Rookie quarterback Thomas answers the call

EUGENE — Oregon coach Mike Bellotti stood on the sidelines in the fourth quarter Saturday, poking at his cell phone.

He deleted his previous post on Craigslist — added minutes earlier — the one asking anyone with experience holding a football to apply for an open position as the Ducks' quarterback. Bellotti found a gem in true freshman Darron Thomas, who took the field in relief of two other first-year quarterbacks late in the third quarter, thereby eliminating his redshirt status.

Although Thomas didn't lead the 17th-ranked Ducks to victory against visiting Boise State, who held on for a 37-32 win, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback sparked a dreadful Oregon offense and provided reason to cheer for the 58,713 spectators at Autzen Stadium.

Thomas, who entered the game on the final play of the third quarter, threw three touchdown passes — more than any other Oregon quarterback has all season — in the final quarter to give the Ducks hope in what through three quarters appeared to be a blowout loss.

"I was hoping he would come in at halftime," said Oregon tight end Ed Dickson, who finished with a game-high seven receptions for 103 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown catches. "When Darron came in, he did a really good job for us. I'm proud of him."

Thomas, who was 13-for-25 for 210 yards, tossed touchdown passes of 24, 19 and 7 yards, respectively, in a span of less than nine minutes to cut the deficit to one possession with 2:07 remaining.

However, the Ducks (3-1) failed to recover a last-ditch onside kick and, without any timeouts remaining, the Broncos (3-0) were able to run out the clock.

"There's always a chance," said Thomas, who was the fifth-string quarterback when fall camp began less than two months ago. "Every week there's a miracle on TV. We did it last week, so why not two weeks in a row?

"I came here for a reason. When I was

irting, I was learning. Now that I'm playing, even better."

Prior to Thomas' entrance, the Oregon offense was simply awful. The Ducks, who overcame a double-digit halftime deficit to defeat Purdue a week ago, were unable to make up for a stagnant offense that gained only 250 yards of total offense through three quarters.

Although they had rushed for 223 yards, the Ducks produced just 13 points in large part because Boise State knew the game plan — run the ball.

Of Oregon's first 56 plays, 49 were rushes.

"We run the ball first," said Oregon quarterback Chris Harper, who was 0-for-3 with two interceptions after taking over for starter Jeremiah Masoli. "That worked for us, but we killed ourselves with penalties and turnovers."

Masoli was knocked out of the game with a concussion after completing 3 of 4 for 27 yards, the third Oregon quarterback to be injured this season. Presumed starter Nate Costa suffered a season-ending knee injury in fall camp, and Justin Roper, who started the Ducks' first three games this season, is out for at least another week with a partially torn medial collateral ligament.

With Masoli out from early in the second quarter on, the Broncos' defense loaded the box against Harper and Oregon's running offense, slowing the Ducks to a near-crawl during the second and third quarters.

In 15 plays during the third quarter, Oregon gained only two first downs and just 29 yards of total offense — much of it on a breakaway, 18-yard touchdown run by Jeremiah Johnson after a Boise State interception.

With eight seconds remaining in the third quarter, Thomas trotted onto the field to the roar of the crowd.

On his first series, the Ducks reached the 32-yard line before kicker Matt Evensen missed a 49-yard field goal. Thomas then threw touchdowns to Jeff Maehl and Dickson before Oregon's next two possessions ended on downs and an interception.

On the Ducks' final possession, Thomas led an eight-play, 79-yard drive that finished with Dickson hauling in the game's final touchdown.

"Darron is a really good athlete," said running back LeGarrett Blount, who rushed for a game-high 99 yards and Oregon's first touchdown, a spectacular 16-yard run in which he hurdled a defender and broke a couple tackles to score in the first quarter.

"He (Thomas) came in and he did everything we needed him to do," said Blount. "He almost brought us back and won the game for us. I think he'll be playing a lot more."

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