Oct. 20, 2007
SEATTLE (AP) -After waiting so long to be the featured guy in Oregon's backfield, Jonathan Stewart didn't need the speech.
Still, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti made sure Stewart was comfortable carrying the load with backfield mate Jeremiah Johnson out for the season with a knee injury.
Stewart, who waited 2 1/2 seasons for this moment, gave his coach an emphatic answer Saturday night with the second-best rushing performance in Oregon history. Stewart ran for a career-high 251 yards and two touchdowns, Andre Crenshaw added 113 yards and two second-half scores, and No. 7 Oregon pulled away late for a 55-34 win over Washington.
"When somebody goes down like Jeremiah last week, somebody has to step up," Stewart said. "Right now we're not missing a beat."
The Ducks finished with a school-record 465 rushing yards and 661 total yards. The final numbers even staggered some of Oregon's offensive linemen, who bullied Washington's defense.
"It's really, really unbelievable," Oregon left tackle Max Unger said. "It's a pretty unbelievable feeling when you see the (defensive) line and you can choose what runs you want to do. That's never really happened before."
Whether it was pounding runs inside or stretching the Huskies to the perimeter, Stewart and the Ducks were never stopped. Stewart rushed for 144 yards at halftime, had 198 at the end of the three quarters, and became the first Oregon back to rush for 200 yards since Ontario Smith set a school record with 285 yards against Washington State in 2001.
The Seattle-area native who spurned Washington, finished with 32 carries, seven more than his previous high.
Stewart picked up some help in the second half from Crenshaw, who added 107 yards after halftime. Crenshaw's 5-yard run with 12:54 left gave Oregon a 38-31 lead and put the Ducks ahead for good.
Quarterback Dennis Dixon was 19-of-30 for 196 yards, added 99 yards rushing and a 13-yard scoring run with 4:52 left for the final margin.
"It's his time and he made the most of it," Dixon said of Stewart.
Washington lost its fifth straight, all to teams ranked in the top 12 at one point this season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker had the best yards passing night of his young career, throwing for 257 and four scores, but Washington's defense could never slow down the Ducks potent spread offense.
Adding to their eclectic uniform collection by wearing all white for the first-time - looking much like storm troopers from Star Wars - the Ducks won their fourth straight over the Huskies for the first time since 1928-31. It was the 100th meeting between the two schools.
"I don't think there is a better offense in the country right now," Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer said.
Stewart and Crenshaw became the seventh and eighth backs in the last five weeks to rush for at least 100 yards on Washington; both USC and UCLA had two 100-yard rushers against the Huskies. Teams averaged 279 yards rushing during the previous four games.
"We try to consider the defensive line the strong point of this football team. Right now we can't stop anybody. It's disappointing," Washington's Jordan Reffett said. "We've played great teams and great backs, and that's all fine. But it's time for the Huskies to start winning."
The Huskies hung around, pestering the Ducks long enough to put a scare in their rivals.
Trailing 24-17 at halftime, the Huskies scored on their first possession of the second half. On third-and-7 at the Oregon 43, the Ducks brought an all-out blitz. Locker moved away from pressure then floated a screen pass to Louis Rankin, who followed a convoy of blockers into the end zone to pull Washington even at 24-24.
It was Washington's first third-quarter points since the season opener at Syracuse. The Huskies had been outscored 56-0 in the quarter in their last four games.
Jairus Byrd reversed the momentum when he intercepted Locker's deep pass at the Oregon 6 on the Huskies next possession. Dixon and Stewart then led the Ducks 94 yards with Crenshaw scooting the final 17 off an option pitch to put the Ducks back ahead 31-24.
Washington tied it at 31 when Locker and Marcel Reece connected again, this time for a 38-yard score. Locker hit Reece for a 26-yard TD in the second quarter.
Crenshaw then added his second scoring run, Matt Evenson kicked a 47-yard field goal with 8:21 left to give the Ducks a 10-point cushion and Dixon capped the win with his seventh rushing touchdown.
"We were challenged into the fourth quarter and we responded," Bellotti said.