboys would create. A storm brewed in the second half but it was a more physical Oregon Ducks winning 42-31.

(PHOTO) Jeremiah Masoli holds up the Offensive MVP Trophy that as awarded to him at the 2008 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

When the first quarter ended the Cowboys led the Ducks 17-7 but from that point on things started to change. No one scored in the second quarter and Walter Thurmond III opened the second half with a spectacular 91-yard kickoff return.

"Our defense stepped up," said Oregon's Mike Bellotti. "Our special teams stepped up. Our defense got enough stops in the second half to make a difference in this football game. I told them (the team) we had to take advantage of field position. We're only 10 points out of this thing. We weathered the storm and now we need to create a storm. I was a team effort."

It was a team effort with a very special contribution by the signal caller, Jeremiah Masoli.

While the Ducks seemed to reel in the first quarter of the game and were unable to stop OSU's potent passing attack led by quarterback Zac Robinson, Oregon was able to score on a 76-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Johnson. Johnson's score was about the only thing that went right for the Ducks in the opening quarter and things weren't much better in the second quarter, but OSU was less freewheeling and did not score.

When the emerged from the lockerroom for the start of the third quarter they needed a big play and got it on the kickoff when Thurmond crisscrossed the field for 91-yards. Two snaps later the Ducks cut the Cowboys' lead to 17-14 with Masoli's first of three touchdown runs. Oregon needed to establish a running game in the second half and behind Masoli's quick feet, it did. For the game Masoli carried the ball 16 times for 106 net yards. He also lit up OSU for 258 yards on 18-for-32, one touchdown and an interception.

Masoli was named the Most Valuable on offense while teammate Jairus Byrd was the defensive MVP.

While the big play by Thurmond and Masoli's skills on offense may be what most will remember about the game, it was the defensive effort that was started on a big hit by T.J. Ward on Robinson that got the Ducks on track to play hard nosed physical football. After Ward's big hit on Robinson, it appeared the Cowboy quarterback was never quite the same. Robinson finished throwing for 329 yards on 27-for-50, one touchdown and two interceptions. Much of Robinson's passing numbers was racked up in the first quarter (143 yards). He also ran the ball 16 times for 54 net yards and was sacked twice.

Oregon had 239 yards of total offense in the first half compared to OSU's 250 but in the second half the Ducks 326 more yards to finish the game with 565 yards (307 rushing, 258 passing.) OSU left the field with 469 total yards. Oregon intended on shutting down the Oklahoma State running game and was successful as the Cowboys only netted a total of 119 yards and a 3.2-yard per carry average.

"It affected his accuracy and throwing in the second half," admitted Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy. "There's no question, but we had enough variety in our offense to move the ball effectively even though he had an issue with his shoulder. It came down to us not being able to run the ball, really, more than anything."

Oregon seemed to hit harder and the spirit radiated from the defense to the offense and as the game wore on it looked as though there was little left in OSU's gas tank in the fourth quarter as the Ducks six touchdowns in the second half.

"They (Oregon) were much more physical than we were in the second half," said Gundy. "They were just more physical. We couldn't get anything generated on offense after the first two series. And then we couldn't stop the run. They came out strong."

Patrick Chung was the leading tackler for Oregon with 10 (six solos) and had one interception. Byrd recorded nine tackles (six solos) including three tackles for loss. Linebacker Casey Matthews also recorded nine tackles (six solos) including two for loss. Thurmond, in addition to his total of 211 yards of returns (a Holiday Bowl record) had five tackles and an interception.

Morgan Flint missed both of his field goal attempts but kicked six point-after attempts.

"We changed the focal point of some of our runs early," said Bellotti of the game. "It was a combination of our execution. We got defensive stops, made their pass game not as effective.

Notes:

Johnson's 76-yard scoring run was a Holiday and Oregon Bowl record.

Johnson eclipsed 100 yards rushing (119) for the fifth time this season and finished the year with 1,201 yards, good for sixth at Oregon for a single season and 2,336 for his career, also sixth all-time.

Byrd's interception was his 17th of his career.

LeGarrette Blount joined Johnson as a season 1,000 rusher with his 74-yard performance. Blount had 1,002 yards for the 2008 season.

Jaison Williams moved into second on the UO career receptions list with 174. He finishes fifth in career receiving yards (2,548) at Oregon.

Masoli set an Oregon record for quarterback rushing with 710 breaking the old record held by Reggie Ogburn's 644 set in 1979.

Terence Scott had his second plus 100 yards of receiving with 125 yards on eight catches.

Talmadge Jackson wore No. 29 in honor of the late Todd Doxey. Doxey was a native of San Diego and Jackson represented Doxey's family as a captain in the opening coin toss.


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