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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Saturday was a joyous feast for Masoli

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller


Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli feasted last Saturday. First on California Golden Bear. Then on his mom's "bomb burritos."

The Bear was sliced and diced by Masoli's precise passing in a 42-3 grilling and then slathered with vindication. Linda Masoli's burritos find their magic through a liberal use of cheese and spicy chicken.
 
 Joe Nicholson/US Presswire
 Jeremiah Masoli silenced his critics with Saturday's performance against California.


"I don't know how she does it, but they taste better than any burritos I've ever had," Masoli said.

No doubt Mrs. Masoli's burritos are the bomb, but it's safe to guess that the Bear slathered in vindication was a tasty amuse-bouche that got the family barbecue rolling.

Ah, what a difference a week can make.

After the Ducks beat No. 18 Utah on Sept. 19, despite a 4 for 16 passing day from Masoli, many wondered if coach Chip Kelly should start someone else at quarterback. After all, Masoli ranked last in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency. He was completing just 45 percent of his throws and had tossed two interceptions with zero TDs.

He looked uncomfortable in the pocket. He seemed to lock on one receiver -- Jeff Maehl -- and telegraph his intentions.

Then he completed 21 of 25 passes -- 84 percent -- for 253 yards and three TDs with no interceptions in the bludgeoning of sixth-ranked Cal.

That buoyed his passing rating 33.7 points and now he ranks seventh in the conference.

"One of the big things for me is to not try to do too much," Masoli said. "Sometimes I get that mentality where I feel like I'm invincible and can do it all. I'm sure a lot of quarterbacks can relate to that."

Doing less certainly produced more. The Ducks are back in the national rankings, the disaster at Boise State now just looking like a bizarre detour on the Ducks' route to conference frontrunner status with Washington State headed to Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

Not that Kelly is entertaining such talk or believing Masoli will either.

"He's a pretty even-keel guy," Kelly said. "He knows it's just one game. All we did at this point in time is we created a nice memory from the Cal game. That should have no bearing on what we do as we move forward."

The win did come with a significant cost: cornerback Walter Thurmond, an All-American candidate, blew out his knee on the opening kickoff and is done for the season.

Yet Masoli believes the Ducks have found their rhythm, though maintaining it depends on remembering how hard it was to discover.

"We're just intensely focused and motivated for this week," he said. "Just seeing our potential last week against Cal and what we can do when we really focus and start clicking on offense and defense and get things going -- it really opened the eyes of guys on our team and showed how good we can be."

Kelly's patience paid off. Masoli clearly is appreciative that his coach took a dim view of questions during preceding weeks about whether Masoli had regressed. Perhaps channeling Bill Belichick, Kelly frowned and snapped and went monosyllabic when media sorts pointed at the junior's poor production and brought up backup Nate Costa's name.

The typically unflappable Masoli admits to being frustrated with his and the offense's play, but Kelly's unwavering support helped him maintain his confidence.

Kelly even gave Masoli a quick pep talk before the Cal game, reminding him that he was the same guy who was as good as any quarterback in the nation over the final three games of the 2008 season.

"He knew I could do it this whole time," Masoli said. "It always helps to know your coach has your back 100 percent, no matter what the fans or anybody else says. It helps you mentally and I think it instilled confidence in me and for the team when they hear the head coach's confidence."

Of course, frontrunner status in the Pac-10 hasn't been very secure. That crown weighed heavy on USC and then Cal.

But Masoli thinks the early cup of adversity helped the Ducks get ready for the season's larger banquet.

"I think we've matured very quickly in these three weeks since Boise State," he said. "We've seen what's gone on in the nation. We don't want to be one of those teams in that category of what-could-have-been and how they had a let-up against a team they were supposed to beat."

Even "bomb burritos" don't taste very good when served with what-could-have-been.