December 31, 2008

Caught! Ducks lasso Pokes in Holiday

SAN DIEGO - One quarterback had a huge night running all over the field.

Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, that quarterback was Jeremiah Masoli and not Zac Robinson.

Starting the season way down the Oregon depth chart, Masoli ended the season the offensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl as he rushed for 106 yards and three scores en route to a 42-31 victory over Oklahoma State in front of 59,106 at Qualcomm Stadium Tuesday night.

It was a game that was the shootout everyone expected. In the first half, however, the game was relatively low-scoring and the Cowboys had a solid control of things. But as the game progressed, the Ducks (10-3) hung in there and used trick and chunk plays to eventually fly past the Pokes. Oregon ended the night with 565 yards of total offense while OSU ended with 469. Of that, only 119 yards came via the ground game, something that is usually a strength for the Pokes.

"It's a very simple explanation of what happened tonight," head coach Mike Gundy said. "Oregon was much more physical in the second half than we were on both sides of the ball. We couldn't run the ball effectively. It slowed down our play pass after the first couple of drives of the third quarter. They were running the ball. They're fast, they're physical."

The Ducks were able to overpower the Cowboys all night on the ground. Aside from Masoli's big night, Jeremiah Johnson posted a big ground performance, running for 119 yards and a score. LaGarrette Blount added 74 rushing yards and a score of his own.

Linebacker Andre Sexton agreed with Gundy's comments about the Ducks being more physical.

"That's pretty much what happened," Sexton said. "We came out there in the first half and played a great game. They only really beat us on trick plays and we knew it was coming, we just got a little bit excited and just over-pursued it. And then in the second half, we came out there and they really just ran the ball down our throat. We just couldn't tackle and the quarterback is a great athlete on film and to see him in person - he's really legit. I guess we kind of took him for granted and he made us pay."

The Pokes paid on several levels. Aside from the bowl loss, the first since the 2004 Alamo Bowl, some vital players suffered injuries. The biggest was to Dez Bryant, who went down twice and was never quite the same after putting up a mammoth night. He caught 13 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. The first two numbers are now Holiday Bowl records. He now holds the receiving yard mark that Hart Lee Dykes had for 20 years. Dykes had 163 yards against Wyoming.

"It was just my knee," Bryant said. "I'm going to go to school and get some rehab on it."

As for the records?

"I'd rather have a W than all that," he said.

The second time he went down seemed to put a storm cloud over the team, who at that point was trading offensive shots with Oregon.

"I'm not going to say that it doesn't affect the team when Dez goes down but we have other guys that need to step up and make plays," Gundy said. "We were still able to move the ball some and be effective, but we just weren't effective enough running the football. They were just too physical."

The second was to Robinson, who suffered a separated shoulder. He turned in a 329-yard passing performance, going 27-of-50 with a touchdown and two interceptions.

"I'd be lying to you if I told you I wasn't (hurt)," he said. "In the third quarter, a couple of series of plays I separated my shoulder and - the bottom line is I was pretty ineffective after that and unfortunately just came up a few plays short."

It was apparently bad enough that coming out of the game became on option. But Robinson said he didn't want to have that happen.

"I know I've got 'til August to rest the thing so I might as well just go out and gut it out and see if we can still move the football," he said. "I thought about it a little bit but I didn't want to quit on the seniors or the team and I just wanted to finish it out because I know we've got a long, long time before we play a football game (again)."

Add in his 54 rushing yards, Robinson had 383 total yards. That number gave him the No. 1 spot on the career total yards list at OSU with 7,786 yards. The old record of 7,786 yards was set by Gundy.

Now the Cowboys head into an offseason on a markedly different note from the past two years - as bowl losers.

"We wanted to send the seniors out on a good note and unfortunately we couldn't do that," Robinson said. "It was tough but we talked a lot about what the seniors have done for us and the program and to the underclassmen to know this feeling because we have a great team coming back next year and we'll be ready to roll."

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