As many know, I am a big fan of this Oregon starting QB Jeremiah Masoli. I have liked him a lot since last summer. My first impression was that he was a little short, but his 4.6 40-time looked awfully charming for Chip Kelly's offense. With the flurry of the pickups of QB/ATHs Darron Thomas and Chris Harper, and the ongoing saga of Terrelle Pryor, Masoli slipped in as almost an afterthought in the middle-to-end of the summer.
Rob Moseley did a video interview with "Jay" Masoli. He was a little shy, seemed to be getting sort of a feel for the place. They showed him next to some other players, mostly QBs, and you could tell he was definitely not the 6'0" they listed him as. Moseley tried to assure us by saying he was most certainly taller than 5'10". His build was so different from any of the QBs we'd been targeting in the offseason. As Mike Bellotti would say, he was "kind of like a little linebacker." All these lanky fast guys with long legs and juking tendencies, then this stocky guy who looked like a Polynesian Owen Schmitt.
(5 points the first person to notice something different about Masoli's helmet.)
As Masoli came in in mid-to-late July, he was receiving scout team snaps maybe just 3 weeks before the Fusky game. He was the last in the practice order, that was even after Nate Costa Nate Costa'd himself for the 3rd time in 4 years. That is, he was behind
Roper Ropert, Darron Thomas, and even Chris Harper. He was sitting at 4th on the depth chart practice order, after the transfer-aways of southpaws Cade Cooper and Cody Kempt.
Little run-through here...
And... he would go on to play an entire half of football on the last day of that same month, August.
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August 31, 2008 vs. Washington Huskies
Justin Roper started the game but played only the first quarter, suffering a concussion in the 2nd quarter, leaving with a 14-0 lead. He had thrown one pick on one very bad decision of a pass, but otherwise had been doing decent and running the offense well enough (as we had hoped, Roper really only needed to do a good job of managing games and minimizing mistakes for our offense to fare well.) Masoli was called upon suddenly. I was very excited. I was telling everyone around me of how Masoli was my darkhorse to win the starting job, or to at least be an X-factor for us. Then he overthrew a couple of receivers and made some bad timing mistakes, leaving Section 26 facepalming in my generally direction.
He would bounce back though and end up throwing for 126 yards on 9 completions of 17 attempts, plus 2 TDs and most importantly 0 interceptions. He also threw one of the most beautiful balls I've ever seen on a 25-yard touch pass to Jeff Maehl, leading him as well as any QB could as he streaked into the endzone. Masoli threw the ball where Maehl would be, dropping it in just above the Safety. He ran the offense decently, outplaying expectations of a debut only matched by that of Darron Thomas, a few games later.
September 27, 2008 at Washington State Cougars
After playing sparingly or not at all for the prior 3 games due to blowout of Utah State, Roper's injury making way for Harper and Blount to grind out the ball at Purdue, and getting speared on a roughing the passer and being declared out for the rest of the Boise State game, Jeremiah Masoli was the starting Quarterback going into the WSU game. This would be his first complete game played, and he would again manage the game very well. It was an expectedly easy win, as Masoli would throw for 161 yards on 9/16 passing with 2 TDs and no interceptions. He would also run the ball 5 times for 36 yards, an average of over 7 yards per carry. Masoli would connect with J-Will 4 times for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns, a promising development. The showcase of this game, however, would be the running ability for Oregon's tandem, who would combine for 187 yards themselves. Remene Alston would chip in 73 yards on 6 carries as well for an average of 12.2 yards per carry. Though the game was a definite positive and seemed like a growing day for Masoli, the sample merit was that of playing a JV team.
October 4th, 2008 at USC Trojans
The offense would sputter with the speed and physicality of SC's defense, and would fall to a 44-10 loss. After leading 10-3 near the beginning of the 2nd quarter, USC would score 41 unanswered points, much like the 2005 game. This game, however, was already lost by the half, with SC leading 27-10 and firmly in control. The game could not be placed on Masoli, nor Blount, nor Johnson, nor the defense. The secondary would get burned deep multiple times, but with a stalling offense, not much could be done for either side. Looking back on the year, this appears to be the "taking lumps" game that teams will face. The promising piece from this game would be the opening 70-yard drive captained by Masoli and finished with a 1-yard dive by JJ. A very composed and balanced drive, though it wouldn't end up mattering in this game, it was something of a sneak peak for what Chip would do with this young QB later on in the year. And for lack of Masoli vs. USC picture(s), an obligatory nostalgia picture:
October 11th, 2008 vs. UCLA Bruins
Though Jeremiah Masoli's passing stats would end up absolutely hideous in the box score, he'd run for 170 yards, which seemed somewhat obviously the game plan. UCLA's underwhelming rush D was only bested by their tendency not to spy the dual threat QB, opening up lanes to run for on either designed or improvised scrambles. Masoli would pass for 42 yards on 5/19 passing (number skewed by numerous dropped passes), but would also rip off real estate on his rushes. He would become our leading rusher in a game for the first and only time this year, running 24 times for 170 yards, while LeGarrette would rush for 111 yards on 7 carries, including one 69-yard touchdown that would be, as Marques Johnson would say, daggerization. JJ would have his most meager game, rushing for 30 yards on 11 carries. Masoli, Blount, and Johnson would average 7.1, 15.9, and 2.7 yards per carry, respectively. Though many were very unimpressed with the passing game, I personally believed Chip Kelly set up a Pat White gameplan for Masoli on the night. Maybe throw for a little more percentage and yards, but there's nothing wrong with a 170-yard rushing performance for a QB. This would boost the Ducks to a less than fantastic 31-21 win.
