Ducks trample Vikings, become bowl eligible
UO beats visiting PSU 55-12 with no turnovers
EUGENE - Jeremiah Johnson scored three touchdowns, the Oregon offense played turnover-free ball and the defense held Portland State scoreless in the second half as the Ducks beat the Vikings 55-12 Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
With their sixth win, the Ducks (6-2, 3-2 Pac-10) become bowl eligible, and go for win number seven at 12:30 p.m. Saturday against rival Washington at Autzen Stadium.
'It's the confidence factor - getting back on track as a team,' says coach Mike Bellotti, of the big nonconference win after last week's tough loss at Washington State. 'Now we have to secure a better bowl game each week.'
The Vikings (5-4, 4-2 Big Sky), who have an outside chance at the Division I-AA playoffs, will play their final two games on the road: at Northern Arizona at 2 p.m. Saturday and at Sacramento State on Nov. 11.
In three games against Portland State over the years, the Ducks have outscored the Vikings 154-28.
'The game is only meant to be played on way: to win … (but) we knew we had to play a perfect game,' PSU coach Tim Walsh says.
Andiel Brown, a Cleveland High grad and UO punt returner and third-string tailback, had a good game. He fielded six punts, averaging 17.4 yards, and he also scored the Ducks' final touchdown on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Dennis Dixon rebounded from a turnover-plagued loss at Washington State by going 13 of 23 for 150 yards and a touchdown, and he added 42 yards on the ground. Jaison Williams notched his fifth 100-yard receiving game, with eight catches for 112 yards.
Third-string quarterback Nathan Costa got into game, leading the Ducks on a 98-yard drive that culminated with Brown's touchdown. The appearance eliminated his opportunity to redshirt this season.
The Ducks' defense gave up only 10 net rushing yards in the second half - 204 total yards for the game -- and constantly harassed quarterback Sawyer Smith, who finished 5 of 15 for 45 yards and three interceptions. He was sacked four times. Mu'Ammar Ali had more than 100 yards at halftime, but finished with only 139 on 23 carries, including a 57-yard TD run.
Eliminating turnovers 'has been our focus and emphasis point - especially this week,' Bellotti says.
Johnson had 86 yards rushing as he got the bulk of the work with starter Jonathan Stewart sidelined with an abdominal strain and sore ribs. Stewart got rode hard out of bounds by Portland State safety Charles Manigo in the first quarter - toppling over a bench on the PSU sidelines, about 10 yards out of play -- the most worrisome part of the entire game. Medical personnel attended to Stewart on the sideline; he walked off with his own power, and later returned briefly for one carry in the game, but did not return after that.
An upset Bellotti said he could not believe that officials did not call a penalty on the play. Bellotti said he would definitely turn the video into the Pac-10 office for review.
Johnson's three touchdowns helped Oregon lead 35-12 at halftime.
A 72-yard drive ended with Dixon's 11-yard touchdown pass to Williams. After a defensive stop, the Ducks got the ball at the PSU 26 and went ahead 14-0 on Johnson's 1-yard run.
Two offsides penalties and a personal foul on Matt Toeaina aided the Vikings, who scored their first touchdown on a well-executed, 19-yard screen pass from Smith to Tremayne Kirkland.
With Brady Leaf at quarterback, the Ducks went up 21-6 as Leaf scored from three yards out.
Ali, who earlier had a 45-yard run end with a lost fumble, ripped off his 57-yard touchdown run to top 100 yards. It made the score 21-12, a little close for the Autzen faithful.
After Oregon defensive stops, the Ducks scored their fourth and fifth touchdowns - runs of 6 and 1 yards by Johnson. Johnson had 62 yards in the first half as the Ducks piled up 262 yards offense - they finished with 431.
Ali had 127 yards on 11 carries at halftime. But the Ducks sacked Smith four times and forced him into 4 of 11 passing for 41 yards and an interception.
