BYU's vaunted offense met its match Saturday in the form of high-flying Ducks who picked five Ty Detmer passes out of the air and turned them into a 32-16 Oregon victor.
Goodbye national championship.Goodbye Top 10 ranking.
It was no doubt sweet revenge for the Ducks, whose chances for appearing in a major bowl game were destroyed last season when BYU scored a come-from-behind 45-41 victory in Provo.
And if that didn't provide them with enough reason for wanting to beat BYU, the Ducks may have gotten some added motivation from BYU tight end Chris Smith. After the San Diego State game last week, Smith apparently told a reporter for Newsday that the offense would score 63 points this week. Or something like that. Smith says the reporter grabbed him immediately after the game, when he was hurrying to get into the locker room, and that he didn't remember exactly what he said. But Oregon fans interpreted it literally, as loyal fans are inclined to do, and taunted Smith with it. Chances are, the Oregon players heard it, too.
This game was decided more by execution than motivation, however. Oregon, playing in front of a full house of delirious Duck fans, confused the Cougar blockers all day with a defensive scheme that had them continually missing assignments and resulted in five sacks of Detmer. It was also designed to keep Detmer from throwing roll-out passes, and succeeded so well that he didn't get his first completion until nearly 11 minutes into the game.
"They did things that threw us off, just like Hawaii did last year," offensive tackle Neal Fort said. "We weren't really sure what was going on."
"We had as much pressure as we've ever had on a good passing football team," Oregon Coach Rich Brooks said. "The key for us was to contain (Detmer) and keep him in the pocket. We did that most of the day."
The Oregon offense, meanwhile, was wreaking similar confusion on the Cougar defense. "Their play-action (fake the handoff, then pass) stuff was really effective," said linebacker Alema Fitisemanu. "It was hard to tell when they were going to pass or run."
As for the Heisman Trophy, well, in this game it was Duck quarterback Bill Musgrave who looked like the favorite. While Detmer was tossing wind-wobbled interceptions all over the field, Musgrave was using a ball-control passing scheme to end up with 23 of 37 passing for 286 yards and one interception.
Edwards defended his quarterback, saying he suffered a hand injury several weeks ago that has limited his practice time. But Detmer refused to use that excuse. "I felt good throwing the ball," he said. "We just didn't play a good football game."
BYU got off to what is becoming a habitual slow start, allowing Oregon to register fhe first three scores of the game. After the Cougars' initial drive stalled on a 14-yard sack of Detmer, BYU punter Earl Kauffman hit his first punt under 40 yards this season - 33 yards, into the wind.
Starting at the BYU 44, and with that brisk north wind at their backs, the Ducks took three plays to get into the end zone. On first and 10 at the BYU 31, Musgrave found halfback Sean Burwell all alone on the right side, a result of blown coverage by BYU. Burwell scored to make it 7-0.
On BYU's next possession, Detmer fumbled on first down for a loss of four yards. Then Matt Bellini slipped for a loss of five. Then Detmer was sacked in the end zone by nose tackle Marcus Woods, who was pushed into the BYU QB by one of Detmer's own linemen. BYU spotted the Ducks two more points and got to punt as well.
The next Duck drive ended with a Josh Arnold interception of Musgrave in the end zone, one play after an apparent Duck touchdown was called back on a holding penalty. But the Y. offense stumbled again ("We self-destructed a lot today," running back Matt Bellini said) and the Ducks came right back with a drive ending in a field goal. That's three times Oregon had been inside the BYU 10 by that point, and the score was only 12-0. The Cougars were looking lucky, sort of, especially since they had bad field position and played into the wind that first quarter.
In the second quarter Detmer tossed his first interception, after penetrating to the Oregon 32. But the BYU defense held, and the Cougar offense mounted a 10-play drive capped by a Detmer pass to Scott Charlton for the TD. The Cougars dominated the rest of that second quarter, holding the Ducks to four plays on three straight possessions. But the offense couldn't put any more points on the board; their best effort ended with a Steve Kemp interception of Detmer in the end zone as BYU had a third and three at the Duck four-yard line.
"When we gave the ball back to the offense they struggled, and you can't do that against a team like this," Fitisemanu said.
But despite trailing 12-7 at halftime, BYU came out of the locker room confident they could win this one.
The Cougars stuffed the Ducks' opening drive, and the offense added a field goal to make it 12-10. It looked like time for one of those patented second-half BYU surges.
Oregon declined to wilt, however. Musgrave led his team on three straight touchdown drives as the Cougar offense continued to sputter. One BYU "drive" featured two sacks of Detmer; another ended on three straight incompletions, including a certain first-down pass that was dropped by Smith.
Two-and-a-half minutes into the fourth quarter it was Oregon 32, BYU 10. It was comeback time, and then some, and it looked like BYU might pull it off when Detmer hit Micah Matsuzaki for a 69-yard TD, into the wind.
"We bit on the out fake and he pumped it and then he went up top with a perfect pass," Brooks said. "He's a great quarterback."
The two-point conversion try was no good, but the Cougs only trailed by 16 and remember, this is the fast-break team that is capable of scoring two points a minute, like your average NBA team. And there were nearly 12 minutes left.
Four plays and an Oregon punt later, BYU had the ball back. On second and 10 at the BYU 45, Detmer lofted a high pass to Matsuzaki in the middle, and it was intercepted by Daryle Smith (one of three Smith had on the day). Detmer woud go on to throw interceptions on BYU's next two drives, the last one as the Cougs were driving for what woud have been merely a face-saving touchdown with less than a minute left.
One thing that was noticeably absent from BYU's offense was a rushing attack. The Cougar running backs carried the ball 13 times and gained nine yards. The BYU total (is that the right word?) of minus 47 yards rushing was the fewest Oregon has ever allowed.
Smith said part of the problem with the running game was the ineffectiveness of the passing game. "If we had been able to pass more effectively our running game would have opened up."
Edwards had praise afterward for his sometimes-erratic defensive unit. "I thought we played well enough defensively to win the ball game."
And no one was giving up on the season, either.
"We're not going to put down our heads and pout all year," Smith said.
"We're still a good football team," Detmer added. "This is just one of those games BYU seems to have every year."
Ty Detmer - Completed 33 of 57 passes for 442 yards and two touchdowns.
Bill Musgrave, Oregon - Completed of 23 of 37 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns.
Records - Matt Bellini caught 5 receptions to set a BYU record for career receptions with 185 total catches. Musgrave's 286 yards gave him 6,816 yards, eclipsing Chris Miller's record of 6,681.
Interceptions - Detmer threw five, Musgrave threw one and Oregon cornerback Daryle Smith caught three.
BYU rushing - Minus-47.