Oregon Cruises Past Mississippi State

Aug. 31, 2002

EUGENE, Ore. - Joey Harrington had some simple advice as Jason Fife started his first game for Oregon.

'Joey said, `Go out and have fun. It's your turn,'' Fife said.

So the Ducks' new quarterback went out and threw three touchdown passes as No. 15 Oregon beat Mississippi State 36-13 Saturday.

Onterrio Smith ran for 124 yards on 28 carries for Oregon, and Fife completed 14 of 26 passes for 166 yards.

Harrington's successor gave himself only mixed reviews in the end.

'I was happy I made the throws when I had to, but I had too many bad throws overall,' he said.

The Bulldogs were playing without their starting quarterback, Kevin Fant, who was suspended for one game by the NCAA. In his place, redshirt freshman Kyle York made his collegiate debut.

York completed 18 of 37 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions as the Bulldogs' offense got off to a slow start and never caught up.

'There were times when I felt comfortable and times when everyone clicked, but we just let the game get away,' York said.

George Wrighster caught two touchdown passes and Jared Siegel kicked three field goals for the Ducks, who opened their season before 56,386 fans at newly expanded Autzen Stadium.

Harrington got a wild ovation when he appeared on the sidelines about an hour before the game. Last season he led the Ducks to an 11-1 record, the Pacific-10 Conference title and a No. 2 final ranking.

A Heisman finalist, Harrington was picked third overall in the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions.

Fife's first pass was incomplete, but he ran 28 yards on the Ducks' opening series, including a 5-yard scoring dash that put Oregon up 7-0.

He threw more on the next possession, hitting Jason Willis with a 21-yard pass to put Oregon on Mississippi State's 4-yard line. Fife finished it off with a toss to Wrighster for the touchdown.

Fife hit Wrighster again with a 27-yard scoring pass to open the second quarter before Siegel kicked a 39-yard field goal.

Kicking with a steady breeze, Siegel also hit a 47-yarder, tying his career best, to make it 27-0.

The Bulldogs finally got on the board with 20 seconds left before halftime on Dontae Walker's 1-yard run as York started to shake off some of his rookie jitters.

Fant was suspended Thursday. According to athletic director Larry Templeton, a Bulldogs booster used a credit card to secure tires and rims for Fant's vehicle, but Fant later bought them with a check from his mother.

'Mississippi State and the Southeastern Conference believe the incident did not warrant a suspension,' Bulldogs coach Jackie Sherrill said in a statement. 'The incident is put behind us and we will move on.'

Fant's absence was a blow to the Bulldogs, who finished last season with a disappointing 3-8 record.

Siegel kicked a 39-yard field goal to open the second half, and Fife added a 34-yard TD pass to Samie Walker as the Ducks put the game out of reach. Fife was replaced in the fourth quarter by backup Kellen Clemens.

'As a team and as a program, we had questions about can we replace this person and that person, and some of our players resented that,' Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. 'It was nice for them to step out and do it right the first time.'

York finished on a positive note with a 9-yard scoring pass to Brandon Wright with 2:52 left. The 2-point attempt failed.

'I was very pleased with Kyle York,' Sheriill said. 'He was outstanding and very poised. We just dropped the ball a bunch.'

It was the first time Oregon played host to an opponent from the SEC, and just the second time the Bulldogs faced a Pac-10 opponent. Mississippi State visited Washington in 1977.

AP Sports Writer

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