No. 6 Oregon Overpowers Utah State, 38-21
Sept 30, 2001
By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer
LOGAN, Utah (AP) - Joey Harrington didn't leave a lasting impression on UtahState linebacker Tony Newson. The Oregon quarterback was just anothergunslinger who came to town and beat the Aggies.
Maurice Morris ran for 175 yards and Harrington threw for 261 yards and twotouchdowns as No. 6 Oregon survived a scare through three quarters to beat UtahState 38-21 on Saturday night.
'Utah State is a great team. They played their hearts out and gave us agood run,' Harrington said. 'We ran the ball well in the second half, andthat really helped us out.'
The Ducks (4-0), venturing on the road after three home games, needed twofourth-quarter scores after the Aggies (0-4) pulled to 24-21 on an 8-yard TDpass from Jose Fuentes to Gary Coleman late in the third quarter.
'I've never been as confident for a game as I was tonight,' Utah Statereceiver Kevin Curtis said. 'I thought we were going to be tearing down thegoal posts.'
Harrington answered by directing a six-play, 80-yard drive, capped byOnterrio Smith's 4-yard run early in the fourth. Morris put it out of reachwhen he broke free on a 69-yard scamper for a 38-21 lead with 8:19 remaining.
Smith had 98 rushing yards as the Ducks finished with 289 on the ground.
'The O-line did a great job. The holes were huge,' Harrington said. 'Thisis a good confidence builder that we can run the ball now.'
Harrington was 17-of-24 with no interceptions and scored on a 1-yard sneakin the second quarter. His strong arm was on target most of the night, butNewson was expecting more from a Heisman Trophy contender.
'Heisman-boy, I think he did OK,' Newson said. 'He was poised in thepocket and made some big plays. But he wasn't all he was made out to be.'
The Ducks sustained two noteworthy injuries, a possible concussion toreceiver Jason Willis and a separated wrist to punt returner Keenan Howry. Itwasn't immediately known if either will miss next week's game at Arizona.
'I'm very pleased with the depth of our receivers, though I don't want tobe tested like that every week,' Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said.
Fuentes nearly outperformed Harrington, going 26-of-46 for 356 yards and twoscores. But three of his four interceptions came in the fourth quarter, endingUtah State scoring threats.
'We hung with them and Oregon is a class outfit,' said Utah State coachMick Dennehy. 'They played relatively error-free and we did not. That was thedifference.'
Garrett Graham and Kevin Mitchell made the late pick-offs inside the 20 forOregon, while Steve Smith caught another in the end zone. The Ducks held UtahState standout runner Emmett White to 83 yards rushing.
For three quarters, it was a shootout. The undersized Aggies, giving up morethan 40 pounds on their defensive front to an Oregon line that averaged 295pounds, made up the difference with a swarming defense.
Utah State came in ranked 108th among 117 Division I-A schools in totaldefense. But the Aggies, who fell to 1-33 against ranked opponents, held thequicker Ducks in check much of the night.
'The only difference between us and the so-called bigger schools is theyhave a little more depth and a little more speed,' Newson said.
It was no surprise to Bellotti, who warned his team about another No. 6 teamthat was unbeaten in three games and going on the road against a winlessopponent. But North Carolina beat Florida State 41-9 last week.
'We were surprised at the beginning but everyone settled down,' Bellottisaid.
The Aggies confused Oregon's defense with overloaded receiver sets andthrowing slants to move the ball. A few times, Fuentes burned standoutcornerbacks Rashad Bauman and Steve Smith by completing deep passes.
'They came out with a lot of funky stuff,' Bauman said. 'That was a goodoffense.'
Dennehy even showed some razzle-dazzle, letting Curtis take a third-quarterlateral from Fuentes to throw a 21-yard strike to White at Oregon's 3.
White ran into the end zone on the next play, drawing the Aggies to 17-14four minutes into the second half. But Harrington came back with an 86-yarddrive, topped by a 27-yard TD pass to tight end Justin Peelle for a 24-14 lead.
Fuentes found Coleman on the TD strike to cut Oregon's lead to 24-21 with3:47 to play in the third, but that was as close as Utah State got.
'We didn't get too frustrated that we couldn't stop them,' Graham said.
The Aggies were driving again when Fuentes threw to tight end J.R.Suguturaga but the ball bounced off his shoulder and into Graham's hands at the10-yard line. Mitchell's late pick sent a near-sellout crowd of 28,243 for theexits.
Oregon was the highest-ranked team ever to play in Logan, and the Ducksbrought a legion of fans who flew green and yellow flags atop theirrecreational vehicles, a line that stretched 200 yards outside Romney Stadium.
The matchup was hatched by Utah State athletic director Rance Pugmire andhis counterpart at Oregon, Bill Moos. They're longtime buddies from their daysin the Big Sky Conference.