EUGENE Two weeks ago, Oregon was in the drivers seat for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a chance to play for the Rose Bowl.
But before the Ducks' Nov. 23 game at Arizona, receiver Josh Huff talked about the Granddaddy of Them All not meaning much to him.
I dont want to play in a Rose Bowl unless Im playing for a national championship, Huff said. And, he added, I dont want to be a prep game for the national championship.
The comments came across as irreverent and elitist as soon as they hit news pages. A few days later, after Oregons 42-16 loss to the Wildcats, some fans said Huff had cast a jinx on the team; he had brought the bad juju into the Oregon locker room.
I dont regret anything I said, Huff said, after Friday nights Civil War. Thats just me as a competitor. I know I had a lot of fans turn their back on me because of the comments I made.
In one week, Huff went from scapegoat to hero. The senior wide receiver, playing his final game at Autzen Stadium, was phenomenal. He caught nine passes for a career-high 186 yards and scored three touchdowns in the second half, including the game-winner that put Oregon up by the final of 36-35 with 29 seconds remaining.
Hes a guy whos had a much maligned season, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. Its really great for him to go out in that style.
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has been playing with a knee injury for the past four weeks, struggled in the first half, completing 6 of 12 passes and throwing two interceptions. Four of Mariotas completions went to Huff. Mariota finished the half with 107 yards passing, and Huff got 91 of them.
Oregon State was giving us a lot of Tampa 2 and Cover 2, Huff said. Their base defense was in quarters, but they werent in quarters the whole game. I was able to get things rolling when they tried to stack the box and then I would make plays down the field.
In the third quarter, the Beavers kicked a 47-yard field goal for their first lead, 20-17.
On the next series, the Ducks moved the ball down the field, and then Mariota dropped back and found Huff open in the right corner of the end zone.
That guy is a warrior, Mariota said. Hes been making plays his whole career. I have all the confidence and all the trust in the world in that guy. He made big play after big play tonight. It was huge.
In the fourth quarter, OSU had a 29-24 lead. Facing fourth-and- 11 on the Beavers' 12-yard-line, the Ducks elected to forgo trying for a field goal.
The Beavers brought pressure, and Mariota was flushed out of the pocket. On the run, Mariota found Huff in the right corner of the end zone. Mariota made a perfect pass, and Huff hauled it in.
"It was a post route, Huff said. I decided to cut it short because I saw that Marcus was in trouble. He found me, and I was able to make the catch.
The play of the game came with Oregon trailing 35-30 and time running out. With 29 seconds left and the ball on the OSU 12, Oregon dialed up a pass.
"(Receiver) Daryle (Hawkins) ran an excellent route to take the safety out and the corner out, Huff said. He was able to clear that route out for me.
Huffs route took him to the middle of the end zone. Seeing that Huff had a step on his man, Mariota fired.
"Seeing the ball coming in, a lot of thoughts were running through my mind, Huff said. My main focus was just to secure the catch.
The ball was thrown high and behind Huff. He jumped, and while airborne, reached back for the ball. When he fell to the ground, the ball was still in his hands and Oregon had one more point than Oregon State. And that was all they needed to win their sixth consecutive Civil War, 36-35.
It was a moment Huff had dreamed about since he was a child.
I didnt imagine my last game (at Autzen Stadium) would come down like that, he said. It was everything I dreamed of as a little kid playing in the backyard with my dad and my cousins. To leave on the note I left on, its pretty amazing.
Huff said he hopes believes that his performance in the Civil War will make people forget how angry they were at him for his comments about the Rose Bowl.
Hopefully I got everyone back on my side, Huff said, pausing, smiling and adding, I do feel like I gained everyone back on my side.