Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Masoli's transformations deserve their own descriptive term
By Ted Miller
He flipped the switch. A light went on. His cheese just melted. Something clicked. He crossed the road and got to the other side.
There are lots of clichés to describe an athlete transforming from bad to good in a sudden and dramatic way. But today we introduce a term that takes care of it all.
Such as: "Boy, A-Rod really masolied in the playoffs!" Or, "Golly, who thought the Saints would masoli this season?"
One can trace the etymology of this term to a stocky Oregon quarterback named "Jeremiah Masoli."
Oregon coach Chip Kelly says quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is doing a better job of managing the game this season.
The term is particularly relevant this week because No. 11 Oregon is visiting Arizona on Saturday for a critical Pac-10 showdown. That's the team that Masoli masolied against last year.
The week before playing the Wildcats, Masoli had been booed in Autzen Stadium by Ducks fans while struggling mightily against Stanford. Sure, Masoli led a clutch game-winning drive in the waning moments, but the key play was a 25-yard scramble on third-and-8.
Arizona came to town expecting to face a spread-option quarterback who was uncomfortable throwing the ball.
Then Masoli completed 21-for-26 -- 80.8 percent -- for 298 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for 89 yards in a 55-45 victory over the Wildcats, who had one of the best defenses in the Pac-10.
Slapping his forehead over that game this summer, Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops noted there was nothing on film to suggest Masoli would pass that well against them. "We didn't see that coming," he said.
You often don't see a masoli coming.
California didn't this year. When the Bears visited Oregon on Sept. 26, Masoli was the conference's lowest-rated passer. He'd thrown two interceptions with no touchdowns in the first three games and was averaging just 126 yards passing per game. The week before, he gone 4-of-16 for 95 yards with an interception in a win over Utah.
But Masoli masolied against the Bears, completing 21-of-25 -- 84 percent -- for 253 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a stunning 42-3 win.
"It's just one of those things when a quarterback kind of has to hit a switch and get out of a lull," said Masoli, choosing not to use the term "masoli," most likely because it had yet to be derived when this conversation took place on Tuesday night.
Over the past seven games, Masoli has 11 touchdown passes and one interception. He's the conference's fifth-rated passer and ranks eighth overall in rushing with 62 yards per game and nine touchdowns. He can beat you with his arm or legs, which, by the way, can squat 475 pounds.
"He's your prototypical quarterback for what they do," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "He's played very much in control this year. He's much more consistent than he was a year ago."
Last year's masoli was due to Masoli finding a comfort level with the Ducks' spread-option scheme. While this might be hard to imagine for anyone who's marveled at Masoli's ball skills in the read-option and his elusiveness as a runner, he arrived at Oregon in the summer of 2008 as a typical pass-first quarterback who put up big numbers through the air while leading City College of San Francisco to a JC national title.
This year's masoli happened when Masoli stopped trying to score 11 points on every play.
"Early this season, he tried to take a lot of the load on himself. Now he realizes that we've got some weapons around him," Ducks coach Chip Kelly said. "He's got a better understanding of managing the game and not forcing issues. Just kind of letting things come to him. He made some really smart plays on Saturday [against Arizona State] just throwing the ball away in the red zone."
Of course, Arizona won't be surprised by Masoli this year. And, notably, the Wildcats nearly came back from a 28-point halftime deficit in 2008. They cut Oregon's lead to 48-45 before the Ducks' only second-half touchdown finished things off.
The Wildcats, perhaps using some intelligence gleaned from that comeback, will be looking to create a reverse-masoli on Saturday.