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UO sips in celebration after turnovers tip balance.

Byline: Adam Jude The Register-Guard

CORVALLIS - Casey Matthews got things rolling with a crushing hit on Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz on the opening play of the game.

Five hours later, Nick Aliotti capped off the biggest day of his 35-year coaching career with a celebratory light beer.

In between, Oregon's defense stood tall when it mattered most, forcing four turnovers, batting down a number of Katz passes and swatting away the Beavers' upset bid Saturday at Reser Stadium. The result was a 37-20 victory that gave No. 1 Oregon (12-0, 9-0 Pac-10) an unbeaten regular season and a trip to the BCS National Championship game.

"We're going to The Natty," Aliotti said. "We're going to The Natty."

Terrell Turner, Talmadge Jackson III, Michael Clay and John Boyett each had interceptions to give Oregon 35 takeaways this season, the most in the nation.

Just as important, the Ducks held form as one of the nation's stingiest defenses in the red zone. Twice in the second half, Oregon State drove inside the Oregon 10-yard line, and twice the Ducks forced the Beavers to settle for field goals.

"Our red-zone defense was huge for us," UO coach Chip Kelly said.

Behind the stout running of Quizz Rodgers, the Beavers had a first-and-goal at the UO 2-yard line midway through the third quarter. Jackson and Kenny Rowe then hit Rodgers for a two-yard loss on first down, a Katz pass fell incomplete and then defensive tackle Zac Clark tipped Katz's next pass, which also fell incomplete. OSU was forced to kick a field goal, cutting the Oregon lead to 23-10.

On their next possession, the Beavers again drove inside the UO 5. But defensive tackle Brandon Bair knocked down a Katz pass - when Rodgers appeared to be open in the flat - and OSU again had to settle for a field goal and a 23-13 deficit.

"Those were momentum-changers," cornerback Cliff Harris said.

The Ducks were credited with 11 pass breakups, two each by Bair and Paysinger.

Matthews, a senior linebacker, set the tone with his hit on Katz on the first play of the game, forcing the quarterback to the sideline for the rest of the series.

"We knew it was going to be a physical game," Matthews said, "and we wanted to set the pace."

The Ducks celebrated with sparkling cider in the locker room afterward - "bottles popping everywhere," Paysinger said. "A perfect end to a perfect season."

"Inside, I'm excited. I want to burst," Harris said, in between bites of nachos. "This is the first time it's ever happened at Oregon. It's kind of overwhelming."

Aliotti looked overwhelmed, too. Quoting Calvin Coolidge, he talked about perseverance, and the long journey it's been since his first season at Oregon, in 1978, when the Ducks finished 2-9.

"It's been an incredible ride," Aliotti said.

Moments later, he finished off the last sip of his Bud Light. He then turned and walked toward the team bus, where the ride was ready to roll on.
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Title Annotation:Football Oregon; Ducks take away points from long OSU drives and four interceptions, too
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 5, 2010
Words:500
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