Win puts Oregon in hunt for share of national title

Ducks look buff in Fiesta victory

Posted: Wednesday, January 02, 2002

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The dazzling Ducks of Oregon have a new cheer: C'mon Nebraska!

With their easy Fiesta Bowl victory, the Ducks made a case for a share of the national championship. The Cornhuskers can make that happen by beating Miami in the Rose Bowl.

In the final game of his college career, Joey Harrington threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns as No. 2 Oregon routed No. 3 Colorado 38-16 on Tuesday.

''We made a statement today,'' Harrington said. ''Thirty-eight unanswered points and shut down the hottest team in the country. We showed we deserved to be playing for a share of the national championship.''

Samie Parker caught nine passes for 162 yards, including a perfect 79-yarder for a touchdown that put Oregon ahead for good in the second quarter, when the Ducks outgained the Buffaloes 198 yards to 53.

Oregon's Steve Smith set a Fiesta Bowl record with three interceptions, and the Ducks' defense -- ranked 81st in NCAA Division I -- shut down Colorado's running game and forced the Buffs to throw.

Maurice Morris ran 49 yards for another Oregon score, landing on top of a Colorado defender at the Buffaloes 21. He got back on his feet and ran into the end zone to make it 28-7 early in the third quarter.

The Pac-10 champions had a 500-328 advantage in total yards, 150-49 on the ground.

The Ducks now will root for the Huskers, hoping they upset the top-ranked and undefeated Hurricanes in the Bowl Championship Series title game Thursday.

Especially Harrington.

''You bet I will,'' he said. ''I'll be sitting with my family and watching it closer than anyone else.''

If Nebraska wins, Oregon could be voted the national champion in The Associated Press media poll. The coaches' poll automatically crowns the winner of the BCS game.

Colorado coach Gary Barnett said the Ducks deserve a share of the title if Nebraska beats Miami.

''Oregon played very, very well, with a lot of heart and a lot of speed,'' Barnett said. ''If I could vote, I would vote for them.''

It was the worst bowl loss ever for the Buffaloes, who rolled into Tempe after a 62-36 rout of Nebraska and a 39-37 victory over Texas in the Big 12 title game.

''Oregon did not get our best shot tonight ... and I don't have an explanation,'' Barnett said.

Colorado's Roman Hollowell said: ''They just stopped the run, stopped our whole offense entirely.''

The quick-striking Ducks (11-1) never had a touchdown drive longer than 2 minutes, 38 seconds, and they achieved the first 11-win season in school history.

The Buffaloes (10-3) took an early 7-0 lead, then watched the Ducks score 38 points.

Bobby Pesavento completed just 11 of 27 passes for 139 yards and was intercepted twice before being relieved by Craig Ochs with 11:52 to play.

Ochs' first pass was deflected and intercepted by Smith to set up Oregon's final touchdown in a victory coach Mike Bellotti called ''the greatest moment in Duck football history.''

Harrington must love Sun Devil Stadium. As a junior, he threw for career highs of 434 yards and six touchdowns there in a 56-55 double-overtime victory over Arizona State.

With his performance on the same field Tuesday, that 100-foot poster of Harrington in Manhattan to promote his Heisman Trophy candidacy didn't seem outrageous at all. (He finished fourth in the voting.)

Harrington, who finished 25-3 as a starter in his college career, had 232 yards passing and three TD passes in the first half to help the Ducks take a 21-7 lead.

Colorado's usually powerful ground game, which gained 380 yards in the Nebraska victory, failed to convert on third-and-1 situations on consecutive possessions in the second quarter.

The first failure was especially costly. After a short punt gave Colorado the ball at the Oregon 48, Brown ran 8 yards to the 40 on the final play of the first quarter.

But he got just 1 yard on the next carry, and no gain on third down.

Oregon took over on its 21, and on the next play Harrington lofted a pretty pass that Parker took on his fingertips at the 35 and ran untouched into the end zone to put the Ducks up 14-7 with 13:13 left in the half.

The 79-yard pass play was the longest of Harrington's career and the longest allowed by the Buffaloes in any bowl game. It also tied a Fiesta Bowl record set by Tee Martin-to-Peerless Price for Tennessee in the national title game against Florida State in 1999.

The Buffaloes, who had won six consecutive bowl games -- two of them against Oregon -- went 65 yards in 11 plays to take their 7-0 lead. Cortlen Johnson's one-handed grab on a 33-yard screen pass set up a 1-yard scoring run by fullback Brandon Drumm, the first touchdown of his career.

Oregon responded with a seven-play, 81-yard scoring drive capped by Harrington's pass over the middle to wide-open Keenan Howry.

On his long touchdown run, Morris was pinned on the sideline at the Colorado 21, but he slipped on his back over the top of Colorado linebacker Joey Johnson, then landed on his feet and kept running for the score.

It was that kind of day for the Buffaloes.

Trailing 28-7, Colorado appeared to score when a scrambling Pesavento passed to wide-open Derek McCoy. But it was called back because the quarterback was ruled to be across the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball. Replays showed he was barely over the line, if at all.

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