No. 7 Ducks Hand No. 22 Badgers First Loss Of Season
Sept 2, 2001
By LANDON HALL
AP Sports Writer
EUGENE, Ore. - Brilliant when he had to be late in the game, Oregonquarterback Joey Harrington played nearly as big as his gaudy New York Citybillboard.
Harrington threw threeo touchdown passes and scored on a 1-yard fourth-downleap with 4:03 left as No. 7 Oregon rallied to beat No. 22 Wisconsin 31-28Saturday night in the Ducks' season opener.
'Yeah, I like that young man,' Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. 'Joey'sthe catalyst.'
The Ducks improved to 13-0 under Bellotti in non-conference home games, and13-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
'You expected anything else from us?' said Harrington, who improved to15-2 as Oregon's starter after engineering his eighth career fourth-quartercomeback win.
Harrington completed 22 of 47 passes, and his leadership in crucial situations made him live upto his summerlong Heisman hype. Oregon spent $250,000 to put Harrington's imageon a 10-story-tall billboard in midtown Manhattan.
'I always feel we're in the game. I knew we could take them down thefield,' Harrington said.
The Badgers (1-1) came back from a 10-0 first-quarter deficit and took thelead three times in the second half. But their chances ended when quarterbackJim Sorgi fumbled after being hit by Quinn Dorsey with 3:34 left. Oregon'sKevin Mitchell recovered at the Wisconsin 33.
The Badgers got the ball back and had one last chance, but on fourth-and-10from the Ducks' 47, Sorgi's pass over the middle was dropped by Nick Davis with58 seconds left.
'For a young football team in a tough environment, I thought they hung inthere well and gave us a chance to win,' Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said ofhis team.
The Ducks have won 21 straight home games, second in the country only toFlorida State's 35.
'Ever since I've been here, we've always taken it to the last drop,' saidDucks cornerback Rashad Bauman, who knocked away a potential big-play pass fromEvans on the Badgers' last drive. 'But as long as we get the victory, I don'tcare.'
Sorgi, starting in place of injured Brooks Bollinger, completed 16 of 32passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
Lee Evans had eight receptions for 168 yards, a week after catching fourpasses for 135 yards in the Badgers' win over Virginia.
Harrington passed for 277 yards and touchdowns of 23 and 11 yards to tightend Justin Peelle, who was often left alone by the Badgers' secondary.
On the winning drive, Harrington found Peelle open for a 25-yard gain onthird-and-10. After Onterrio Smith's 19-yard run, Oregon stalled, andHarrington dove over the goal line on fourth-and-inches.
Harrington was particularly adept during one third-quarter scoring drive,when he completed passes for first downs on third-and-11, -6 and -17. Hissecond touchdown pass to Peelle put Oregon ahead 17-14.
From there the game turned even wilder. Wisconsin redshirt freshman AnthonyDavis bolted up the middle for a 69-yard touchdown run to put the Badgers backin front.
Oregon responded with a 51-yard run from Smith, who was in for theineffective Maurice Morris. The play set up a 1-yard score by Morris after alateral pass from Harrington.
After Harrington's second interception, Evans helped put the Badgers aheadagain when he got a step on cornerback A.K. Keyes and hauled in a 48-yard passfrom Sorgi, carrying Keyes on his back the last 10 yards.
Sorgi's 1-yard sneak gave Wisconsin a 28-24 lead with 9:37 to play.
Anthony Davis, who gained 147 yards in his college debut last week, had 130yards.
Morris, who gained 1,188 yards last season, was held to 18 yards on 15attempts, but did pull in a 1-yard touchdown catch to put the home squad up, 24-21, with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter.
Oregon, which lost to Wisconsin last year in Madison, struggled on offenseearly, but its suspect defense and special teams were better than expected.Igor Olshansky blocked a 46-yard field-goal attempt by Mike Allen that wouldhave tied it at 24 late in the third quarter. And Dorsey's hit on Sorgi in thefirst quarter caused an interception by defensive end Darrell Wright that ledto a touchdown.
Bollinger didn't dress because of a bruised liver, suffered on a hit lastweek. He spent two days in the hospital.