Oregon QB Masoli quiets critics

Sep 27, 2009 - 11:20 PM By ANNE M. PETERSON AP Sports Writer

EUGENE, Ore.(AP) -- With each completion against California, Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli responded to those who had wanted him benched.

It started with a simple 8-yard pass to Jeff Maehl. And in the end Masoli hit on 21 of 25 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns for Oregon's 42-3 victory Saturday over Cal.

Oregon (3-1) popped into the rankings at No. 16 as a result of the win. The Golden Bears (3-1) plummeted from No. 6 to No. 24.

Masoli, who is known more for his scrambling than for his arm, had not passed for a touchdown this season until he faced Cal. That was a sore subject for many Duck fans, who vented after he completed just four passes the week before in a 31-24 victory over Utah.

Masoli readily admitted there was nothing he could do to avoid noticing the criticism. He set about disproving it in practice last week. He worked with senior tight end Ed Dickson, who wasn't having the best start to a season, either.

The results were evident. Dickson caught all three of Masoli's scoring strikes.

Asked if he silenced the naysayers, Masoli was diplomatic.

"I don't know," he said, "you'll have to take that to the people who don't think I'm the guy."

Masoli has had his share of adversity since injuries thrust him into the starting role as a junior college transfer last season.

Nate Costa was Oregon's projected starter heading into last season but he injured his left knee and had his second major surgery in two seasons. Masoli was at best the third-string quarterback.

Justin Roper, who has since left Oregon, stepped into the starting job in Costa's absence. But injuries beset Oregon's QBs, and Masoli took over the starting job when Roper missed nearly four weeks because of a knee injury and an illness.

Because Roper was a more confident passer, many Oregon fans called for his reinstatement as starter for the final stretch. But despite the boos of fans raining down at Autzen, Masoli led a game-winning drive against Stanford in early November.

Masoli's confidence soared and in the regular season finale against in-state rival Oregon State he threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another on a 65-38 victory.

This season got off to a bumpy start for Masoli - and all of the Ducks - with a humbling 19-8 loss to Boise State on national television. The Ducks, ranked No. 16 in the preseason and known for their high-scoring spread-option offense, did not get a first down until the third quarter.

After a lackluster victory at home against Purdue, Oregon hosted then-No. 18 Utah. Even though the Ducks won, snapping the Utes' 16-game winning streak, Masoli completed four of 16 passes. He threw just three times in the second half and was intercepted in the end zone.

With the critics filling the radio waves and chat rooms, Masoli tuned it out the best he could.

The strategy was simple, according to Ducks offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

"Our deal, and this sounds stupid, our deal going into the game was execute base passing game - protect, throw, catch," Helfrich said. "Those guys did a great job of that at the start of the game and that really complemented our run game."

On Oregon's first scoring drive against Cal, culminating in Morgan Flint's 30-yard field goal, Masoli completed five passes.

Dickson caught a career-high 11 passes for 148 yards. The catches equaled the most ever in a single game by a UO tight end, tying Josh Wilcox's 11-catch effort in the 1995 Rose Bowl.

"We know we have the talent and the ability to stop anyone," Dickson said. "It's amazing to come out here as underdogs and beat Cal. It's a huge confidence boost for the whole team. We needed this win."

Of course, the win would not have been possible without the defense, which stopped Cal running back Jahvid Best and allowed the Golden Bears 207 total yrds - less than half of their average going in.

Widely considered a top Heisman contender, Best went into the game ranked third in the nation with an average of 137.33 yards on the ground.

"Our goal was to stop Jahvid Best. Our goal was were not going to let Jahvid Best run to the best of our ability," Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "We felt like if we could control that, that would give us our best chance to win."

The Golden Bears return home to face No. 7 USC next Saturday. The Ducks play the last of a four-game homestand against Washington State.






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