The Oklahoma series: Part 2 – Bad Calls (2006)
Continued From Part 1
Seventh Time’s The Charm: Bad Calls
Oklahoma at Oregon – September 16th, 2006
Both Oklahoma and Oregon were undefeated heading into the final chapter of their trilogy of games, with Oklahoma dreaming of a national championship shot, but it hadn’t been without a close call. Opening the season playing at UAB, Oklahoma had been the beneficiary of a horrendous referee call on a muffed punt, where the Oklahoma return man was incorrectly ruled down on an obvious fumble that would have set up UAB for the potentially game-tying score late in the 4th quarter. Instead Oklahoma retained possession and ran out the clock, winning 24-17.
In the aftermath of the events that would transpire between Oklahoma and Oregon, this gift from the referees was conveniently forgotten by all Oklahoma fans and made their whining highly hypocritical.
Oregon had played a tough game against Fresno State the week prior, escaping with a close victory, setting the stage for the matchup of two undefeated teams, and a regional ABC broadcast. Having played each other the previous two years these teams were quite familiar with each other, and in the case of Blair Phillips there was an emotional connection to the opposing squad as well.
“My friend Nic Harris was a cornerback for the Sooners, we went to the same high school together and after the Holiday Bowl he was talking lots of trash,” said Blair Phillips. “I think the team was ready for he 2006 game, we had lost two in a row to them. We knew it was a really big game, leading into it I had 2-3 interviews that week, that had never happened before, it let me know that this was going to be big. Going into the game we had a really good week of practice, we just wanted to beat them so bad, we couldn’t lose all three games. The energy was there, you could feel an electricity throughout the city in anticipation of it.”
“J.D. Nelson and I lived together, and we said no going out after games until after we beat Oklahoma,” Brent Haberly chuckled. “That was our little thing to stay focused. It wasn’t like we were overlooking our other opponents, but everyone knew what week Oklahoma was coming to town. That game was right before classes started, so we were there 100% focused on Oklahoma. We’d be in the film room until 10pm, then take DVDs home to watch more film. We were so honed in for that one, no classes no girls no distractions, all focus on Oklahoma all the time.”
Again the game was touted as a battle between two superstar runningbacks, Stewart vs. Peterson. Peterson had gotten the better of the Ducks two years in a row, would the Ducks be able to finally stop him on their home turf?
The crowd was as loud as Autzen has ever been as the teams took the field, and Oklahoma noticed when they experienced the Autzen magic for the first time. ESPN Magazine documented the crowd’s impact with the following:
Adrian Peterson shook his helmeted head and slapped his earholes. But the ringing wouldn’t stop.
As the Oklahoma Sooners stood in the tunnel of Autzen Stadium ready to hit the field, the walls around them vibrated like a tuning fork. The air felt thick with what sounded like a World War I biplane parked under the goalpost 15 yards in front of them.
“It was like some sort of crazy torture in the movies. How do people do that so long without taking a breath? I think my ears are still ringing.”
-Former Oklahoma Running Back, Adrian Peterson in an ESPN article
The crowd’s full-throated impact would cause havoc for Oklahoma all day, but the Ducks got the ball first and immediately made it known that this time Oregon came to play. On the second play from scrimmage, Dennis Dixon threw a pass to wide receiver Jaison Williams, who escaped defenders and sprinted down the sideline for a 66-yard gain.
Moments later Jonathan Stewart would plow his way into the endzone for the first score of the day.
Oklahoma took the ball and their eardrums took on a full-out Autzen onslaught, as the decibels reached unbearable levels Oklahoma had to call a timeout realizing they were incapable of hearing quarterback Paul Thompson. The Duck defense stacked the line and shut down Adrian Peterson, forcing a punt. The Ducks took the ball back and again found big yards through the air, as Dixon hit wide receiver Brian Paysinger for a 35-yard gain.
