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
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