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Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
It looked like a potential Oklahoma State blowout. Then it became a swirl of momentum shifts.
|AP Photo/Denis Poroy|
|Oregon's Jeremiah Johnson, left, celebrates with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli after Johnson's 76-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State during the first quarter of the Holiday Bowl.|
And then Oregon just asserted itself with a physical brand of Pac-10 football that wore down the Cowboys.
In a battle of big-time offenses, the Ducks pounded the Cowboys with 307 of their 566 yards coming on the ground in a 42-31 victory in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.
As for defense, the Ducks were vastly superior.
Before the game, a few of the Ducks defensive players -- namely All-American end Nick Reed -- groused about not getting respect.
When the Cowboys jumped to a 17-7 first-quarter lead, gaining nearly 200 yards in the process, their gripes made them look silly.
But Oklahoma State, which rushed for only 118 yards, scored just 14 points over the final three quarters.
So the Ducks defense, which pounded quarterback Zac Robinson and took control of the line of scrimmage, deserves nearly as much credit as an offense that scored 35 second-half points.
Now there is a huge qualifier: Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was the best player on the field in the first half. But he hurt his knee with about four minutes before halftime and, though he shifted in and out of the lineup, he wasn't the same player afterwards.
Bryant caught 13 passes for 167 yards but was a non-factor after the injury, and Robinson looked lost without him.
Meanwhile, Ducks sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, clearly out of sorts during the early action, carved up a physically overmatched Cowboys defense in the second half. He earned game MVP honors by rushing for 99 yards with three touchdowns -- running over Cowboy tacklers multiple times -- and passed for 259 yards and a touchdown.
The Ducks, ranked 15th in the final AP poll, finish the season at 10-3 -- their fourth 10-win season under coach Mike Bellotti -- and should receive top-10 consideration because of their mastery of the No. 13 Cowboys.
With the Pac-10 improving to 3-0 in the bowl season with two more to play, the so-called down season in the conference is looking more and more like a fluke of ambitious nonconference scheduling.