This set up a field goal, giving the Ducks an early 10-0 lead. Oklahoma continued feeding the ball to their horse Adrian Peterson, and again Oregon was up to the task stuffing him at the line. Blair Phillips was in on nearly every tackle, mirroring Peterson around the field. When Peterson got the ball, moments later there would be Phillips meeting ‘A.D.’ head-on in the hole. Another timeout burned, then another. Oklahoma looked rattled, and Oregon’s defense was playing near-perfect, aside from a couple completions given up when Thompson play-actioned off of Peterson.
“You can only play off of emotion for so long, but we were really up and playing well that day,” Phillips recalls. “We do a lot of hand signals to communicate knowing the crowd would be so loud, so even if we couldn’t hear we knew what we were doing, everybody was on the same page and playing really well.”
In fact, the crowd was so loud that on one play the Oklahoma Sooners couldn’t hear the whistle, forever altering Brent Haberly’s life.
“After we forced the first 3 and out I come off to the sidelines and sit back on the bench and see the cheerleaders run by, people screaming, and I’m thinking ‘are you kidding me? I’m Superman! I’m invincible!'” Haberly remembers. “Then the next play we go out there I snap my radius. They ran a stretch strong and didn’t hear the whistle because it was so loud and guys were blocking me and I stopped my feet after the whistle, they pushed me and I fell to the ground putting my arm out to stop my fall. I thought I dislocated my elbow, but something really didn’t feel right and I told Blair I thought I had broken my arm. I went back out and kept playing, but when I tried to wrap up I had nothing, after eight or nine plays I came out and my arm looked like I had two arms it was so deformed. It snapped right in half, I have an 11-inch scar on my arm now from the six screws and metal plate they had to put in to stabilize it.”
With Haberly out, Phillips took on a larger role of closing the run gaps, as every Oklahoma possession featured at least one big collision between Peterson and Phillips. The Ducks were dominating the first half, playing nearly perfect defense and putting up points on Oklahoma behind the tough running of Jonathan Stewart.
Oklahoma managed to tack on a field goal, but well into the 2nd quarter the Oregon defense was controlling the game. Penalties had attributed to much of Oklahoma’s woes, some self-inflicted and some the result of the crowd noise. One flag in particular really hurt the Sooners, as an illegal formation penalty subtracted a 58 yard touchdown pass, the first big play Oklahoma had managed to connect on all day.
Oklahoma was forced to punt, but just when it seemed like Oregon could put the hammer down, a mistake was made. Oregon runningback Jeremiah Johnson muffed the punt, giving the Sooners the ball back within scoring range. The Ducks had played nearly flawless to that point, but against a team as talented as Oklahoma gifts such as this could not happen.
A pass interference flag set up Oklahoma at the two yard line, but the defense wasn’t going to give up. Multiple penalties against the Sooners pushed them back to the 20 as the defense stuffed the Sooners repeatedly. Eventually, a golden scoring opportunity was squandered, as the Sooners could only muster a field goal out of the possession.
“On the goal line our mentality was that even if they got down there they’re not going to score,” said Phillips. “Holding them to field goals was really big. Knowing that the offense didn’t have to score a touchdown every possession, we were pissed if we let them score.”
The Ducks struck back quickly, with Jonathan Stewart picking up 20 yards, but the drive stalled when a blatant pass interference on Oklahoma cornerback Marcus Walker wasn’t called. It would be the first of many bad calls in this game that would go against both teams, and a play that later in the game would draw much ire and media attention as bad officiating would come to define the contest.
With time ticking down before halftime, Oregon decided to attempt a long 48 yard field goal to extend the lead. It was at the very edge of kicker Paul Martinez’ maximum range, and Martinez needed every inch as his kick bounced off the crossbar and flipped through for three points, giving Oregon a 13-6 lead at halftime.
“It was nice seeing things going our way for once, when that field goal went over before the half,” said Phillips. “We went in at halftime wanting to keep the same intensity, we had played a great half, but we didn’t want it to be a letdown like what had happened the previous year against USC when they guys were so emotionally drained after the first half, we had to stay focused.”
