Delirious Ducks Won't Dwell On Win That Got Away
Jan. 2, 2002
By LANDON HALL
AP Sports Writer
|Joey Harrington had the Ducks' offense running on all cylinders against Stanford in October, but the Cardinal rallied for 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to upset Oregon for their only loss of the season.|
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - The Oregon Ducks were too happy about their Fiesta Bowlvictory to dwell on the 15 minutes of bad football that cost them a chance at anational title.
The second-ranked Ducks routed No. 3 Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday,and immediately the talk turned to whether Oregon should be national championshould Nebraska lose to Miami in the Rose Bowl on Thursday.
'The way we played today, I feel we can play with anybody,' tight endJustin Peelle said. 'Whatever happens, happens. It's up to you guys (the mediavoters), but we did our job and we had some fun doing it.'
If not for a 49-42 loss to Stanford on Oct. 20 - in which the Ducks had twopunts blocked and were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter - Oregon would beplaying the top-ranked and unbeaten Hurricanes.
'No regrets,' linebacker Wesly Mallard said. 'I think (the loss) was areality check, and it helped us focus.'
Oregon won its next five games to reach 11 victories for the first time. Inthe last six years, the Ducks have won 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and now 11 games.
While quarterback Joey Harrington had a brilliant game with 350 yards andfour touchdowns, the Ducks' defense deserved the most credit for Tuesday'svictory.
Colorado had 603 yards rushing in victories over Nebraska and Texas, butOregon's defense held the Buffs to just 49 yards on the ground. It was astartling performance by a group that had to replace seven starters from lastseason and didn't get much respect during the week of preparation for thisgame.
'People always question us,' linebacker Kevin Mitchell said. 'But whenthey call on us to make plays, we make them. We proved a lot of people wrong.'
The unit was consistently regarded as quick but too small, and the skepticswere right much of the time. Overall, the Ducks ranked 81st nationally in totaldefense entering Tuesday's game, and the secondary - prone to big plays andpenalties - was 110th.
Oregon wasn't expected to even slow tailbacks Chris Brown, Bobby Purify andCortlen Johnson, and the Ducks' usual strategy of committing everyone but thetwo cornerbacks to stopping the run appeared to make the unit vulnerable to thepass.
Yet it worked beautifully. Brown was held to 30 yards, Johnson 24 and Purify19. In the two big wins over Nebraska and Texas, the Buffs averaged 5.7 yardsper carry, the Ducks held them to 1.6.
'You would have never expected that,' cornerback Rashad Bauman said. 'Ithink people would have bet their lives, their paychecks, everything that thatwouldn't happen.'
Unable to move the ball, Colorado quarterback Bobby Pesavento was forced tothrow it downfield, and he was out of his element. He was twice intercepted bySmith, and when backup Craig Ochs entered the game in the fourth quarter, hisfirst pass was picked off by Smith at the Oregon 25.
'Once we got them in the air, we knew that the game was over with,' Baumansaid. 'Once we went out there and made our defensive adjustments, they didn'thave a chance after that.'
Colorado took a 7-0 lead on fullback Brandon Drumm's 1-yard run, capping adrive that ate up 5:11. Its next possession began with Purify gaining just 1yard. After an incomplete pass, Johnson was stuffed by tackle Igor Olshanskyfor a 2-yard loss. The Buffs' next drive ended when Brown was met at the lineof scrimmage, again by Olshansky, for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1.
'It just played right into our hands,' Mallard said.