Pac-12: Buckeyes-Ducks 010110

Blount's bad moments begin, end Oregon season

January, 2, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon's season was encompassed by two bookends of disaster. While what lay in the middle was mostly outstanding -- historically good, even -- the boundaries were made by two terrible incidents, though of much different gravity.

[+] EnlargeNathan Williams
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireA fumbled exchange between Jeremiah Masoli and LeGarrette Blount ended up a touchback for OSU.
Both featured running back LeGarrette Blount.

When Blount punched a Boise State player after the Ducks' humiliating season-opening defeat at Boise State, it became a launching point for a surprising run to the Pac-10 championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

And Blount's fumble with just over five minutes left in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl was the critical, transformational play in the Ducks' 26-17 defeat to Ohio State.

"That was kind of game-changing," said Blount, who spoke to reporters for the first time since the night he melted down at Boise State and was suspended for eight games.

Blount fumbled on a second-and-2 on the Buckeyes' 18-yard line. At that point the Ducks were down 19-17, but their offense had driven for a touchdown on its previous possession and appeared to be finding its rhythm.

After that play, little else went well.

"That one turnover probably was the turning point," tight end Ed Dickson said. "That was probably the game right there. We had the momentum, but once we had that fumble, you could feel the momentum switch."

With his mother in the stands sitting behind the Ducks' bench, Blount scored a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10. He mostly played well, rushing for 36 yards on five carries, looking like the 240-pound, physical runner who was expected to be one of the nation's top running backs during the preseason.

Then the fumble.

It wasn't the stuff of fairy tales. But life is often messy like that.

The fumble, to be fair, wasn't completely Blount's fault. "It was just a miscommunication between me and [quarterback Jeremiah Masoli]," he said.

The punch was his fault, Blount said. But he also wanted to deliver a clear message to reporters who encircled him in the back of the locker room.

No, he hasn't changed much as a person since the incident. Why? Because, he said, that terrible mistake wasn't who he is as a person.

"I'm the same person that I was back then," he said. "I made a mistake. That's all I can say about it. Emotions were running high and I just made a mistake. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life and I take full responsibility for it. I shouldn't have done it. But you can ask my teammates. You can ask my family and friends. That's not the kind of person I am."

It caused a minor stir at Rose Bowl media day when Blount didn't show up to talk to reporters, despite BCS bowl game rules that every player should be available. Oregon coach Chip Kelly and other officials said Blount simply didn't want to talk.

"I didn't want it to be a distraction to my team," he said. "I didn't want to be chased down by ... ESPN. No offense."

Blount's Oregon career ended with the Rose Bowl. Now he wants to move on, and that means the NFL. Once a solid prospect, Blount's stock has fallen. He's obviously aware of that.

"I haven't really put the NFL stock stuff into perspective," he said. "I haven't really been thinking about it. I've heard people say my stock is down to undraftable and all the way up to my stock is fifth, sixth or seventh rounds. It doesn't bother me."

His Oregon career didn't get its redemptive, happy ending. Much like Blount's career, the evening started with promise but then featured a terrible mistake under the national spotlight.

But Blount is looking forward. That is, of course, all he can do. Maybe his happy ending is ahead? Maybe it will be in the NFL.

"I'm just trying to get there," he said. "I just want that shot. If I get that shot, I can definitely prove to people the [person] they think they saw [at Boise State] is definitely not what I am."

Pac-10 bowl season: Yuck

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- So how did the Pac-10 do this bowl season?

Did we mention the Pac-10 went 5-0 last year?

[+] EnlargeDejected Oregon
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesThe Pac-10 finished 2-5 in this year's bowl season following Oregon's loss to Ohio State.
Yeah, what about this year?

Pac-10 went 4-2 in 2007.

This year!

Er, the Pac-10 blog went 5-2 in its bowl picks.

No, the Pac-10 football teams.

Er. OK, the Pac-10 went 2-5 in the 2009 bowl season, its best win coming against 8-4, unranked Boston College.

One word: Bad.

The worst game? Arizona got stomped 33-zip by Nebraska.

Oregon State's 44-20 loss to BYU in the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl wasn't terribly impressive, either, nor was California's 37-27 defeat to Utah in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which made the Mountain West 2-0 in the post-season vs. the Pac-10.

Oregon, the Pac-10 champion, got decisively handled by Ohio State, 26-17, in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

Stanford gets a pass. It lost 31-27 to Oklahoma in the Brut Sun Bowl, but it didn't have quarterback Andrew Luck, who was out with a broken finger. How can a team hope to win without its star quarterback? What's that Sooners fans? Oh, Sam Bradford. Yeah. Good point.

Ah, but kudos to USC for taking the Emerald Bowl 24-13 over Boston College. And you too UCLA, for holding powerful Temple to 41 yards in the second half of a 30-21 win in the EagleBank Bowl.

How about those LA teams!