A pair of Paul Martinez field goals, including a 48-yarder, and A.J. Tuitele's 26-yard interception return for a touchdown added to the UO domination in the second half. Brown's fourth-quarter, tackle-breaking touchdown finished the scoring.
The Ducks had 12 penalties, including six offsides by the defensive line. 'It's more than disappointing. Our defensive line embarrassed us today with the offsides calls,' Bellotti says. 'It was a great job by their quarterbacks on the hard count, and our inability to watch the football.'
Costa went 3 for 3 for 51 yards, and he said the playing experience would be invaluable in his development, even though playing time could be sparse this year and next with Dixon and Leaf around. 'Nate Costa is a good quarterback and we like him,' Bellotti says. 'It will be tougher for him now … but he found a comfort zone and confidence.' Bellotti adds: 'We wanted to play him three or four games ago and he wanted to play. We want three quarterbacks ready to play and be comfortable with playing.'
With his two field goals, Martinez is 11 of 14 this season. … It was Tuitele's second touchdown of the year, the other coming on a 72-yard run after a blocked field goal against Stanford.
Ali's performance was the sixth time in the past seven games an opposing running back has topped 100 yards against the Ducks. In the other game, UCLA's Chris Markey had 97 yards.
Brown had a 44-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. 'I was very pleased,' Bellotti says, of Brown's punt returns. 'I thought he made good decisions and headed up field very well, and his ball security was good.' Brown suffered a hand injury, though, which could affect his catching the ball.
The Ducks have had a 100-yard receiver in seven consecutive games, with Williams notching his fifth such game. … Under Bellotti, the Ducks are 33-5 in nonleague regular-season games, and 25-1 in nonleague home games - the only loss being 30-24 to Indiana in 2004. … Ra'Shon Harris suited up after sitting out the first seven games, and fellow D-tackle Jeremy Gibbs, who had a bad ankle, also returned. … Jacob Hucko started in front of Geoff Schwartz, who had a bad back this week, at right tackle; left guard Josh Tschirgi (ankle) did not suit up, as Jon Teague made his second consecutive start in his place. … Willie Glasper started in place of an injured Walter Thurmond (thigh) at one cornerback spot.
Former UO kicker Jared Siegel attended the game. The school's all-time leading scorer, who lives in Beaverton and works in commercial real estate, had to pay for a ticket like everybody else. 'I'm a revenue stream,' he quipped.
It was Portland State's third road game against a Division I-A opponent; the Viks beat New Mexico 17-6 and lost to Cal 42-16. … Brian White replaced Smith late in the third quarter. … Ahead 45-12, the Ducks tried for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal at the PSU 1, but Leaf's pass to Dante Rosario got tipped. …
Announced attendance was 57,493, the 46th consecutive sellout, but many seats did not have butts in them. … It's the 10th time in 12 years under Bellotti that the Ducks have been bowl eligible. … Oregon was 7 of 8 scoring in the red zone, and stands at 37 of 42 this season (88.1 percent).
Portland State 6 6 0 0 - 12
Oregon 14 21 10 10 - 55
OREGON - 1st, 9:33: Jaison Williams 11 pass from Dennis Dixon (Paul Martinez kick)
OREGON - 1st, 5:24: Jeremiah Johnson 1 run (Martinez kick)
PSU - 1st, 0:47: Tremayne Kirkland 19 pass from Sawyer Smith (kick blocked)
OREGON - 2nd, 12:28: Brady Leaf 3 run (Martinez kick)
PSU - 2nd, 10:39: Mu'Ammar Ali 57 run (pass failed)
OREGON - 2nd, 4:15: Johnson 6 run (Martinez kick)
OREGON - 2nd, 0:39: Johnson 1 run (Martinez kick)
OREGON - 3rd, 7:21: Martinez 48 FG
OREGON - 3rd, 5:59: A.J. Tuitele 26 interception return (Martinez kick)
OREGON - 4th, 11:14: Martinez 34 FG
OREGON - 4th, 4:34: Andiel Brown 7 run (Martinez kick)