Oregon Crushes Washington State

Oregon launched a Heisman Trophy campaign last week for quarterback Akili Smith, who thinks maybe the Ducks are pushing the wrong man.

It was Reuben Droughns who rushed for 217 yards and scored four touchdowns as the No. 15 Ducks crushed Washington State 51-29 on Saturday.

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  • "The way Reuben is running, he may need to get into the race," said Smith, who wasn't too bad himself, throwing for 280 yards on 15-of-22 passing.

    The nation's leading passer, Smith threw for three touchdowns, with one interception, as Oregon (5-0, 2-0 Pac-10) extended its best start since 1964.

    Oregon took a 21-0 lead and has outscored opponents 80-9 in the first quarter this year.

    "We've got to set the tempo," Smith said.

    Droughns, a junior college transfer from Merced College, posted his third 200-yard rushing game of the season, a school record. His 39 carries also were a school record.

    "The team was counting on the offense to get us through the game," Droughns said. "I can't say that 200 yards would be my normal production."

    Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said he has been surprised by the 6-foot, 210-pound junior's production. He has 652 yards in the four games he has played.

    "I did not expect him to do that at our level," Bellotti said.

    Bellotti said the road victory was a big one for the Ducks, and prepared them for facing UCLA at Pasadena, Calif., next week.

    "The bottom line is we are 5-0," Bellotti said.

    Washington State coach Mike Price watched the Cougars (3-3, 0-3) fall behind 38-7 at halftime and decided to replace starting quarterback Steve Birnbaum with sophomore Paul Mencke. Mencke will now be the starter, he said.

    "The time is now for a change," Price said. "I didn't think Birnbaum was playing well at all."

    The Cougars managed 22 points in the second halfincluding a 24-yard scramble for a touchdown by Mencke.

    "He adds an element of athleticism" that the less mobile Birnbaum doesn't," Price said.

    The Ducks, who have won seven straight, came in averaging 50 points per game, second in the nation.

    Washington State lost its third consecutive conference game and had an eight-game home winning streak broken. It was the first time the Cougars yielded 50 points since a 55-10 loss to Washington in 1990.

    The Ducks scored on all five of their first-half possessions in a game that featured 33 penalties.

    Oregon drove 86 yards on its first possession, with Droughns punching over from five yards.

    Oregon's Michael Fletcher ran Washington State's first punt back for a touchdown, but the play was nullified by a roughing penalty.

    That barely slowed the Ducks, who quickly moved to the Washington State 1 on a sensational 43-yard reception by Damon Griffin over two Cougars defenders. Droughns leaped over the goal line for a 14-0 lead.

    Fletcher returned Washington State's second punt 61 yards up the middle for a 21-0 lead with 5:10 left in the first quarter.

    Washington State finally got on the scoreboard with 9:31 left in the second quarter, on Jeremy Thielbahr's 1-yard plunge that capped a 71-yard drive.

    Oregon responded immediately with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Droughns, who set up the score with a 50-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.

    Smith's 5-yard touchdown pass to Chad Chance made the score 38-7 at halftime, the most points allowed in a half by Washington State since Stanford scored 41 in 1987.

    "We missed way too many tackles," Price said.

    Dee Moronkola returned the opening kickoff of the second half 91 yards to cut Oregon's lead to 38-14. It was his second kickoff return touchdown of the season.

    Smith replied with a 69-yard touchdown pass to Griffin.

    After Mencke's touchdown run, Droughns closed the scoring with a 15-yard run in the final seconds.

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