Nov. 9, 2001
By JUSTIN EINHORN
AP MegaSports Writer
A high-powered offense has Oregon fighting for the Pac-10 championship. A stumbling offense has been detrimental to UCLA's conference title hopes.
The seventh-ranked Ducks look to at least maintain a share of first place in the Pac-10 and try to hand the No. 17 Bruins their third straight loss Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
"We've been getting ready for this kind of game all year," Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington said. "We're on national television, it's at the Rose Bowl. ... It's time to show people what we've got."
The Ducks (8-1, 5-1) are tied atop the conference with Washington State and Washington, and their No. 6 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series is the highest among Pac-10 teams.
The Bruins (6-2, 3-2) had national championship aspirations last month. Now it appears even the Pac-10 title may be out of reach.
Since opening with six straight wins, UCLA has lost two straight to fall to fifth in the conference.
"The disappointment is we positioned ourselves to have a great season, and we've let that go by the wayside," Bruins coach Bob Toledo said.
The last two weeks have seen the Ducks dominate offensively in different ways, first with the running game led by Onterrio Smith and then with Harrington's aerial attack.
Harrington tied his own school record with six touchdown passes - including four to Keenan Howry - in Saturday's 42-24 victory over Arizona State.
One week earlier, Harrington threw for a season-low 119 yards and had no touchdowns, but the rushing attack set a school record with 446 yards. Smith ran for an Oregon-record 285 yards and three TDs, combining with starter Maurice Morris for 423 yards in a 24-17 win at Washington State.
With Morris nursing a hamstring injury this past weekend, Smith got the start, rushing for 152 yards and catching a 22-yard TD pass from Harrington.
"Sure, let them try to stop the run, and I'll throw the ball," said Harrington, who was 19-of-32 for 319 yards. "Let them try to stop the pass, and I'll run the ball. I have such a fun time running this offense."
UCLA's passing game, meanwhile, is in disarray.
Injuries to starter Cory Paus and backup Scott McEwan forced third-stringer Ryan McCann into starting last weekend, but he was pulled after throwing two interceptions. Paus, battling a sprained thumb, entered the game only to get picked off three times as the Bruins lost 20-14 to the Cougars.
Paus, who was injured in a loss to Stanford two weeks ago, is 12-of-35 for 212 yards with four interceptions in the last two games. He is expected to start this game, but top receivers Brian Poli-Dixon and Tab Perry are both likely to sit out with injuries.
The struggles on offense have not been limited to the air.
DeShaun Foster, once considered a top Heisman Trophy candidate, has gained 179 yards on 49 carries for a 3.7 average over the last two contests. He averaged 153.3 rushing yards and 5.5 per carry in the first six games.
Oregon, which ended a four-game losing streak to UCLA with a 37-18 home win last season, needs a victory Saturday to finish with a perfect regular-season road record for the first time since 1995.