Masoli climbs into the QB mix

PULLMAN, Wash. — Oregon coach Mike Bellotti believes "it's 50-50" that quarterback Justin Roper will return to practice next week as the Ducks prepare for Southern California.

Bellotti declined to say if Roper, who suffered a knee injury on Sept. 13 at Purdue, would start against the Trojans if he practiced.

It could be that Jeremiah Masoli made the decision a little harder because of Saturday's performance during Oregon's 63-14 win over Washington State in Martin Stadium.

Masoli, Roper's backup prior to the injury against Purdue, led the Ducks to six touchdowns during the team's first eight possessions. Masoli, who completed 9 of 16 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, left the game early in the third quarter with Oregon leading 42-7.

Asked if he made Bellotti's decision difficult when Roper returns to action, Masoli said "Maybe. Who knows what's going through that mastermind of his."

Perhaps some peace for a change? That was the case Saturday. The past two weeks have been a scramble for Bellotti and his offensive staff, as four quarterbacks have had to play during crucial parts of the games against Purdue and Boise State.

Last week in particular was a circus, as Masoli started against Boise State, only to leave with a concussion. Chris Harper relieved Masoli, but was so ineffective that Bellotti decided to burn the redshirt of freshman Darron Thomas.

The quarterback trio did a 180 against the Cougars. Masoli marched Oregon into the end zone on the Ducks' first three possessions, then finished his day with a flawless four-play scoring drive at the outset of the third quarter. Harper and Thomas mopped up by directing Oregon to three more touchdowns during the final 24 minutes.

There was speculation as to whether Masoli or Thomas would start against Washington State after Thomas' spectacular fourth-quarter performance against Boise State. Bellotti said Masoli won the nod because he had a better week of practice.

As for Roper, who didn't make the trip to Pullman, Bellotti said a decision probably wouldn't be made until Thursday when the team sets its travel roster for USC. Bellotti acknowledged that should Roper return, Masoli's performance against Washington State "makes it a competitive situation."


TOUGH TASK: Oregon could have picked a better time to face its next opponent, USC. The Trojans come into next Saturday's game in Los Angeles as something less than the country's No. 1-ranked team following a shocking 27-21 loss to Oregon State in Corvallis.

"Maybe the hornet's nest is stirred up a little bit," Bellotti said. "I'm glad we're playing them off a game like this."

Most of the Ducks are expecting a motivated effort from the Trojans.

"When you lose to a team that's not ranked in the Top 25 and you're the No. 1 team in the country, you expect they're going to come out hard the next game," Oregon running back Jeremiah Johnson said.


TAKEAWAYS KEY WIN: In 2007, Oregon led the Pacific-10 in takeaway margin. This season hasn't been so productive, as the Ducks came into Saturday game with a turnover margin of minus-1.25 per game, eighth in the Pac-10.

That won't be the case when the Pac-10 releases next week's statistics after Oregon had four takeaways and didn't commit a turnover against the Cougars. Takeaways set up the win, as Oregon converted two fumble recoveries into a 14-0 lead just over three minutes into the game.

"That's where we took the heart right out of the Cougars," Johnson said.


THURMOND RETURNS: Oregon cornerback Walter Thurmond, who missed the Boise State game with a groin injury, returned to action with a stylish performance against WSU. Thurmond, wearing a large bandage on the outside of his uniform to protect the injury, halted the Cougars' first two drives of the third quarter with interceptions.

Share This Story