October 18th, 2008 vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
Jeremiah Masoli would impress, throwing for 147 yards with 17 completions in 26 attempts. The gametime decision of starting the sturdy, consistent Masoli over the "lanky awkward white kid with a bum wheel" Roper would prove as another vote of confidence for the developing quarterback. Though Roper was healthy, he would only see garbage time minutes, minutes in which he would throw a perfect 4-for-4 and 86 yards and 1 touchdown (mostly due to Chris Harper's screen pass effort that he would take to the farm for his second receiving TD of his career.) Masoli would make one semi-significant mistake all game, throwing a pick deep in Oregon's own territory near the end of the first half, leading to a Rudy Carpenter QB sneak TD to end the half. This would turn out to have very little influence on the game, and the Ducks would handle the Devils 54-20. Another game where Masoli would appear to grow, and he seemed to have gotten the hang of throwing the ball well.
November 1st, 2008 vs. Cal Golden Bears
Oregon and Masoli would sleepwalk through the rice paddy that was Memorial Stadium en route to a 26-16 loss. The conditions were ridiculous, but they were for both sides, and Nate Longshore handled them like a veteran, throwing for 136 yards and no interceptions. Masoli would have a much tougher day throwing the ball, throwing for only 44 yards and 2 interceptions, the second and last of his infamous 40-yard passing days that Chip Kelly would soon fix him of. The only redeeming note of the game was a brief Ropert sighting in garbage time. But, Masoli and the Ducks' day would be encapsulated entirely by a picture like this...
November 8th, 2008 vs. Stanford Cardinal
The game that would take Masoli and the Ducks up in the first quarter, down with 2 minutes remaining, then up again with :06 left. In the same game that he would get booed by so-called fans, he would lead the Ducks down the field in two minutes, by land and air. The game as a whole would be lackluster against a tough but not great Stanford team. Oregon would play sloppily on the overcast day. Masoli himself would throw for 144 yards, 39 of which on the final drive, on 11/21 passing, with one touchdown. He would rush for 46 yards, 32 of which also on the final drive. He would throw to newly donned starter Drew Davis twice for 51 yards with a 45 yard pass, until Davis would go down with a knee injury (later found out to be a torn ACL, ending his season.) When Masoli was not on, JJ and Blount would carry the load, bruising for 135 and 90 yards, respectively. Blount would have two TDs on the day, including the game winner to cap "The Drive." In two minutes, Masoli went from an oft-booed and untrusted Fullback to a confident starting Quarterback, and the fanbase would not relinquish their respect and pride in him again.
November 15th, 2008 vs. Arizona Wildcats
Oregon unveiled new all-black uniforms, complete with wings and green matte helmets, the 4th helmet Oregon would wear in 2008. This was not the only fantastic emergence of the day though. Jeremiah Masoli and the Black Ducks would come out gangbusters in the first half. The third play from scrimmage would be a zone read keeper for Masoli with a trailing WR ready for a pitch. Masoli would not pitch it.
Masoli cut the ball up the field, between a pursuing linebacker/safety and a corner holding the edge. After making this commitment to the hole, he would take the ball 66 yards downfield for a touchdown. Not only could he break out the truckstick, he showed what a 4.6 40 really meant.
After a Patrick Chung pick-six and two Arizona scores, Masoli would throw a bullet to a streaking Terence Scott for a 44 yard touchdown, making it 21-10 to end the first quarter. Masoli would next carry for a 5-yard score, making it 28-10. However, there was a certain 6'5" Tight End on the Arizona squad who would not quit the whole day through, and he would catch a 37 yard pass from Tuitama to narrow it to 28-17. The good news was that Arizona would be done scoring for the half. The better news was that Oregon wasn't. Masoli would carry for a 6-yard touchdown, then throw the fabled zone read + bubble screen pass out to Jeff "Air" Maehl, who would take it 65 yards down the sideline to the house. Why go on the ground when you can send it FedEx AirMaehl?
After two more Morgan Superman Flint kicks to end the first half and to start the 3rd quarter, the Ducks would go up 48-17. Arizona would score four consecutive touchdowns though, and the lead would only be 48-45 with 6 minutes left. The gift of all gifts would be given in the form of a Keola Antolin drop on 4th and 3 in Arizona territory late with some 4 minutes left. Much debate about the decision to go for it at one's own 43 yard line with 3 timeouts and 4 minutes remaining. I believed that with the way Arizona was moving the ball, and with the way the particular play was set up, it was a smart idea. The Oregon offense hadn't had much chance to move the ball in the second half, as they seemingly never had it.
