Sputter, Sputter, VaRoom

Eugene -- For the longest time it looked like the Oregon offense had left the area never to return. Patience though is a virtue and despite the sputtering offense of the first six quarters of play this season, the Oregon Ducks finally came around and gave everyone something to cheer about. The Ducks held on to beat Purdue 38-32 in front of 57,772 grateful fans.

"We played a lot of young players tonight," said Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly. "It was nice see LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner get on track in the second half."

After last week's disaster in Boise, the Ducks needed to show some semblance of their old selves. It didn't happen in the first half even though the score was tied 17-all at the break. Thank the Duck defense for keeping Oregon around in the first half. First, junior linebacker Casey Matthews stepped in front of a Joey Elliot toss and the Ducks were in business on Purdue's 13. That point-blank position should have ended up in an easy seven points, but instead came the first sputter and Oregon had to settle for a Morgan Flint 28-yard field goal.

They exchanged scores with the Boilermakers, when Andre Crenshaw took the ball into the end zone from 2, capping off a 75-yard, seven play drive, looking like the same Ducks that finished with 10 wins last year. Then it was sputter again for seven straight possessions as the Ducks could only manage a field goal attempt, which was missed.

Good thing Nick Aliotti has been working his troops on the defensive side of the ball, because the defense scored once on a Walter Thurmand pick-6 and then in the second half, Javes Lewis scooped up a fumble and put the ball in the endzone to keep the Ducks tied with the Boilermakers.

Not that the Ducks were completely inept on offense. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was starting to thaw out and look like the guy who ran over the opposition and found receivers at will last year. Masoli was making some good decisions and ran when it was available, to the tune of 110 yards of rushing (84 net), plus he was finding receivers. His final line was 11-for-21, 163 yards. Maybe not the stuff that a season will be built on, but it was a sure-fire step in the right direction.

"Obviously Jeremiah is a dual-threat, When he's got it going run-wise it really opens things up for us in the pass game."

Along came the fourth quarter and a couple of guys everybody has been excited about, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner showed folks that they have skills -- plenty of them; perhaps because they weren't looking for a breakaway dash to goal line every time they touched the ball. A step here, a juke there, a twist, a turn and they turned 2-yard gains into 7-yarders. James finished the game with 56 net yards on nine carries for a 6.2-yard average. Barner had 34 yards on five carries, including blasting by the Boilermaker defense for a 21-yard touchdown run..

"They were looking at the crowd more than looking at the ball in the first half, mused Kelly of James and Barner. "Once they settled down, neither had played in front of that many people before."

After watching the combination of Masoli, Crenshaw, James and Barner running, Masoli passing and some timely catches by Jeffery Maehl (5-49) Jamere Holland (4-71), Ed Dickson (1-32) and David Paulson (1-11) it was VaRoom all over again.

Sure there were mistakes, nine penalties for minus 66 yards, although seven of those flags came in the first half, but there were no fumbles or interceptions. That's progress.

So while the win on Saturday night may not go down as one of the prettiest in the history of Oregon football, it was sure nice to finally see the engine running a whole lot better.

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