Run to the Rose turns thorny for Ducks
PASADENA, Calif. — When Dennis Dixon went out, the explosive Oregon offense became average, at best. When his backup at quarterback was injured as well, the Ducks had no chance.
So now, unlikely as it might seem, the once-reeling UCLA Bruins have a shot at playing in the Rose Bowl game.
Freshman Kai Forbath kicked three field goals, including a career-long 54-yarder, and the Bruins took advantage of No. 9 Oregon's plight to hand the Ducks a 16-0 setback Saturday — their first shutout loss in more than 22 years.
"Our goal was to be in a position for this opportunity. I can't tell you I thought we'd be 6-5 with this opportunity," Bruins coach Karl Dorrell said. "But it is what it is.
"We were going to win this game. There was no question in our mind. We played smart and made critical plays when we needed to make them."
Oregon (8-3, 5-3 Pac-10) had been bounced out of the national championship picture on Nov. 15 when Dixon, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, left in the first quarter of a 34-24 loss at Arizona with a torn knee ligament.
The Ducks lost backup quarterback Brady Leaf late in the first quarter of Saturday's game, and young signal-callers Cody Kempt and Justin Roper were unable to generate any offense as Oregon was blanked for the first time since losing 63-0 to Nebraska on Sept. 28, 1985.
Oregon entered averaging 40.9 points and 505.8 yards of total offense in its first 10 games, mainly with Dixon at the controls.
The Ducks gained only 148 yards against the Bruins, who snapped a three-game losing streak despite getting only 10 first downs and gaining 220 yards.
The result left No. 11 Southern California (9-2, 6-2) in position to win its sixth straight Pac-10 championship and play in the Rose Bowl with a victory over the Bruins.
Should UCLA upset USC and Arizona top No. 7 Arizona State the same day, the Bruins (6-5, 5-3) would get the Rose Bowl bid — a shocking development considering their recent slump and the possibility that Dorrell's job is in jeopardy.
"Next week's game is what we need to focus in on," Dorrell said. "That's the most exciting game in football, in my opinion — a great rivalry game. We will find a way to do the things necessary to make us successful."
The Bruins did just that against the Trojans last year, winning a 13-9 decision to snap a seven-game losing streak against their cross-town rivals and deprive USC of a chance to play for the national championship.
But that game was at the Rose Bowl. This matchup will be at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Trojans have won 37 of their last 38 games.
Kempt, a redshirt freshman making his college debut, completed 6-for-23 passes for 52 yards with two interceptions — both of which led to field goals. Forbath kicked his first field goal, a 54-yarder, after Kempt was unable to handle a snap from center.
Roper, also a redshirt freshman, relieved Kempt late in the third quarter, and was 1-for-5 for 8 yards with one interception before Kempt returned late in the final period. By that time, it was 16-0 thanks to Craig Sheppard's 20-yard TD run with 5:29 to play.
Leaf was 4-of-11 for 45 yards before being injured.
Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, the Pac-10's leading rusher with a 127.3-yard per game average, was held to 33 yards on 13 carries. He has been hampered by a sore right big toe.
"It's disappointing, but it's no excuse," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said of his team's injuries. "UCLA had some people that were missing, too. They did a nice job.
"Our offense failed to show up today, unfortunately. We dropped about six passes today, and you can't do that. We didn't make enough plays, we had too many three-and-outs. I don't know if I've ever seen our defense play better, and I've been here for 19 years.
"The shutout does not bother me. The loss bothers me very much."
Oregon never posed a serious scoring threat.
"We lost Dixon, and a lot of guys got down and we never really got back up," receiver Jaison Williams said. "We miss him a lot. In a big game like this, it's too bad we couldn't get up for it."
Osaar Rasshan played the first half at quarterback for UCLA and was 0-for-7 with one interception in his second career start. Ben Olson, playing for the first time since injuring his left knee Oct. 6, played the second half and completed 4-of-10 for 64 yards with one interception.
"I felt pretty good," Olson said. "I'm not 100 percent. I didn't feel any rust. I feel a little bit limited physically, I'm not the fastest guy in the world and my knee felt a little sore, but I felt good, felt comfortable, felt confident."
Chris Markey, slowed much of the season by injuries, gained 91 yards on 30 carries for the Bruins.
Leaf injured his right ankle when sacked by Reggie Carter in the final minute of the first quarter — one of five sacks by the Bruins.