With eight games under its belt, the Oregon football team has proven it will be a force to be reckoned with in the wide-open Pac-10 Conference.
The Ducks improved to 6-2 (4-1 Pac-10) with a 54-20 blowout against ASU on Saturday, and are tied with USC atop of the standings.
Quarterback inconsistencies have peeved the Ducks all season, but after Saturday’s game it appears they have found their man.
Sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Masoli used his arms and legs to kick-start the team’s offense. Masoli competed with sophomore Justin Roper for the starting position during UO’s bye week but was named the starter before game time.
In three quarters of play, Masoli completed 17 of 26 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. The mobile quarterback also ran for 85 yards and another score.
UO coach Mike Bellotti said earlier in the week he would not be surprised if both Masoli and Roper saw action, but Masoli staked his claim as the team’s starting signal caller. Roper did see action in the fourth quarter after the game was already in hand.
“The competition made me push myself as hard as possible,” Masoli said. “We pushed each other and it made us both better.”
The Ducks have four games left to pull away from the conference pack and Bellotti said Masoli will be the one to lead the offense.
“In football it’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’” Bellotti said. “[Masoli] has continued to improve and at this point he is our starter.”
To start the game, it only took Masoli and the Ducks five plays to score, as senior running back Jeremiah Johnson ran 43 yards untouched to the end zone.
Senior defensive end Nick Reed said the bye week made it possible for a rested UO team to prepare and set up a solid game plan.
“We love battling with our backs against the wall,” Reed said. “I love a challenge and it doesn’t get bigger than that.”
The Ducks’ second offensive drive was not so successful.
After an interception by junior cornerback Jairus Byrd, UO gave up the ball two plays later on Johnson’s fumble. The turnover gave ASU the ball with a first down inside UO’s 10-yard line.
The offensive mistake was quickly erased by another interception from junior defensive back Walter Thurmond III.
UO’s secondary answered the call, as Sun Devil senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter was held to 146 yards passing.
“Our defense played exceptional football,” Bellotti said. “They did some amazing things. It doesn’t matter where a drive starts; we want to keep them out of the end zone.”
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