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Happy Ducks not worried about game that got away

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Oregon Ducks were too happy about their Fiesta Bowl victory to dwell on the 15 minutes of bad football that cost them a chance at a national title.

The second-ranked Ducks routed No. 3 Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl on Tuesday, and immediately the talk turned to whether Oregon should be national champion should Nebraska lose to Miami in the Rose Bowl on Thursday.

"The way we played today, I feel we can play with anybody," tight end Justin Peelle said. "Whatever happens, happens. It's up to you guys (the media voters), but we did our job and we had some fun doing it."

If not for a 49-42 loss to Stanford on Oct. 20 — in which the Ducks had two punts blocked and were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter — Oregon would be playing the top-ranked and unbeaten Hurricanes.

"No regrets," linebacker Wesly Mallard said. "I think (the loss) was a reality check, and it helped us focus."

Oregon won its next five games to reach 11 victories for the first time. In the past six years, the Ducks have won 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and now 11 games.

While quarterback Joey Harrington had a brilliant game with 350 yards and four touchdowns, the Ducks' defense deserved the most credit for Tuesday's victory.

Colorado had 603 yards rushing in victories over Nebraska and Texas, but Oregon's defense held the Buffs to 49 yards on the ground. It was a startling performance by a group that had to replace seven starters from last season and didn't get much respect during the week before this game.

"People always question us," linebacker Kevin Mitchell said. "But when they call on us to make plays, we make them. We proved a lot of people wrong."

The unit was consistently regarded as quick but too small, and the skeptics were right much of the time. Overall, the Ducks ranked 81st nationally in total defense entering Tuesday's game, and the secondary — prone to big plays and penalties — was 110th.

Oregon wasn't expected to even slow tailbacks Chris Brown, Bobby Purify and Cortlen Johnson, and the Ducks' usual strategy of committing everyone but the two cornerbacks to stopping the run appeared to make the unit vulnerable to the pass.

Yet it worked. Brown was held to 30 yards, Johnson 24 and Purify 19. In wins over Nebraska and Texas, the Buffs averaged 5.7 yards per carry; the Ducks held them to 1.6.

"You would have never expected that," cornerback Rashad Bauman said. "I think people would have bet their lives, their paychecks, everything that that wouldn't happen."