Akili Smith called it a going-away bash, and Oregon fans started some early celebrating for what could be one of the best Duck teams ever.
"It was a big party today," Smith said of Oregon's last home game. "The defense played well and we just put points on the board. It was a great way to go out this year."
Smith, coming off a 442-yard, three-TD performance in last week's victory over Washington, had scoring passes of 2, 22, 35 and 58 yards as the Ducks (8-2, 5-2 Pac-10) avenged a 52-31 rout by Arizona State in Tempe last year.
A 57-yard touchdown run by J.R. Redmond tied the game 7-7 with 9:40 left in the first quarter, but the Sun Devils (5-5, 4-3) had little success after that, averaging just 2.3 yards a carry the rest of the way.
"I think the first long play by Redmond was actually a great wake-up call for us," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "I think it got our kids mad and got them to focus and step it up."
| Tony Hartley's 58-yard touchdown pass reception from quarterback Akili Smith was just one of the Ducks' big plays. (AP) |
"They did exactly what we expected them to do: They put nine men up on the line and tried to sto the run," Sun Devils quarterback Steve Campbell said. "We just didn't execute."
Dietrich Moore added a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the Ducks, who at 6-0 went unbeaten at home for the first time since 1990.
Oregon climbed into a tie for third in the Pac-10 with idle Southern Cal at 5-2. Oregon has the tiebreaker, having beaten the Trojans on Oct. 24. The Ducks are eying a bid to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego Dec. 30, which matches the No. 3 Pac-10 team against likely the No. 3 Big 12 team.
Smith, whose 26 touchdown passes this season are a school record, felt defensive pressure most of the afternoon, but was able to get rid of the ball quickly enough to beat the Sun Devils' injury-plagued secondary.
With strong safety Christon Rance out, and cornerback J'Juan Cherry not having practiced all week with injuries, Smith's receivers found open lanes consistently.
After Jason Cooper took the opening kickoff 48 yards, Smith connected with LaCorey Collins on a 28-yard gain to the Sun Devils 17. Five plays later, Smith scrambled and found Chris Young for a 2-yard score.
On the next series, Redmond went through the right side of the line, shook a tackler and ran 57 yards to tie it at 7-all.
Oregon drove 83 yards on its next possession, and Smith lofted a 22-yard pass to Collins to make it 14-7.
Arizona State's Lenzie Jackson stumbled after fielding the ensuing kickoff and hit the turf, popping the ball loose. He appeared down, but it was ruled a fumble, and Garrett Sabol recovered at the Sun Devils 35.
Smith then found Damon Griffin running free down the right sideline for a 35-yard TD to make it 21-7. Smith hit another wide-open receiver, Tony Hartley, for a 58-yard score that made it 31-13 with 1:39 left in the half.
"I just drop back and look for who's open," said Smith, who connected with 10 different receivers. "Griff is my No. 1 target, but if he's not open, I'm going through the procession."
Griffin caught four passes for 94 yards and a TD, and Jed Weaver had five receptions for 95 yards, including a 55-yard catch and run that set up Herman Ho-Ching's 2-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Hartley, who had a school-record 242 receiving yards last week, caught only one other pass for seven yards.
Smith also threw four TDs in the first half against Michigan State in the season opener and against Stanford three weeks later. Eighteen of his 26 TDs have come in the first half.
He had been tied for the school record of 22 TD passes in a season with Danny O'Neil (1993 and '94) and Bill Musgrave (1989).
Campbell was 11-of-24 for 217 yards and a touchdown in place of Ryan Kealy, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Monday.
Oregon's Nathan Villegas made field goals of 38, 36 and 28 yards. He's now 18-of-20 on the season and has made all 47 extra points.
Josh Bidwell won the battle of the top punters in the Pac-10, booming kicks f 64 and 62 yards after a 69-yarder last week. He's averaging 45.4 yards. Baker slipped into second at 45.3 after averaging 42 yards on six punts.
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