clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

1996: Oregon Ducks @ Fresno State Bulldogs - Oregon in Overtime

New, 32 comments

First Regular Season OT in History!

Tony Graziani

As of the 2019 season, the UO Football team has played 19 overtime games since the introduction of OT in the 1996 season; that’s a significantly high number of overtimes.

MOST OT GAMES PLAYED

Texas A&M - 20 OTs (14 W - 6 L)

Tennessee - 20 OTs (12 W - 8 L)

Oregon - 19 OTs (10 W - 9 L)

TCU - 19 OTs (9 L - 10 W)

Northwestern - 19 OTs (13 W - 6 L)

Arkansas - 19 OTs (12 W - 7 L)

The Ducks have won 10 of their 19 overtime match-ups, including the first regular season overtime game (between two D-I schools) in college football history. It’s fitting that the team who played in the last 0-0 tie would play in the first regular season overtime.


OREGON DUCKS @ FRESNO STATE

AUGUST 31, 1996

Oregon had lost their two previous meetings against quarterback Jeff Tedford and the Fresno State Bulldogs: the first one in 1981 by a score of 23 to 16 in the brand new Bulldog Stadium, and the second game in Autzen (the stadium which Bulldog Stadium was designed after) 4 to 10.

Nearly fourteen years later, Tedford once again rallied his Bulldogs to take down the Ducks, only this time as offensive coordinator. Coach Mike Bellotti was only in his second season as Oregon head coach, and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and Rich Stubler were just beginning their careers as Ducks.

Unlike future Oregon teams, the Ducks’ running back room was lacking star power, and the same could be said of their receiving corps. Stubler’s defense came straight from his time in the CFL, and many of Oregon’s defensive players were having a tough time adapting from the times of Gang Green to this new defense which had the linemen position themselves a yard off the ball.

Senior quarterback Tony Graziani grew up about an hour away from Fresno, but decided to become a Duck after building a relationship with Rich Brooks and Mike Bellotti. Fresno State’s main offensive weapon was Michael Pittman (father of Mycah Pittman), a running back with a rare combination of speed and strength that helped maintain a Bulldog offense that was top 10 in five of the previous six seasons.

Michael Pittman

REGULATION

It was the first game of the season for both teams. The Ducks and Bulldogs traded hard hits and punts in the first couple of drives, but then Graziani connected with receiver Patrick Johnson for an 88-yard touchdown. Pittman was able to pick up good yardage with regularity against Stubler’s CFL defense, but the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize off their long drives.

Kenny Wheaton added to Oregon’s early momentum by turning an interception into a 69-yard pick-six (not THE pick, but a pretty great pick, nonetheless). The Ducks were up 14-0, but Pittman was on pace to have a huge game against a struggling D-line. In the second quarter, Wheaton was beat on a play-action pass that set up a short and easy rushing touchdown from Pittman.

Wheaton momentarily became the game’s leading receiver by snatching his second interception of the game and returning it 20 yards. Fresno State’s run game continued to meet little resistance against Oregon’s backed-up run D, but another forced turnover preserved the Ducks 14-7 lead at the half. The leg of linebacker Caleb Smith knocked loose the ball from Pittman’s hands and then was recovered by the Ducks at the Oregon one-yard line.

The Duck defense was gassed, and after a controversial fumble and a big pass to Erik Edwards Fresno State was finally able to take advantage of their field position by tying the score at 14 apiece. The Ducks ran to the locker rooms lucky to be tied with the Bulldogs.

The second half continued the pattern of long drives by Fresno State and quick 3-and-outs from Oregon, and by the middle of the third quarter the Bulldogs had a three-point lead and had out-rushed the Ducks 173 to 23. The 88-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter was Oregon’s first and only big offensive play of the game, until Graziani connected with tight end Blake Spence for a 26-yard gain on a seam route, then with Damon Griffin on a 32-yard flea flicker to put the Ducks up 21 to 17.

Michael Pittman led the bulldogs on a 16-play touchdown drive that reclaimed the lead for the home team, but the Ducks answered a drive that started on their own one-yard line and setup the 38-yard game-tying field goal with only a few seconds remaining in regulation. Oregon made the field goal and then Fresno State ran out the clock, meaning the Ducks and Bulldogs were about to embark on the first regular season overtime game between two NCAA D-I college football teams.

Reggie Jordan

OVERTIME

Fresno State elected to start with the ball and quickly fell back into their philosophy of downhill running by giving the ball to Pittman. The running back picked up six yards by barreling through the middle on their first play, but Duck linebacker Peter Sirmon was able to bring down Pittman for just a yard on second down, and on the next play Sirmon tackled a Bulldog receiver inches before the first down. Fresno State made the field goal to take the lead.

Tony Graziani and the rest of the Oregon Duck offense took to the field for their first ever post-regulation snaps, and on their first snap of OT Graziani utilized a play-action pass to connect with tight end Josh Wilcox for a 25-yard game-winning touchdown. After struggling on both sides of the ball it was all over in a moment - the Ducks were undefeated in OT, but it wouldn’t be long until they were tested again outside the safety of regulation time...

DUCKS 30 - BULLDOGS 27