Oregon’s Smith Has a Hot Hand
Quarterback Akili Smith had his second consecutive big game, completing 21 of 30 passes for 397 yards and four first-half touchdowns on Saturday to lead No. 20 Oregon past Arizona State, 51-19.
“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 422-yard, three-touchdown passing performance in last week’s victory over Washington, had touchdown passes of two, 22, 35 and 58 yards as the Ducks, 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Pacific 10, avenged a 52-31 loss to Arizona State in Tempe last year.
Dietrich Moore also had 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 USC at 5-2. Oregon has the tiebreaker, having beaten the Trojans on Oct. 24. The Ducks are seeking a bid to the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on 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 game, but was able to get rid of the ball quickly for completions against the Sun Devils’ injury-plagued secondary.
After Jason Cooper took the opening kickoff 48 yards, Smith connected with LaCorey Collins on a 28-yard gain to the Sun Devil 17. Five plays later, Smith scrambled and found Chris Young for a two-yard touchdown.
On the next series, J.R. Redmond went through the right side of the line, shook a tackler and ran 57 yards for a touchdown to tie it at 7-7.
“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.”
Oregon drove 83 yards on its next possession, and Smith lofted a 22-yard touchdown pass to Collins to make it 14-7.
Smith had been tied for the school record of 22 touchdown passes in a season with Danny O’Neil (1993 and ’94) and Bill Musgrave (1989).