for this game

Dixon throws four TDs as Oregon routs Arizona State

Nov 4, 2007 - 3:50 AM EUGENE, Oregon (Ticker) -- If Dennis Dixon keeps playing like this, Oregon could ultimately find itself playing in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Dixon threw four touchdown passes Saturday to lead the fourth-ranked Ducks to a convincing 35-23 triumph over No. 6 Arizona State in a pivotal Pac-10 Conference clash.

It was the fourth straight victory for Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10), which climbed into sole possession of first place in the conference standings.

More importantly, the Ducks guaranteed that they will move up at least one spot in the BCS standings. Oregon entered the contest fifth in the BCS, one spot behind Arizona State (8-1, 5-1).

"It's an exciting win," Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond said. "We knew Arizona State was a second-half team, and we had to make adjustments so they wouldn't score.

"We live for big games. Big games make or break teams. We just go out there and make big plays."

Coming off last Saturday's thrilling 24-17 victory over Southern California, the Ducks avoided a letdown in this one, as Dixon launched scoring passes of 26, 13 and 27 yards over the first 15 1/2 minutes of the contest.

"Our offense is like a big ball," Dixon said. "Once we get rolling, it's hard to stop us."

After letting Arizona State claw within 21-16 early in the third quarter, Oregon tacked on to its lead thanks to a 33-yard TD run by Jonathan Stewart.

"I challenged our football team, players and coaches, at halftime to be the better second-half team," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "I was pleased with how they responded."

Dixon ended the third quarter with his fourth TD of the day, a 19-yard strike to Drew Davis that gave the Ducks a 35-16 cushion.

Dixon completed 13-of-22 passes for 189 yards and no interceptions - his seventh outing this season without an interception. The senior also rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries for the Ducks, who have won their last three meetings with the Sun Devils.

The multi-talented Dixon, who began the season as a relative unknown, has emerged as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. He has thrown 20 TDs against just three interceptions while running for 549 yards and eight scores in nine games this year.

"(Dixon) is very important to our football team and to our football program," Bellotti said. "He deserves every accolade he can get."

Dixon gave Oregon a scare when he suffered a strained knee. But Bellotti said his star quarterback will be healthy long-term.

"Dennis is going to be fine," Bellotti said. "It was just a mild knee strain, and he had a thigh bruise on that same leg from earlier in the game. I think he could have gone back in, but we are comfortable with our depth at that position."

"I'm feeling good," Dixon added. "I got a little banged up, but I have two weeks to prepare. When I jogged off the field, I knew I was OK."

Dixon's favorite target Saturday was Jaison Williams, who finished with five catches for 106 yards and two TDs. Stewart rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries for the Ducks.

Rudy Carpenter enjoyed an outstanding game for Arizona State, completing 22-of-36 passes for 379 yards and two TDs. The junior was intercepted once, a fourth-quarter pick by Thurmond.

"I have to give Oregon credit," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "They came out like wildfires on offense. They're very explosive on offense and they're one of the better offenses that I've seen."