Posted: Friday December 31, 1999 08:34 PM
EL PASO, Texas (Ticker) -- With the quarterback job to himself, Joey Harrington showed he knew what to do with it.
Harrington ran for a pair of touchdowns before throwing for the go-ahead score with 1:32 to play as Oregon defeated No. 12 Minnesota, 24-20, in a seesaw Sun Bowl.
Harrington, a sophomore, had split time with junior A.J. Feeley all season but was the lone singal-caller today, directing three drives resulting in touchdowns. He completed 20-of-43 passes for 232 yards, including a 10-yard TD toss to Keenan Howry that gave the Ducks a four-point lead.
"Just because we are not No. 12 in the nation doesn't mean we can't play a great game," said Harrington, whose team became the first of four from the Pac-10 Conference to win a bowl game. "I hope this brings some respect to the Pac-10."
On the ensuing possession, linebacker Dietrich Moore hit Minnesota quarterback Billy Cockerham, who fumbled. Oregon defensive end Saul Patu recovered at the Oregon 45 with less than a minute to go, sealing the second bowl win in the last three seasons for the Ducks (9-3).
"I saw them coming," Cockerham said. "I was actually about to throw it and they just caught me."
Cockerham was 19-of-37 for 257 yards and a Sun Bowl-record three TDs for the Gophers (8-4), who had a three-game winning streak snapped in their first postseason appearance since the 1986 Liberty Bowl. Despite the fumble and a pair of interceptions, Cockerham was the Most Valuable Player.
"I would have taken a victory instead," Cockerham said.
Undaunted by Oregon's ability to slow Minnesota's ground game, Cockerham gave the Gophers a 20-17 lead when he threw a seven-yard TD pass to Ron Johnson on the first play of the final period, capping a 72-yard drive.
Johnson caught seven passes for 54 yards and two scores and Luke Leverson added six for 126 for Minnesota, which managed just 86 yards on the ground.
After an exchange of possessions, Harrington responded by moving Oregon 87 yards in 12 plays to the winning score. He faced a 4th-and-11 at the Minnesota 44 but found Tony Hartley for 23 yards.
"They made a key fourth-down play when the game was on the line and that's what happens," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "You make the plays and if you don't make the plays, you go home sad."
After two rushes by Rueben Droughns netted 11 yards, Harrington hit Howry for the TD. Hartley caught seven passes for 113 yards and Howry added three for 54.
"Our kids executed when they needed to and this one was going late into the fourth quarter," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said.
In a game that saw one tie and three lead changes, Cockerham opened the scoring with a one-yard scoring toss to Johnson with 3:52 left in the first quarter. Harrington's five-yard TD run capped a 66-yard drive that tied it 1:11 before halftime.
Cockerham hit Arland Bruce with a 38-yard TD pass to complete an 80-yard march on the first possession of the third quarter but Dan Nystrom's extra point missed, leaving the Gophers with a 13-7 lead.
Harrington ran one yard for a score less than five minutes later and a 37-yard field goal by Nathan Villegas boosted the Ducks' lead to 17-13 with 3:11 left in the third quarter.
Droughns had 95 yards on 21 carries for Oregon, which held a 388-353 edge in total yards and converted two fourth downs. Gophers leading rusher Thomas Hamner was limited to 54 yards on 20 carries.
"I was very disappointed that we couldn't run the ball better," Mason said.
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