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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Masoli: Sitting Duck to star QB

By Kalani Takase
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jeremiah Masoli isn't the prototypical Division I quarterback.

Masoli, a 2006 Saint Louis graduate and University of Oregon junior, is undersized at 5 feet 11 and 220 pounds, but has more than made up for it.

After his freshman season at the City College of San Francisco in 2007, Masoli transferred to Oregon, but was the fifth quarterback on the depth chart.

"It was hard when I first got here. I was fifth string because of a wrist injury and they wouldn't let me take any reps," Masoli said.

However, the injury bug bit the Ducks hard and Masoli ascended from potential redshirt candidate to starter. He went on lead Oregon to a 10-3 record, capped by a Holiday Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. Masoli ran for three touchdowns and threw for another to earn Offensive MVP honors.

"I just did what I was expected to do," Masoli said. "Once my wrist began to heal and get stronger, I knew I could contribute."

Masoli, who is from Daly City, Calif., transferred from Junipero Serra High — whose alumni include Tom Brady and Barry Bonds — to Saint Louis prior to his senior season.

"My father had a job in network marketing at the time and Hawai'i was a hot market at the time," Masoli said. "I had got into some trouble at (Serra) and so I applied to Saint Louis and got in."

Masoli, who is of Sämoan descent, said he has family in Nänäkuli and tries to return to Hawai'i often.

Upon returning to the Bay Area after high school, Masoli hooked up with current Hawai'i quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich, who was then at CCSF in the same position.

"He was a great mentor to me," Masoli said. "He was one of the few coaches that could relate to me and know what I see on the field. Me and coach Rolo are really good friends and I can't talk about how much he has helped me grow as a leader and a player."

Masoli earned third-team All-America honors after leading CCSF to the junior college national championship in 2007. He passed for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 448 yards and 11 scores.

This season, Masoli entered fall camp entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback. He was named to the Davey O'Brien Award (nation's best quarterback) watch list and was received numerous other accolades.

"You try to tune that stuff out and just keep working, but at the same time, it is an honor and a good sign," Masoli said. "There were a lot of high expectations this season, but if anyone has high expectations, it's myself."

The season began on a sour note for the Ducks as they were toppled by Western Athletic Conference-member Boise State on national TV. What's more, senior running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended indefinitely after he threw a punch at a Broncos' player during postgame.

"That first week of the season, everything that could go wrong, went wrong," Masoli said. "At the time, it felt devastating, but we kind of rallied around each other after that — we knew that this was something that could make us or break us — and we were able to pull off that win streak after that."

Blount has since been reinstated and is expected to make his return Saturday at Arizona State.

The Ducks regrouped after the Boise State loss with non-conference wins over Purdue and Utah before opening the Pac-10 schedule with a 42-3 drubbing of California. They followed that with victories over Washington State, UCLA and Washington before a huge showdown with national powerhouse USC on Halloween.

In that game, Masoli ran for 164 yards and passed for 222 to lead the Ducks to a 47-20 win. He scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter and threw a 17-yard TD pass late in the second.

However, Oregon itself was upset Saturday, losing at Stanford, 51-42. Despite a four-touchdown performance by Masoli, the Ducks suffered their first conference loss, but remain atop the Pac-10 standings.

"I think we definitely learned a lesson last week," Masoli said. "We have three games left, so we have to regroup quickly, but the good thing is we have our destiny in our hands."

The Ducks (7-2 overall, 5-1 Pac-10), who have not won a Pac-10 title since 2001, finish with Arizona State at home Saturday, a road game at Arizona on Nov. 21 and the Civil War against archrival Oregon State on Dec. 3.

Which means there is little time to rest for Masoli.

"Taking a step back and looking at everything, it's been a crazy ride for myself," Masoli said. "I remember watching college and Pac-10 football as a little kid and now it's me out here ... but this is what I'm meant to do."

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