Yes, Pac-10 fans, you will take your knocks in the marketplace of trash talk. Accept it. The bowl season certainly put a footprint onto most of the talk about the conference being the best -- or at least the deepest -- in the nation this year.

But take heart. Lots of good players are coming back next year, including eight starting quarterbacks. The Pac-10 will be even deeper in 2010.

Maybe it will show a pulse next bowl season.

So just wait until next year.

Oregon didn't see this Pryor coming

January, 1, 2010
[+] Enlarge
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Pryor completed 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns in Ohio State's win over Oregon.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon felt good about its defensive plan for the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

The Ducks watched plenty of Ohio State film. They felt they understood what to expect from the Buckeyes offense. They wanted to run the ball and not take chances in the passing game because sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor was not a confident, consistent passer.

So the plan was simple.

"The plan was to make him throw the ball," Ducks defensive end Kenny Rowe said. "But when he threw it that good, the plan didn't go well."

No, it didn't. Ohio State piled up 419 yards in its 26-17 triumph, while making the Ducks fancy-pants offense look mostly pedestrian.

Pryor threw 37 times -- six more attempts than he had in any game this season -- but the critical problem was he completed 23 of them for 266 yards with two touchdowns and a mostly meaningless interception on a deep ball on third and long.

"It was surprising to us," coach Chip Kelly said. "We felt, watching their last couple of games where they didn't throw it very much, they were rather conservative. They came in and opened it up. Obviously, Terrelle beat us."

Said end Will Tukuafu: "I was surprised. I think [Pryor] was surprised. But they were feeling it. He threw up the right balls to the right guys. They made the big plays."

Not only did Pryor beat the Ducks with his arm, he was able to do things the defense expected but couldn't stop. Pryor also was the game's leading rusher, gaining 92 yards on 20 carries. Most of those yards came on scrambles, many of which featured Pryor just eluding fairly solid pressure from the Ducks.

"He's big and he's fast and he's tough to bring down," linebacker Casey Matthews said.

And that passing and running helped the Buckeyes convert third down after third down -- they were 11 of 21 on the night -- and to possess the ball for 23 more minutes than the Ducks.

"You're breaking your neck for two plays and this guy scrambles and stuff," Tukuafu said. "It's frustrating, but he's a great athlete."

Kelly reiterated that he doesn't care about time of possession. But his quick-strike offense does need the ball. It only ran 53 plays on the night. The Ducks averaged 69 plays per game this season.

"If I were to draw up anything that could stop us, it's keeping the ball out of our hands," tight end Ed Dickson said. "Their offense kept the ball out of our hands."

Pryor kept the ball out of Oregon's hands.

Every Oregon player and coach seemed surprised that Pryor was able to play such a complete game, to look like the dual-threat quarterback that his talent suggested but his play rarely produced.

In the other locker room, however, at least one guy wasn't surprised with Pryor's performance.

"I always thought I could have a game like this anytime," Pryor said.

Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller and Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg analyze Ohio State's win over Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

Final: Ohio State 26, Oregon 17

January, 1, 2010
The Big Ten ended a streak of six consecutive losses in the Rose Bowl and six consecutive BCS bowls overall with an impressive 26-17 victory over Oregon.

And a miserable Pac-10 bowl season ends at 2-5.

How the game was won: It was won by a thoughtful mixture of (Jim) Tressel-ball and a "hello world" moment for Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who dominated the game with his arm and his feet. It wasn't quite Vince Young, but it's not unreasonable to recall Young's sophomore performance in the 2005 Rose Bowl against Michigan. What did Young do the next year?

Turning point: Trailing 19-17, Oregon faced a second-and-2 from the Buckeyes 18 yard line. But LeGarrette Blount couldn't handle a hand-off from Jeremiah Masoli and Ohio State recovered the fumble. From that point on, the Buckeyes took control.

Stat of the game: Ohio State was 11 for 21 on third down. Oregon was 2 for 11. The Ducks couldn't get the Buckeyes off the field. And they couldn't convert and keep drives alive.

Player of the game: Pryor completed 23 of 37 passes for 266 yards with two touchdowns and one fairly meaningless interception. He also rushed for 72 yards on 20 carries.

Unsung hero of the game: Ohio State's pass defense. Oregon is a run-first team, but most of the season in effectively mixed in the pass. Not tonight. Masoli completed 9 of 20 for 81 yards with an interception.

What it means: It means the maligned Big Ten improves to 3-2 on the bowl season and earns redemption for its recent run of bad performances in big games. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 licks its wounds after an embarrassing performance during the bowls. As for moving forward, both teams figure to be back in the thick of things next year. Both teams welcome back a lot of guys, including Pryor and Masoli.

Ohio State is starting to feel it

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon, down 26-17 with 5:10 remaining, needs two scores after missing a 45-yard field goal.

Can the Ducks force a three-and-out and get the ball back?

Or does Ohio State end the Big Ten's six-game losing streak in the Rose Bowl?

