Oregon's 10 biggest plays in 2010

January, 9, 2011
1/09/11
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What were Oregon's top-10 plays this season on its way to the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game?

Here's my take. You might have your own thoughts.

1. Eddie Pleasant's 51-yard fumble return vs. Stanford: The game was tied 31-31 in the third quarter, but Stanford was driving into Oregon territory after an Andrew Luck pass to Chris Owusu converted a third down. But Owusu fumbled on a hit from Javes Lewis, and Pleasant rumbled to the Cardinal 3-yard line. A LaMichael James run later, and the Ducks took control.

2. Cal kicker's false start: California kicker Giorgio Tavecchio stutter-stepped as he knocked a chip-shot, go-ahead field goal through the uprights and earned a flag for illegal motion on the first play of the fourth quarter. Then he missed from 29 yards. While Oregon fans have long been annoyed by how this play has been dramatized as a game-saving moment, the penalty prevented the Ducks from trailing in the fourth quarter this season.

3. Cliff Harris' 64 yard punt return for a TD at Cal: Oregon only scored two TDs at California, and this one in the second quarter accounted for eight points (the Ducks converted a 2-point play) in a 15-13 win.

4. The onside kick surprise: Oregon scored a touchdown to cut its deficit against Stanford to 21-10 early in the second quarter, but the Ducks needed a defensive stop against Luck and the potent Cardinal offense. Or not. Chip Kelly opted for an onside kick and the Ducks recovered. They promptly drove for another TD. The bigness here isn't just about the score. That play set the tone for the Ducks: Kelly, as Oregon students often point out with colorful chants, is not afraid to take chances.

[+] EnlargeJosh Huff
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesJosh Huff of Oregon scores a touchdown in the third quarter on Nov. 26 against the Arizona.
5. Huff puffs past Arizona for 85 yards: Oregon produced many long plays this season, but freshman receiver Josh Huff's 85-yard scamper against Arizona was the longest. Not only that, it gave the Ducks a 20-19 lead in the third quarter and signaled that they were about to open their second-half can of whip-butt.

6. Maehl's third touchdown catch at USC: While Ducks receiver Jeff Maehl's 30-yard TD reception wasn't as impressive athletically as his spectacular 45-yard grab, it was bigger. The Ducks trailed the Trojans 32-29 in the third quarter and faced a 3rd-and-13 play. But Darron Thomas found Maehl for the go-ahead score and the Ducks rolled from then on.

7. Three fourth-quarter interceptions at Arizona State: Talmadge Jackson, Casey Matthews and Harris each intercepted Sun Devils quarterback Steven Threet, and Jackson's and Matthews' picks came on first down plays inside the Ducks' 30. The Sun Devils only lost by 11, making them one of two foes to go down by fewer than 17 points.

8. Pass interference against Oregon State: Not all important plays are plays. Oregon State cut the Ducks' lead to 23-13 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Beavers appeared to force a three-and-out on the ensuing drive. But linebacker Michael Doctor was flagged for pass interference against Kenjon Barner, and the Ducks converted. Five plays later, Barner went 23 yards for a 30-13 lead.

9. James' 72 yard run at Tennessee: The spectacular run gave the Ducks a 20-13 lead in the third quarter as their stomping of the Volunteers began. The first of many spectacular plays for James, who was suspended for the opener. It showed the nation that Oregon was playing at a different speed than everyone else. And the phrase "Heisman Trophy candidate" got attached to James thereafter.

10. Thomas's first touchdown pass: The Ducks thought Thomas might be good. But they wouldn't know until he walked the walk. His 30-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Paulson in the opener against New Mexico wasn't meaningful in a 72-zip win, but it was the first of 28 TD passes he'd throw, a total few thought he'd reach.

Ted Miller | email

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