EUGENE, Ore. — They will talk forever in these hills about this game, this instant classic, this controversial, hard-to-believe, wild-west-show of a ballgame won by Oregon 34-33 in a score that doesn't do the drama justice.
Maybe they will say this was the birth of some mysterious, unexplainable force. Maybe they even will christen it Duck Magic. Hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, even those who walked out of Autzen Stadium with five minutes to go, will say they saw it and stormed the field and danced with glee hard by the Willamette River. Left to be written is how the Sooners will look on Oregon 2006. An Oklahoma football program staggered over the last 20 months was poised to return to elite status. Poised to announce its return to national-contender status. Poised to roar again. Then the Sooners collapsed. Collapsed in a way never before seen in crimson. Collapsed so dramatically, you wonder if it might just hasten the Sooner tailspin. Said OU linebacker Zach Latimer, "Hurts really bad." Said tight end Joe Jon Finley, "Hurts more than anything in the world." Even Bob Stoops, who generally goes light on the descriptive, called the verdict, "frustrating, maddening, whatever you want to say." Here's why it was maddening. Since January 2005, the Sooners suffered an embarrassing blowout at the hands of USC, a mediocre season in '05 and the Rhett Bomar summer scandal. Yet late on this pristine Oregon afternoon, Oklahoma looked primed to rejoin the big boys. The Sooners, who seemed in danger of being routed when Oregon took a 10-0 lead and ignited its thunderous crowd, instead seemed ready to roll itself. Adrian Peterson ran possessed and receivers made circus catches and OU scored 33 points in a 44-minute span. A gaping OU defense finally found itself, giving up just 10 points over a 51-minute span. Frankly, considering all factors, including the environment that was everything it was cracked up to be, this was going to be one of the three or four most impressive victories of the Stoops era.
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Gone in 26 secondsOU's lead is 33-20 and superfan Toby Keith is in full celebration mode with less than two minutes left. Here's how that lead disappeared in 26 seconds, with the aid of some blown assignments and two huge instant-replay calls.
Blown assignmentsFirst, Dennis Dixon steps up in the pocket and converts a third-and-14, finding Jaison Williams all alone at the OU 16. Then Dixon scrambles untouched into the end zone. The PAT kick pulls the Ducks within 33-27 with 1:12 left.
Blown call?Did Oregon recover the ensuing onside kick? A TV replay shows OU's Allen Patrick falling on it and walking away from the pile after it squirts through the hands of Oregon's Patrick Chung and the legs of OU's Juaquin Iglesias. That aspect was not reviewed.
Blown call IITwo plays later, OU's Darien Williams is flagged for pass interference on Brian Paysinger near the OU 20.
Blown coveragePaysinger stutter-steps past OU's Nic Harris at the 19 and — with no help for Harris from a safety — is wide open in the end zone to catch Dixon's 23-yard pass to make it 33-33. The point-after kick provides the winning margin.
Four turnovers, still no winTurnovers are the biggest play in football. But not Saturday. Oregon committed four turnovers and OU committed none, though it was credited with a lost fumble on the late onside kick. Rare is the game when a team with a three-turnover deficit wins. Oregon overcame it with sheer offensive prowess. The Ducks finished with 26 first downs and 501 total yards. By Berry Tramel
New startersAs expected, OU made changes in the secondary. Lendy Holmes replaced D.J. Wolfe at cornerback and Jason Carter replaced Keenan Clayton at strong safety. Marcus Walker also saw plenty of action at cornerback. Wolfe played only on special teams. Also, Ian Pleasant started at fullback, replacing the injured Matt Clapp. By George Schroeder and Blake Jackson