Nov 10, 2001
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer
PASADENA, Calif. - A berth in the Fiesta Bowl is now within Oregon's reach.
And if things really get whacky in the next three weeks, even a Rose Bowl bid is possible.
Joey Harrington brought his team back from a fourth-quarter deficit for the ninth time in his career Saturday as No. 7 Oregon beat No. 17 UCLA 21-20 to remain atop the Pac-10 and in the national championship picture.
UCLA kicker Chris Griffith, a junior who had made 33 of 43 field goals in his career including two in as many attempts earlier in the game, was short and wide right on what would have been a career-best 50-yarder as time expired.
"As I watched the final field-goal attempt, I said a few prayers," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said.
Whatever he did, it worked.
The Bruins, losers of three straight games, had moved from their own 20 to the Oregon 33. Wesley Mallard dropped Akil Harris for no gain on UCLA's final scrimmage play.
"I approached it just like practice, I felt comfortable," said Griffith, who kicked a 49-yard field goal earlier this season. "Unfortunately, it was just a bad kick."
UCLA coach Bob Toledo defended his strategy of running the ball on five of the last six plays for a total of 15 yards before the field-goal attempt.
"We did not want to throw at the end, we wanted to win or lose with the field goal. We wanted a field goal. He has been consistent," Toledo said of Griffith. "It would have been a great ending. He was kicking well in practice. He just hit it a little fat."
Joey Harrington and Akil Harris score first-half rushing touchdowns for
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Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-10) will clinch the Pac-10 title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day by beating archrival Oregon State on Dec. 1.
The national championship will be decided on Jan. 3 in the Rose Bowl, and the Ducks remain alive should the teams above them lose - a distinct possibility the way things have gone this season.
Harrington, 23-3 as a starter at Oregon, guided the Ducks on an eight-play, 70-yard drive for the winning points - a 1-yard touchdown pass to Josh Line on fourth-and-goal with 9:56 remaining.
Harrington was 3-for-3 for 52 yards on the drive, and the reception was the only one in the game for Line, who has caught just six passes this season.
"I knew that call would work. I knew it was a great call," said Line, who was open in the right flat. "I gave them a little fake and I got wide open."
Harrington said he told himself to "just play" after the Ducks fell behind.
"We have been in that situation before and done what we needed to do," he said. "This is a great feeling sitting on top. We set our goal at the beginning of the season, and we are still on track."
The Bruins (6-3, 3-3) played without DeShaun Foster, the nation's third-leading rusher, but still gave the Ducks all they could handle.
Harris gained 79 yards on 28 carries, and Manuel White picked up 29 yards on seven attempts, and each scored a touchdown.
Foster, a senior who leads the Pac-10 in rushing and touchdowns, was declared ineligible for the game after the NCAA made the university aware of an extra benefits violation.
UCLA moved to the Oregon 40 after Line's touchdown, but Steve Smith intercepted a pass by Cory Paus with 6:21 left.
"He was roaming with his eyes," Smith said of Paus. "So I got to where I should be, caught the ball. It was right to me."
The Bruins got their final shot after a punt.
Harrington, who along with Foster is among the top Heisman Trophy candidates, completed 13 of 23 passes for 195 yards with no interceptions. He also ran for his seventh TD of the year.
Paus, 12-of-35 for 212 yards and no touchdowns with four interceptions in the previous two games, was 14-of-22 for a season-high 321 yards and two interceptions against the Ducks.
Brian Poli-Dixon, who missed the last three games because of a separated shoulder, caught six passes for 149 yards.
The Bruins took their only lead with 13:56 to play on a 1-yard by White, capping a 97-yard, 15-play drive highlighted by Paus' 53-yard pass to Craig Bragg on third-and-17 from the UCLA 7.
UCLA kicked the conversion rather than going for two points and a seven-point lead. Toledo said afterward he believed it was too early to go for two.
The Bruins held the advantage for only four minutes.
Harrington's 6-yard run late in the first quarter capped a 74-yard drive and gave the Ducks a 7-0 lead.
The Bruins responded by moving 82 yards, scoring on a 1-yard run by Harris to tie it.
Then, aided by a roughing the punter penalty at the Oregon 20, the Ducks drove 80 yards, scoring on a 1-yard plunge by Maurice Morris, who gained 129 yards on 14 carries.
Griffith kicked a 20-yard field goal late in the second quarter and a 37-yarder early in the third period to draw UCLA within a point.
The win was the 500th in school history for Oregon, which went 5-0 in road games this season for its second perfect record in away games since 1963. The 1995 Ducks also went 5-0 on the road.
It's uncertain whether Foster, who reportedly had use of a sports utility vehicle leased by an acquaintance, will be eligible to play against Southern California next weekend in UCLA's regular-season finale.
The game was played before a crowd of 78,330 at the Rose Bowl.