In probably the best decade for Oregon football ever, the Ducks finished in the top 12 five times. Two BCS bowl games, a No. 2 final national ranking in 2001, and three Pac-10 championships.
With names like Joey Harrington, Dennis Dixon, Haloti Ngata, and Jairus Byrd, Oregon has produced some great talent over the decade, and those players have also participated in some great games.
Photo courtesy of the Oregonian
Fright Night at Autzen Stadium was exactly that for the USC Trojans on Halloween in 2009. ESPN’s College Gameday was in town, and a national audience would tune in to hear Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musburger cover the game for ABC’s primetime game.
The Trojans came into the game with expectations of challenging for the national championship even though they had already lost one conference game to Washington. But the Ducks had other plans.
After the teams traded points in the first quarter, the Ducks took over. LaMichael James had his coming out party against the Trojans, rushing for over 180 yards and making the Trojans' defense look slow.
Jeremiah Masoli was on as well, breaking down the Trojans' defense for big gains on the ground and through the air.
The Ducks put a beatdown on the Trojans that no one had seen during the Pete Carroll era. Oregon racked up over 600 yards of offense, and the once colossal force that dominated the Pac-10 for the past decade looked to have crumbled.
It was a statement game for the Ducks, showing that they had arrived and were going to forcefully take the torch from Los Angeles where it had resided since Oregon won the last outright conference title before the Trojans' seven year run.
Photo courtesy CheekandBluster.com
The Ducks came into the Holiday Bowl back in 2000 disappointed after a terrible Civil War loss, but were motivated to show that they were better than the team that showed up that day back in Nov.
Head coach Mike Bellotti pulled out all the stops, and Joey Harrington became the first player in Holiday Bowl history to throw, run, and catch a touchdown in the game.
Certainly the most memorable play in that game was the end-around to Howry, who eventually threw it back to Harrington, who seemingly was stumbling for ten yards but managed to stay on his field until he got to the endzone.
After a kick return touchdown, and another drive that resulted in a touchdown, the Ducks found themselves down, but Harrington hit Maurice Morris on a short screen pass that thanks to some great blocking, turned into a touchdown.
In the end, the Ducks were up 35-28, pinned deep in their own territory with under a minute left on fourth down. Bellotti told his punter to burn some time and run out of the back of the endzone, giving up the safety. One last heave to the endzone by Chris Simms fell incomplete and the Ducks came away with the 35-30 victory over a very talented.
Photo courtesy tmnt.com
After the beatdown served by the Ducks in the Big House, Mark Sanchez and USC rolled into Eugene.
Sanchez was getting his second career start with John David Booty being out with a broken finger.
This matchup was comparable to two heavyweights throwing blows at each other all game.
The Ducks were hitting on all cylinders against a stout Trojans' defense with both Jonathan Stewart and Dennis Dixon scoring on touchdown runs.
The Ducks had a 24-10 lead in the fourth quarter when Sanchez drove the Trojans down to a score, cutting the lead to seven. After the Ducks took some time off the clock, the Trojans got the ball back, but Sanchez was intercepted by Matthew Harper to seal the game for Oregon.
It set up a top five matchup the next week against Arizona State, a game the Ducks won but lost Dennis Dixon to a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament, ending the Ducks' hope of a national championship.
Photo courtesy ESPN
The Ducks came into 2007 with relatively low expectations. Their offensive coordinator Gary Crowton had left for LSU and their quarterback Dennis Dixon had played minor league baseball all summer.
The fans and media were asking if coach Mike Bellotti had reached the end of his tenure as the Ducks had lost their last four games in 2006.
But Dixon had developed a special relationship with the new offensive coordinator, a guy by the name of Chip Kelly from New Hampshire.
After a modest win against a good Houston squad in Eugene, the Ducks traveled to Ann Arbor to take on a Michigan team that had been shell-shocked the previous week by I-AA Appalachian State at home.