Buckeyes put pressure on Ducks

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor is having his hello world moment at Oregon's expense.

The Buckeyes went 81 yards in 13 plays to go up 26-17 with 6:01 remaining. Pryor and the Buckeyes converted three times on third down on the drive -- 5 yards, 13 yards and 6 yards.

The Buckeyes are 9-of-18 on third down. Oregon is 2-for-10.

Oregon is down two scores with seven minutes left.

That would seem like plenty of time, but not if the Ducks defense can't get third-down stops.

Oregon's LaMichael James is out

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon running back LaMichael James is out of the game. Word is he's been taken into the locker room for X-rays.

Not good for Oregon. That means Kenjon Barner and LeGarrette Blount have to carry the load.

OSU-Oregon up for grabs heading into fourth

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Ohio State leads Oregon 19-17 heading into the fourth quarter.

The pace of the game favors Ohio State, but Oregon's quick strike offense can get a team at any moment.

At this point, LeGarrette Blount's fumble on a second and 2 from the Buckeyes' 18-yard line is the play of the game.

If it remains so, that will feel rife with symbolism: Blount's punch at Boise State started the season badly. His fumble may end it the same way -- bookending a fantastic season.

Buckeyes back up, 19-17

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- A lead is always a good thing, and Ohio State now leads Oregon 19-17.

But here's something to note: The Buckeyes scored a touchdown on their first drive. They haven't scored a touchdown since then.

They've kicked four field goals.

Field goals are good, but not as good as touchdowns.

Oregon takes lead on opening drive

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon takes its first lead, 17-16, with a 12-play touchdown drive to open the third quarter.

Good medicine there, seeing that Ohio State had its way most of the second quarter.

Again, it was Chip Kelly's aggressiveness on fourth down. Instead of kicking a 45-yard field goal, Kelly opted to go for it on fourth-and-3 and the Ducks converted when Jeremiah Masoli found Lavasier Tuinei for seven yards.

Now, can the Ducks defense get the ball back for its offense? They couldn't much of the second quarter, just when the momentum was swinging Oregon's way.

Rose Bowl halftime: Ohio State 16, Oregon 10

January, 1, 2010
Ohio State leads 16-10 at the break in a game of momentum shifts.

Turning point: There were three. Ohio State scored the first 10 points and looked physically dominant. Oregon scored the next 10 and looked fast and smart. The Buckeyes scored the final six by taking advantage of Ducks mistakes -- penalties, and a late interception.

Stat of the half: 26. That's the number of plays Oregon ran in the first half. The Ducks average 69 plays per game. Oregon doesn't care about time of possession, but when Ohio State puts together a 19-play, eight minute field goal drive, it means the ball is out of the Ducks offense's hands. They can't score when that happens, you know.

Best player in the half: Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. He hasn't been spectacular, but he has avoided critical mistakes. He has a team-high 31 rushing yards and completed 15 of 24 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.

What Oregon needs to do: Oregon needs to get third-down stops -- the Buckeyes are 5 of 11 on third down. And Oregon is 0 for 5 by the way. That will get the offense more touches so it can get into a rhythm. The Buckeyes will try to shorten the game, so Oregon can't waste any more opportunities with good field position. It also might help if the Ducks take the opening kickoff and make an immediate statement.

Ducks even count

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon coach Chip Kelly likes to be aggressive. That's why Oregon has tied the Rose Bowl 10-10.

That was only a 30-yard TD drive, but the critical play was Kelly opting to go for it on a fourth-and-9 from the Buckeyes' 29. Most coaches kick the field goal.

But Jeremiah Masoli found a diving Jeff Maehl on the sideline, and the Ducks converted.

At first, Oregon looked like it was getting pushed around. Now it's pushing back.

Ball back to Terrelle Pryor.

Momentum swings to Oregon

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- The momentum swings back.

Oregon turned up the pressure on defense, but my guess is the Ohio State coaches will quickly see that and plan accordingly next possession.

It's a chess match -- three-man rush... then rush eight.

Now can the Ducks offense continue to counterpunch after a slow start?

First quarter belongs to Buckeyes

January, 1, 2010
PASADENA, Calif. -- So far, Oregon is maintaining the theme of the Pac-10's bowl season.


The Ducks defense kept the Buckeyes out of the end zone after yielding a first-and-goal situation, but at this point it's all going Ohio State's way, with the Buckeyes up 10-0 after one quarter.

With 34 seconds left in the first quarter, Ohio State has outgained Oregon 139 yards to 14.

And it's not good that the Ducks have allowed Buckeyes mercurial QB Terrelle Pryor to start fast and gain confidence, both passing and running.

Yet, as I type this, Oregon gets a 37-yard run from Kenjon Barner and Jeremiah Masoli bull rushes 13 yards. Ducks have second and goal as second quarter starts.

Oregon works fast.

If this is going to be a shootout, and it has the early makings of one, Oregon needs 7, not 3, here.



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