The Ducks won for the first time since losing quarterback Dennis Dixon to a knee injury in November, snapping a three-game losing streak the killed their national title hopes. How easy was it for the Ducks? They won a matchup of teams that'd been ranked No. 2 in the nation earlier this season handily, despite setting a Sun Bowl record with 138 penalty yards.
Roper started the scoring avalanche with a 14-yard TD strike to Jaison Williams and added a 15-yard scoring pass to Ed Dickson.
On the next play from scrimmage, Walter Thurmond stepped in front of a pass by
But these hard-hitting Quackers weren't finished. Grothe had another interception on the ensuing possession, the first of two for
On that drive, Stewart got free on a 16-yard gain, breaking the previous Sun Bowl record of 197 yards rushing set in 1977 by LSU's Charles Alexander in a 24-14 loss to Stanford.
Just like that,
Roper opened the season fifth on the depth chart and ran the scout team until a series of quarterback injuries - none more devastating than the loss of
Coach Mike Bellotti gave Roper the start over Cody Kempt, another redshirt freshman. Roper responded by tying a Sun Bowl record with four TD passes and finished 17-of-30 for 180 yards passing with no interceptions.
Stewart was just as impressive. He broke a 71-yard TD run late in the second quarter, greeted by an enormous hole off left tackle as he raced untouched to the end zone to give the Ducks an 18-11 lead.
Stewart kept the momentum going after the break. His 41-yard run on
"He was a big running back," said
There was no sign of the turf toe injury that slowed Stewart earlier this season, when
Grothe left late in the third after being tackled while scrambling.
"If people said it wasn't a positive season, I'd be a little disappointed," Leavitt said. "We've never won nine games in 11 years. I think it was a heck of a season. We don't have any excuses, though."
The 49,867 fans were treated to lots of penalty flags. The teams combined to break the Sun Bowl record for total penalty yardage - 202 penalty yards - and it wasn't even halftime when the old mark fell.