When the final whistle blew and Oregon’s season came to a disappointing end, 26-17, it was a game of missed opportunities and blown chances. Neither the Oregon offense nor defense could make the plays that was so desperately needed. Turnovers, penalties and fleet-footed quarterback proved too much for this year’s Ducks in the last game of the season.
The Ducks failed to convert two key drives. One when a handoff from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to running back LeGarrette Blount ended up on the grass and eventually bounced through the endzone for a touch back. The Ducks up until that point were marching down the field, picking up yardage and moving the chains. All of a sudden things changed.
“It was a combination of him and me not getting the right feel of things,” explained Masoli of the play. “It was one of the many missed opportunities on the drive we had against Ohio State that we needed to capitalize on and didn’t finish.”
At the time the Ducks trailed 19-17 in the third quarter and a touchdown could have gone a long way to give Oregon a huge boost in momentum. However, the Ducks would later blow another opportunity to score when in the fourth quarter and trailing 26-17, Oregon’s Cliff Harris returned the kickoff 42 yards to the OSU 32. Facing 4th and 2 from the OSU 27, the Ducks chose to try a field goal rather than going for the first down. The Ducks were 2-for-2 on fourth down conversions and it seemed natural that they would go for it again. Instead Morgan Flint missed a 44-yard field goal attempt, and with 5:10 left on the clock, Oregon was in big trouble.
“I don’t want to undermine the head coach or anything, but we’d been going for it all day, might as well do it the last time,” observed senior tight end Ed Dickson.
However, the Ducks didn’t go for it. Had they made the field goal the lead would have been cut to six and there would still be five minutes left to try to get the ball back and score the winning touchdown.
That may be so much speculation though because when Terrelle Pryor got back onto the field, he took over the game. Pryor finished the game with 266 yards on 23-of-37 passing. He connected for two touchdowns and also rushed for 72 yards.
It was surprising to us,” admitted Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly. We felt watching their last couple of games where they didn’t throw much and were rather conservative, they came in and opened it up, and obviously Terrelle beat us.”
Pryor’s passing was mostly short, quick hitters that served to set the Ducks up on some long throws. However, Oregon’s defense still had its chances.
“It was all quick, short passes,” said Oregon defensive tackle Brandon Bair. “Slants here and there, and obviously they had a couple big plays that was key for them.”
While Pryor’s scrambling style and ability was something the Ducks haven't seen on the field since Dennis Dixon left campus two years ago, Oregon managed to sack Pryor four times, three times by Duck defensive end Kenny Rowe. Rowe’s performance set an Oregon single-game bowl record and tied a Rose Bowl record. The other sack on Pryor was a joint effort by linebackers Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger.
‘We definitely feel we left a lot out on the field, they were just a better team tonight,” revealed Matthews. “They have a lot of playmakers and it’s tough.”
Masoli finished the game with 81 yards of passing, but was only sacked once, and held to just nine yards rushing.
“I thought our guys prepared extremely well, and we were going to make sure he (Masoli) wasn’t running scot-free,” said Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel. “He did get in the end zone, and he did break a couple in there. I thought he made a couple nice throws, but we played our defense.”
LaMichael James had 70 yards rushing while Kenjon Barner added 64. Barner also had 122 kickoff return yards and 28 extra on a punt return.
“The great thing about tonight, and I know there’s a lot of negatives about tonight, and obviously losing to a very, very good football team, but I get to spend three more years with Kenjon,” said Kelly of Barner.
Overall Oregon had 179 yards of rushing compared to OSU’s 153. Ohio State had 266 yards passing to Oregon’s 81. OSU dominated the total yardage 419 yards to 260 and had a 41:37 to 18:23 time of possession advantage.
It was a disappointing loss, but Bair may have summed things up the best for him and his teammates.
“Once the sting of the loss wears off, we’ll get back into the film room and get ready for this next year coming up and learn the most from it,” concluded Bair.