Given rejuvenation, the Oregon offense would waste no time. LeGarrette Blount would use his speedier side and see a hole through which he would take the ball to the farm. No hurdle. No bruising. No high stepping. LeGarrette Blount would side step a pile of Arizona fatties at the line and run seemingly on a monorail track to the endzone.
But back to the man himself, Masoli would throw the football equivalent of a Perfect Game. Not just a no-hitter, and on a grand stage. Senior Day, the home finale, and 59,000 people painted black.
November 29th, 2008 vs. Oregon State Beavers
DISCLAIMER: CONTAINS SPOILERS AND HURTFUL MEMORIES. I'M LOOKING AT YOU KENNY.
Chip Kelly had a gameplan, the gameplan. The Jeremiahs were given the gameplan, and spit out 51 points alone on offense. 4 TDs Masoli accounted for, and one for JJ. But JJ would also have a career game, rushing for 219 yards on 17 carries, for an average of... what? 12 yards per carry?
The stacked backfield of Jeremiahs were absolute rolling. There was no second half drop off this week either. Masoli would account for just one touchdown in the first half, but would throw for 2 and run for another in the second half. 2 pick-sixes by Walter Thurmond III and Spence Paysinger would be the backbreaker, and the true dagger at their respective times in the game.
But the real story was Masoli showing up big for the big game. We knew he could win in Division II, he won a championship at that level, but this was a huge Divison-IA football game. There was a Rose Bowl for the bad guys, and a Holiday Bowl for the good guys in the balance. The guys in White made it clear in the week prior that the game was about them, not the guys in Orange. If the Beavers wanted a round 2 with the Nittany Lions, they would have to try to defend 3 hours of zone reads first. And evidently, those damn triple options and reads are pretty frustrating for D-ends! At least, for those who don't defend it everyday in practice.
Masoli would make seemingly perfect reads all night long. He would hand off to JJ, JJ cuts it upfield for a 75 yard gain. He gets his lane, holds onto it, takes it up for about 8 yards, and hands some DB a bruised sternum. Or he could give it off to Blount, save his own batteries, and Blount bruises forward for 6 yards and pulls Stephen Paea along with him.
Masoli would throw for 274 yards and 3 TDs, with zero interceptions. He made little to no significant mistakes all game long, except for one near-fumble.
He would improvise when protection or coverage broke the play down. He could roll out and somehow the best passer accuracy I've ever seen while on the move. He didn't do much of it, but Ed and Terence Scott were his big targets when he actually did drop back to pass. He would hit Ed for a 45 yard touchdown on a broken rollout play, that would stretch to within inches of the sideline. This displayed Masoli's ability to not just run designed QB keeps, nor escape the pocket for greener pastures, but his ability to wait until the right time to "sell." To extend the play as long as need be, and not blow his hand prematurely.
The offense would not stall at all in the second half. This was the complete game that we had sought from the offense. The defense was as good as we could ask, especially in the first half.
The Beavers go from smelling roses to Chimichangas, the Ducks go from spoiler to superior, and Quizz is still a midget. All was right with the world, and it was off to San Diego (which evidently means "a whale's vagina" in German, who knew?)
December 31st, 2008 vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The game that seemed to take a decade to wait for arrived, but it seems the gameplan arrived late.
Masoli and the Duck offense would have an inconsistent and frustrating first half, seeming to be applying the same game plan as the Beaver game. That is, setting up the run with the pass, then slowly progressing towards rush after rush. This time though, the Pokes' (not so vaunted) seemed to have done their research. Masoli would have a rough first half passing the ball, going 7-of-19, and the only score the Ducks would have would be on a 76 yard rush by Jeremiah Johnson, a Holiday Bowl record.
But enough about the drab first half. The first play of the second half would be a 91 yard kick return by Walter Thurmond, down to the OK State 3, where Masoli would then punch in his first of 3 rushing touchdowns from 1 yard out. This was barely even the beginning.
Masoli and the Ducks would go on to have an unstoppable second half on offense. He would score twice more, trucking two defenders along the way. Masoli would finally show us what we can come to expect of his runs. He's small, he gets low, and he's pretty quick too. The powerful little linebacker in him would absolutely victimize Safety Quinton Moore...
Masoli would finish the game 18-of-32 with 258 yards and one very important touchdown, earning himself an MVP trophy to take home. It would be the perfect ending to a surprisingly charming season for the Sophomore QB and the reload-not-rebuild Ducks. He truly had the full spectrum of hate and love from the fanbase.
Masoli looks to be the clear frontrunner for the starting gig going into 2009. The UO Athletic Department has already launched his Heisman campaign. For a guy who looks like a Samoan Michelin Man, he did pretty well, huh?