Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly has said it all season. One play, one incident, one game doesn't define a season. It is the culmination of hard work, perseverance, and opportunity that determines the character of an individual and the heart of champion. On a bitterly cold Saturday night before the largest crowd in Autzen Stadium history, the 7th ranked Oregon Ducks staked well-deserved claim their first outright Pac-10 Championship since 2001. However, it didn't come easy.
Led by senior quarterback Sean Canfield and the lethal running back and receiving tandum of brothers Jacquizz and James Rodgers, the Beavers gave the Ducks all they could handle in the 113th edition of the Civil War. The Beavers drew first blood, capitalizing on cornerback James Dockery's interception of Jeremiah Masoli on the Ducks first possession of the game, as Jacquizz Rodgers plunged in from the 1 yard line to make the score 7-0 early in the first quarter.
"James Rodgers, Quizz Rodgers, Mr. Rodgers, I don't know," said Kelly of the dynamic play of the Rodgers brothers after the game. "I think they should go out as a package and get them to be seniors and leave early. They're just two tremendous football players."
Jacquizz finished with 137 all-purpose yards (64 rushing and 73 receiving) to go along with his one touchdown, while brother James came through with an outstanding receiving performance, catching 10 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown from Canfield who operated with surgeon-like precision from the quarterback position.
"Sean Canfield is the real deal," said Kelly, "The poise that he played with…he's the first guy that I've seen come in to Autzen Stadium and didn't get rattled."
Canfield finished 24 for 36 for 306 yards and two touchdowns, though the Duck defense stood strong against the Beaver offensive onslaught in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter where Oregon held the Beavers scoreless.
Spearheaded by dominant pass rush, the Ducks disrupted the continuity of the Oregon State offense, enabling the Ducks to hang tough despite finding themselves down by nine points at one point in the second half.
"When it comes down to it, you've got make a play," said defensive tackle Simi Toeaina, "You've just got to go balls out and make the play and take control of the line of scrimmage."
Offensively, the Ducks were their usual selves, using a potent mix of running and passing to keep their opponent on their heels. LaMichael James was brilliant once again, rushing for 166 yards and three touchdowns, while Jeremiah Masoli and yes, LeGarrette Blount, stepped up big time with clutch plays on the ground. Blount, who finished with 51 yards , had a couple of momentum changing plays late in the third quarter that helped the Ducks claw themselves back in the game – including a 12 yard touchdown that cut the Beavers' lead to 30-28.
"He definitely was one of the key components for our momentum," said Masoli of Blount's impact, "For what he did – trucking somebody – I think that just got everybody riled up and just that touchdown he ran in set the tone for us and really helped our offense out."
Masoli made some tremendously key plays himself, finishing 14 of 21 for 201 (138 of which went to Jeff Maehl who snagged six passes from Masoli, including a 70 yard touchdown) yards passing and one touchdown to go along with 40 yards rushing on the ground. Yet, arguably the biggest play of Masoli's career was made on a crucial 4th and 4 that saw him scramble and run over a Oregon State defender in order to retain possession and keep the clock running late in the fourth quarter.
"We had a short pass on," said Masoli as he took members of the media through the play, "and they kind of had it covered well for the 4th and 4 and I just kind of made something happen and we just needed the first (down)…(I thought) I got to get the first, that first down was getting close to where he was going to meet me at, so I had to end up on the other side of that."
With the Pac-10 conference wrapped up, Oregon has clinched a berth in the Rose Bowl January 1st against 8th ranked Ohio State, the champions out of the Big Ten Conference.
"We know we've got a really, really good Ohio State team coming in," said Kelly, "and this football team is in no way done. We're going to finish this thing the right way and that's what those guys know...we're not just happy to be in a bowl game, we're going (there) to win the bowl game."
However, on this night, the Ducks can bask in the glory of their outstanding regular season accomplishments.
Survival Of The Fittest At Autzen
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