EUGENE, Ore. (AP)—Already down a quarterback, No. 21 Oregon’s depth got tested in its opener against Washington on Saturday night.
Justin Roper, named the starter this past week after Nate Costa was injured and had season-ending surgery, went down with a concussion early in the Ducks’ 44-10 victory against the Huskies.
That had Oregon turning to junior college transfer Jeremiah Masoli, who threw for 126 yards and two touchdowns to finish off the win.
“It took a series or two,” Masoli said. “The first series I had a couple overthrown balls and you know, some miscues with the receivers, but a couple series is all it took to get back on our feet.”
Roper completed 7 of 11 passes for 114 yards, a touchdown and an interception before he left in the second quarter. Coach Mike Bellotti said the concussion was minor.
His only previous start came in last season’s Sun Bowl, when he threw four touchdown passes in a 56-21 victory over South Florida. Roper was pressed into service last year when Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf went down with injuries late in the season.
Masoli led City College of San Francisco to the junior college national championship last season while throwing for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Freshman Chris Harper followed Masoli on Oregon’s depth chart, and came in for a handful of snaps in the second half. He scored on a 2-yard keeper with 46 seconds left in the game.
“We weren’t planning on playing Masoli as much as we did, but we did have a plan to play Chris Harper,” Bellotti said. “I’m proud of them. They weren’t perfect, but they made things happen.”
Roper remained in uniform on the sidelines in the second half, but late in the game he wrapped himself in a blanket.
“We were just trying to mix it up and give them a different look,” Masoli said. “When Roper went down, we weren’t sure what we were going to do.”
Washington’s dual-threat quarterback, Jake Locker, completed 12 of 28 passes for 103 yards and ran for 57 yards.
“We understand we didn’t play nearly as good as we can,” Locker said. “We’re not good enough to come in and just show up and beat teams. We gotta play as well as we can to win games.”
The Huskies started 10 freshmen or sophomores, including heralded tailback Chris Polk and defensive tackle Senio Kelemete, both freshmen, as well as redshirt freshmen Alvin Logan (receiver) and Quinton Richardson (cornerback).
Ducks tailback Jeremiah Johnson, who split carries with Jonathan Stewart the past three seasons, had a 44-yard carry on Oregon’s first series, then followed it up with a 4-yard scoring run.
Roper’s 60-yard touchdown pass to Terence Scott made it 14-0.
The Ducks squandered another opportunity to score in the first quarter. Washington’s Jared Ballman botched a punt that went just 6 yards, putting Oregon on the Washington 26, but the Ducks couldn’t score. Matt Evensen’s 31-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
Ryan Perkins kicked a 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter to make it 14-3, and Washington narrowed it further on Paul Homer’s 1-yard dive.
Johnson scored again on a 10-yard run early in the third quarter to put Oregon ahead 21-10. Evensen added a 41-yard field goal early in the fourth.
Masoli passed to Jaison Williams, who dashed nearly untouched down the sideline for a 48-yard touchdown reception to make it 30-10. Masoli also hit Jeff Maehl with a 25-yard scoring pass in the final quarter.
Johnson finished with 15 carries for 124 yards. Scott had six catches for 117 yards.
It was Oregon’s fifth straight victory over the Huskies, the longest streak for the Ducks in the northwest rivalry dating to 1900.
Washington went 4-9 last season, and there has been mounting pressure on coach Tyrone Willingham.
“We felt coming in we’d fare much better than this and felt we’d have a chance to win this football game, even in this difficult environment,” he said.