7:00 PM ET, September 1, 2005
7:00 PM ET, September 1, 2005
HOUSTON (AP) -- Kellen Clemens said he had one thought after his 43-yard scramble that set up the go-ahead touchdown in Oregon's 38-24 victory over Houston on Thursday night.
"I was surprised they didn't catch me before they did," he said. "It was shocking."
Clemens was 30-of-47 for 348 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and finished with 72 yards rushing.
With Oregon down 21-20 early in the third quarter, Clemens made his long dash to the 1-yard line, where his backup Dennis Dixon dove in for the TD a play later.
It was a successful debut for Oregon's spread offense, installed in the offseason by new offensive coordinator Gary Crowton. It was also step one in the Ducks' quest to bounce back from last year's 5-6 season -- their first losing season since 1993.
Demetrius Williams had nine receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown and James Finley made 10 catches for 95 yards.
Houston controlled the game early, scoring 21 points in the first quarter, but failed to score again until a field goal with just three seconds remaining.
By then virtually the only Houston supporters left in cavernous Reliant Stadium were members of the school's band.
"Everything was clicking on both sides of the ball. ...and I think we rode the wave of momentum for a while," Houston coach Art Briles said. "Then we kind of fell into a lull. We have to understand that we have to be good on every play."
Oregon scored just one touchdown in the first half but kicker Paul Martinez kept it close by booting three field goals, including a 51-yarder early in the second quarter.
Houston led 21-17 at halftime and the fourth field goal by Martinez early in the third got Oregon to within one point. He finished with five field goals to tie a school record.
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said he was disappointed with the way his team opened the game but encouraged by their recovery.
"I thought we sleepwalked a little bit in the first quarter," he said. But at halftime we said 'we lost the first half but we're going to win the second half.' I think that we were the better conditioned team and that showed a lot."
The roof to Reliant Stadium was open for the game, subjecting the players to the sweltering Houston heat.
Houston's new 3-4 defense looked OK early, forcing the Ducks to a three-and-out on the game's first series. It only went downhill from there as Oregon was able to roll up 554 yards of offense.
Oregon got a first look at heralded running back recruit Jonathan Stewart, a 5-foot-11, 228-pound player who rushed for 7,755 yards in high school.
His first action came early in the second quarter. That series was largely uneventful as he had no carries and often looked confused and missed blocks.
"In the beginning I got the jitters and I was nervous," Stewart said. "But then when I got into the game I got excited. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life."
He looked better on the second, carrying for two first downs on short yardage situations.
By the fourth quarter he had adjusted to the game when he carried about five Houston defenders more than 10 yards at the end of a 33-yard run. Stewart finished with five carries for 47 yards.
"When I got the ball I just bounced off a couple of guys, dragged a few guys and kept my feet moving," he said of his long run.
Houston's Kevin Kolb threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. He had several dazzling plays in the first half including a 70-yard touchdown pass and a 62-yard TD to Anthony Alridge on the last play of the first quarter.
The touchdown was sophomore Alridge's first career reception and pushed Kolb's career passing numbers to more than 6,000 yards.
Running back Anthony Evans, who scored Houston's first touchdown, pulled his calf muscle in the third quarter. Briles said he could be out for an extended time. Linebacker Wade Koehl injured his hip but no other details on the injury were immediately available.