The Wolverines were sure to be angry, but the Ducks controlled the game from the opening kick. The game was basically over at halftime as the Ducks had a 32-7 lead, and looked bigger, faster, and stronger than the stunned Wolverines.
If not for some sloppy play in the second half, the Ducks probably could have put up 50 in the Big House.
Dixon had his coming out party, throwing three touchdowns and 292 yards while running for 76 yards and a score.
Very few fans thought that the Ducks would be in a running for the national championship late into the season, but after this game, I would have put the Oregon offense up against any defense in the country that year.
The Ducks and Beavers came into 2001 with high expectations, and while the Beavers floundered, the Ducks came into the day with the shot to make a trip to Pasadena for the national championship game.
It was a dreary day in Eugene, and both sides were sloppy. Oregon State’s Ken Simonton was trying to become the first running back in Pac-10 history to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons, but the Ducks' defense was not willing to give up that record, as they held Simonton 29 yards short of that goal.
For the Ducks, the game was seriously in doubt until Keenan Howry dropped back to return a punt in the early portion of the fourth quarter. 70 yards and a literal downpour later, the Ducks had finally gained the lead at 10-6. After an eight yard touchdown run by Maurice Morris, the Ducks were up 17-6 and seemed to be in control.
The Beavers weren’t going to go quietly as Beaver quaterback Johnathan Smith drove Oregon State 69 yards in 11 plays to score a touchdown and convert a two point conversion to pull the Beavers within three.
Oregon State’s onside kick attempt went out of bounds and all Oregon had to do was run out the clock. But Joey Harrington fumbled the ball on a naked bootleg in Oregon territory, giving the Beavers new life.
After a couple drops by Beaver receivers, Smith tried to throw the ball in the direction of James Newsome, but Rashad Bauman made a great jump on the ball and sealed a Civil War victory and Pac-10 championship for the Ducks.
Photo courtesy Sports Illustrated
If there is a phrase that has been uttered more than any other in reference to this game, it would have to be, “I did or didn’t leave.”
This matchup between the Ducks and Sooners marked the second time in nine months these teams had faced off, with the Sooners knocking off the Ducks in the Holiday Bowl the previous Dec.
Oklahoma had soon to be NFL star running back Adrian Peterson who ran wild on the Ducks that day for 211 yards, but Oregon had Jonathan Stewart who rushed for 145 yards himself.
The Ducks were down 33-27 when Dixon scampered 12 yards for a score.
The Ducks set up for what would possibly be the most controversial onside kick in Oregon football history.
The referees said Oregon recovered, but there was controversy surrounding whether the Ducks touched the ball before it went ten yards, and whether they actually recovered the ball. There was a review and the ball was given to the Ducks, and after a pass interference penalty on Oklahoma, Dennis Dixon hit Brian Paysinger on a 28 yard touchdown strike to put the Ducks up 34-33.
The game wasn’t over yet though. Oklahoma returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to the Oregon 27.
Oklahoma had no timeouts, so they ran one play into the line and spiked the ball with one second left. Garrett Hartley trotted on to kick the game-winning field goal, but the ball never got over the line and Oregon escaped with a 34-33 win.
Unlike any Civil War in history, the winner of this game was going to the Rose Bowl. A national television audience was tuned in on Thursday night and the nation was not disappointed.
Both the Beavers and Ducks were hitting on all cylinders that night and after an exciting first half, the Beavers took a 23-21 lead into halftime.
The Beavers took a nine point lead early in the third quarter after the Beavers scored on their opening drive.
The Ducks were seemingly in a funk in the third when Chip Kelly decided it was time for suspended running back LaGarrette Blount to get his first carries since Boise State.
After an impressive run where he ran over Oregon State Linebacker Keaton Kristick like he was a minor speed bump, Blount broke a tackle, ran 12 yards, and dove into the endzone. This gave the team a spark that they would carry throughout the rest of the game and after two fourth down conversions, one where Masoli ran over safety Lance Mitchell, the Duck players and fans were storming the field with roses clenched in their teeth.
Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times
Oregon came into Tucson in what seemed to be lackluster fashion after having lost to Stanford and looking less than stellar against Arizona State.
Jeremiah Masoli and the Ducks got off to a quick start, but it seemed that the Wildcats wouldn’t be denied this night.
Arizona shut down the Ducks in the second and third quarters, taking a 24-14 lead. The Ducks couldn’t move the ball, and didn't even get a first down for a while in the middle of the game.
After Arizona stopped the Ducks on fourth and six with five minutes left, they took the ball near midfield with all the momentum and needing only 20 yards to get in field goal range. That is where the play that changed the game occurred.
On third and long, Arizona quarterback Nick Foles dropped back and threw the ball into the endzone. Cornerback Cliff Harris had been beaten badly, but safety Marvin Johnson came over and made a great play to deflect the ball away from the receiver up into the air. The ball ended up in Talmedge Jackson’s hands and denied Arizona a scoring opportunity that would have likely ended the game.
Masoli led the Ducks 80 yards on 15 plays in just over three minutes, throwing the game-tying touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with six seconds left.
The Ducks got the ball first in overtime and scored on a great pass from Masoli to a diving Jeff Maehl in the back of the endzone on third down.
Arizona answered with a three yard touchdown pass from Foles to Juron Criner after the Ducks thought they had recovered a fumble to end the game.
In the second overtime, the Ducks defense forced Arizona into a field goal and Masoli stuck the ball in the endzone on third down from the one to give the Ducks the victory and keep their Rose Bowl hopes alive.
On Jan. 1, 2002 the Ducks came into Tempe for the Fiesta Bowl not getting much respect from the nation, even though they were No. two in both polls.
Oregon had been shut out of the national championship game for a team that didn’t even play in their conference championship game and were later blown out by Miami in the game.
After a sluggish start by both teams, Colorado took the early lead 7-0, but the Ducks never really looked back, taking the lead on a 79 yard bomb from Joey Harrington to Samie Parker.
Unlike most other Oregon games, this one was already decided by the start of the fourth quarter.
Harrington finished his Oregon career with a gem, 350 yards passing, and four touchdowns to four different receivers.
Harrington left many Heisman voters regretting their decision to vote Eric Crouch that year.
Photo courtesy FiestaBowl.org
In probably the most thrilling game in Oregon history, Ducks' fans experienced the full range of emotions in the last five minutes of regulation.
The Sun Devils were on fire that October afternoon in Tempe, and the Ducks were in the crosshairs of Sun Devil head coach Bruce Snyder.
The Ducks were tied at 28 in the third quarter, but the Sun Devils took control and had a 14 point lead until 3:21 left in the fourth when Joey Harrington hit Marshaun Tucker to cut the lead to 49-42.
The Ducks held Arizona State to three and out after they recovered Oregon’s onside kick attempt, and Harrington proceeded to drive the Ducks down the field only to be stopped on fourth and goal at the one with about a minute left, all but ending the game.
But while trying to run out the clock, Sun Devils' running back Mike Williams fumbled the ball and Oregon’s Jermaine Hanspard recovered. On the next play, Harrington hit tight end Justin Peelle to tie the game.
After both teams scored in the first overtime, Oregon’s Allan Amundson ran in the endzone from one yard out to give the Ducks a 56-49 lead.
Arizona State responded with a 23-yard touchdown pass, but instead of kicking the extra point, they ran a fake and Todd Heap dropped the pass in the back of the endzone, giving the Ducks a 56-55 win.
2008 Oregon v. Purdue 38-31 (2 OT)
2008 Oregon v. Oregon State 65-38
2005 Oregon v. Oregon State 56-14 (Fog Bowl)
2001 Oregon v. Washington State 24-17
2000 Oregon v. UCLA 29-10
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