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Blocked punt early in second provides needed boost for UO

SEATTLE — It's not often that there is one key play in a 43-19 win, but that was the case for the University of Oregon on Saturday.

The Ducks clobbered the University of Washington thanks mainly to a blocked punt early in the second quarter that led to a touchdown and completely spun the momentum in Oregon's favor.

At the time, Washington led 3-0 after pretty much dominating the entire first quarter.

That's when Rory Cavaille and the vaunted Oregon special teams made the play of the day.

Cavaille cleanly blocked the punt, sending it 20 yards back into the Washington end zone where it was recovered for a touchdown by Oregon's Tyrell Irvin. The Ducks then immediately went for a two-point conversion and scored on a run by Nate Costa for an 8-3 advantage.

"We watched a lot of film to find a weakness and we found it," Cavaille said, showing off a bruise on the inside of his right arm where the football had hit it. "We run the exact same punt scheme that they do so we kind of knew where to attack. It just opened up and there it was."

Cavaille, a 6-foot-3 senior wide receiver from Shelton, Wash., just south of Seattle, said he couldn't help but block the punt.

"I thought the gap was closed, but I turned my shoulder and it opened right up," Cavaille said. "I saw the ball, put my hand up and good things happened. It changed the momentum pretty fast."

Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said it was really a math error that took the air out of what was a boisterous crowd of 67,809 at Husky Stadium.

"We just miscounted and we ended up doubling a guy and letting somebody else loose," Sarkisian said. "That happens. That's how punts get blocked."

Oregon coach Chip Kelly said special teams have been magic for Oregon all season.

"If you look at the games we've won down the stretch, it's been because of special teams," Kelly said. "This is really a true team. We're not an offense, we're not a defense, it's everybody contributing. We play a lot of players on our special teams and they are all contributing. They may not get a lot of plays, but they all know one play could make the difference."

Kelly, whose squad has won six in a row and is now 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the Pac-10, asked his team for one key thing before the season began.

"I challenged our players to get to 10 non-offensive touchdowns and that was our sixth," Kelly said. "We are actually getting close to it. We spend a lot of time on our special teams and it's very, very important to us. We felt going into this game that we would have an advantage on special teams and it showed. We felt we had a chance to get a block and we got one."

The play was a confidence builder, Kelly said, and one that allowed Oregon to play the game at a speed in which they excel.

"All of a sudden we were just flying," Kelly said. "When this group starts flying it kind of gets into a frenzy mode and it's really a neat thing to watch."

Even quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another, credited the blocked punt with getting Oregon going in the right direction.

"We started slow," Masoli said. "This can be a tough place to play, but that blocked punt gave a lot of juice to everybody. That got us rolling. We get a lot of sparks from our special teams."


Although the Oregon crowd packed into the west end zone at Husky Stadium were chanting "USC, USC, USC" long before the game ended, it's a Halloween showdown next Saturday in Eugene that Kelly isn't even entertaining yet.

'I didn't say a word about USC in the locker room," Kelly said. "There will be no talk about that game at all for 24 hours. Right now we're enjoying this win. This is a really big rivalry and we want to enjoy it right now."


After missing the UCLA win and having a bye week, there was much speculation about Masoli and his injured right knee that required a brace.

Masoli answered all those questions by completing 14 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, and running for 85 yards and two touchdowns.

"There was no pain, the knee is a little stiff right now, but I didn't feel like it slowed me down at all," Masoli said. "It took a couple of series to get my feet under me. We were a little rusty, but great teams respond and that's what we did. It's not going to slow me down. Our confidence is sky high right now."


Oregon, ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll, has now won six straight times against Washington. The Huskies still lead the rivalry 58-39-5 and still have a 33-23-4 record against the Ducks in Seattle.


Kelly said the one thing he likes most about his team is how they love the game.

"These guys love to practice and they love to play," Kelly said. "You're going to have to go the distance to beat us because we're going to be there on every play. That's the one thing I love about this group."


Wide receiver David Paulson, who is from Auburn, Wash., near Seattle, had two key catches for 59 yards.

"There's nothing like singing the fight song with our crowd in Husky Stadium," Paulson said. "I grew up in Washington, so I knew all about the rivalry. It was great to play in it for the first time and definitely great to get the win. For me, there's nothing like winning in Seattle."

Paulson, a sophomore tight end, said he had no choice but to go to Oregon.

"I have two older brothers who went to Washington State and they weren't about to let me become a Husky," Paulson said. "I'm glad I was able to go to Oregon."