Saturday, October 31, 2009

Defining Moment for Masoli and Ducks

Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is not one to get flustered, whether it be with the game on the line or dealing with an early season slump or this Saturday's Halloween treat, No. 4 USC at No. 10 Oregon (5 p.m., ABC).

"You could be talking to him during a timeout with a minute left in the game," CCSF offensive coordinator Dan Hayes said of his former pupil, "and it would be like you called him in the middle of March just to chit-chat."

Masoli struggled in his first three games this season, including an ugly loss at Boise State from which Oregon has impressively bounced back. He was 29-of-64 for 379 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions before coming alive (21-of-25 for 253 yards and three TDs) in a 42-3 thrashing of Cal.

In hindsight, his struggles could have been about timing with a new offensive line and new receivers. Last week, back from a knee injury, he threw for 157 yards and a touchdown and ran for 54 yards and two TDs in a rout of Washington.

"Jeremiah is just a winner," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.

And an even-keeled one.

"There are a lot of things on the line (against USC)," said the junior, who is 9-2 as a starter in Pac-10 games and 5-0 at Autzen Stadium. "We understand that, and we're a mature team, and all we have to do is go in and execute."

After throwing for 3,592 yards and 31 touchdowns at CCSF in 2007, he transferred and rose to No. 1 on the Oregon depth chart last season.

"Then he's on the cover of Sports Illustrated," CCSF coach George Rush said. "The second coming of Jesus. That can be a lot to handle. ... But I knew he'd be fine. He is clutch. He is money on the table."

Masoli will try and hurt USC with his quick decisions in the perimeter passing game. The Trojans, meanwhile, are excited about the emergence of running back Allen Bradford, as coach Pete Carroll has been trying to replace power runner LenDale White since 2005.

Kelly, asked about USC's latest "thunder and lightning" backfield of Bradford and Joe McKnight, said: "They've got thunder, lightning, hurricane, typhoon. You name a storm, they've got it; they've got so many running backs at that place."

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