It's a happy homecoming for Stewart

SEATTLE — With the rain coming down and the fall air turning crisp at Husky Stadium Saturday night, Jonathan Stewart said the atmosphere felt just like his high school days at Timberline High in Lacey, about an hour away.

It ended up looking just like one of those night, as well, as Stewart rushed for a career-high 251 yards on a career-high 32 carries to lead the Oregon Ducks to a 55-34 win over Washington.

The big night not only gave Stewart a happy homecoming but also helped make up for the loss of running back Jeremiah Johnson, who suffered a season-ending injury last week.

"With J.J. down, I knew I was going to have to pick up the slack,'' Stewart said after rushing for the second-highest total in Oregon history, behind only Onterrio Smith's 285 at Washington State in 2001. "I got winded every now and then, but not enough to ever come out.''

Stewart humbly gave much of the credit to Oregon's offensive line, which paved the way for 661 yards, the third-most ever against the Huskies.

"They opened up great holes, and when that happens, all you've got to do is run,'' Stewart said.

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti agreed that the line dominated the game.

"This is probably the best offensive line here at Oregon,'' he said.

Washington linebacker E.J. Savannah said the Huskies knew they had to contain Stewart but weren't able to.

"He's not a dude who is going to run you over like Marshawn Lynch (a Cal grad now with the Bills in the NFL),'' Savannah said. "But he is so big and physical and fast.''

The Ducks set a school record with 465 rushing yards and also had a season-high six rushing touchdowns.

"I don't think there's a better offense in the country right now,'' said UW defensive coordinator Kent Baer. "I really don't.''

Stewart had downplayed during the week the thought that the game meant any more to him than any other, saying that it mostly just meant his mom had a shorter drive.

But afterward, he said, "It felt good to play that kind of game in front of my family. Give them a chance to come and see what it's like for me to play college football.''


BYRD HANGS ON: Oregon cornerback Jarius Byrd got the only interception of the game for the Ducks, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

With the score tied 24-24 and the Huskies with the ball and the momentum, Byrd turned and leaped in front of UW receiver Anthony Russo to pick off a deep pass near the sideline at the Oregon 6 midway through the third quarter.

"It was just a toss-up,'' Byrd said. "It was just whoever got the ball. He kind of turned and threw it up, and I saw the ball. I just focused on it. I knew we needed a play at that moment. The momentum was kind of changing at that time.''

Oregon then drove for a touchdown to take a 31-24 lead, and while the Huskies then tied it at 31, UW never again had the ball and a chance to take the lead.

Said Bellotti: "That was a tremendous play because Jarius had gotten caught earlier in the year in the same situation, but he didn't look back. It should have been offensive pass interference. That was the most blatant thing I've ever seen. But Jarius fought off the guy and caught the ball. Great takeaway to change the momentum.''

That was UW's only turnover of the game. It was Byrd's third interception of the season, a team high.


INJURY FREE: After losing Johnson and receiver Cameron Colvin to season-ending injuries last week, the Ducks appeared to make it through fine against the Huskies.

"That may be the best news of all,'' said Bellotti, knowing that a home game with USC awaits next week.


NO TRAP HERE: That USC is next had some wondering if the Ducks might get caught looking ahead, despite the heated nature of the rivalry with Washington.

But not Bellotti.

"Calling this a trap game is a disservice to Washington,'' he said. "They're a good football team, they work hard ... They did some things, we just wore them down with our offense.''


NOTES: Stewart is now ninth in Oregon school history with 2,109 rushing yards ... With Andre Crenshaw rushing for 113 yards, Oregon had two rushers over the 100-yard mark for the first time since 2001, when Smith went for 285 and Maurice Morris 138 at WSU ... The win was Oregon's first at Husky Stadium since 1997. But it was only the third time Oregon had played here due to a quirk in the Pac-10 schedule. No Oregon player had played at Husky Stadium before Saturday ... Oregon QB Dennis Dixon passed for a TD for the eighth straight game. He also has at least one rushing and one passing TD in all but one game this season (Cal).

Bob Condotta covers University of Washington football for the Seattle Times.

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