In the third quarter Oregon’s dominance continued, but just as it seemed like the floodgates might open, a series of bad referee calls flipped the game in favor of Oklahoma. Oklahoma got a game-tying touchdown to make it 13-13, but the Duck defense was making Peterson visibly frustrated not giving up any yardage and pestering Thompson every time he dropped back.
The bad calls that changed the game started with a Jonathan Stewart run. The Ducks had driven into field goal range, when the ball came loose at the end of a short Stewart run. The referees on the field ruled the play a fumble with Oklahoma recovering it. The play was reviewed, but the video footage was inconclusive leaving the play as called on the field of a fumble.
Photographic evidence of the play would prove otherwise, as published photos clearly showed Stewart down before the ball came loose. The bad call ended a scoring threat from Oregon and gave Oklahoma momentum, more bad calls would further swing things in Oklahoma’s favor.
Oklahoma took over and were stopped on 1st and 2nd down, setting up a 3rd and 10. The crowd was as loud as ever, and Oklahoma was delayed in lining up. As Paul Thompson tried to audible and get his players aligned, the play clock ticked down…3…2…1…0. The referees didn’t see it, and in this moment the game suddenly switched to Oklahoma’s advantage. After the clock hit zero multiple Oregon defenders turned and began yelling at the officials to throw a flag for delay of game, but no flag came.
As Thompson received the snap well after the play clock expired, he threw to wide receiver Malcolm Kelly running a crossing pattern having beaten the corner Willie Glasper, one of the players who had been distracted by the expired clock. The throws was behind Kelly, bouncing backwards towards Glasper, but Glasper accidentally tipped the ball right back to Kelly who caught it and turned up the sidelines. Kelly sprinted down the sidelines for a touchdown, but his foot had gone out of bounds back on the 45 yard line. The referees placed the ball on the 48, then reviewed it and moved the ball back to the 47, then reviewed it again and moved the ball forward incorrectly to the wrong 47 yard line six yards forward of where Kelly had stepped out of bounds.
On one single play the officials had screwed up just about everything imaginable. A play that should have never occurred had awoken the sleeping giant, just like USC the year prior. It SHOULD have been a delay of game setting up 3rd & 15, and it SHOULD have been down at the 47 in Oklahoma’s territory not Oregon’s. Even if the play had been brought back from the original touchdown call, the play invigorated the Sooners offense.
“When that Kelly play happened, we switched from dominating to then thinking about how do we stop the bleeding,” said Blair Phillips. “People started playing outside of themselves to get back on the track trying to make big plays, and that’s one of those things you have to just fight through, you have to play within yourself. Well damn, we’ve been playing well so let’s get back together, but that play really bothered us. I don’t think we ever went into a game thinking somebody was better than us, we thought we could play with anybody. It was one of those things when those calls happened that people got frustrated, we felt like ‘not again, this isn’t going to happen to us again, is it?’ The You could feel that it had changed, there was doubt and frustration all of a sudden because of the referee calls.”
A few plays later, Oklahoma took full advantage, with the benefit once again of suspicious refereeing. After moving to the 30 yard line, Thompson dropped back and lofted a pass deep down the sideline to Malcolm Kelly, with cornerback Walter Thurmond III in good position to make a play on the ball. As the ball descended, Kelly gave Thurmond a massive shove in the back nearly knocking him to the ground freeing up space to catch the pass for the touchdown, blatant offensive pass interference. An official stood only a few feet away, but did not reach for his flag, letting the play stand.
“They called a pass interference on Walter in that game, and it wasn’t anything close to what (Malcolm) Kelly did to him on that play, we definitely got the short end of the stick on that one,” Phillips remembers.
It was Oklahoma’s first lead of the game, 20-13, with the game that feeling eerily similar to the 2005 USC loss. As the 4th quarter started, the Ducks had driven into Oklahoma territory to the 30 yard line, but the Sooner defense had held forcing a 4th down. It was nearly the identical spot where before halftime Paul Martinez had doinked a ball over the crossbar, but not pressing his luck that Martinez could do it again Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti decided to roll the dice and go for it. ON 4th & 6 Dixon dropped back and lofted a ball deep to Jaison Williams, hitting him perfectly in stride for a touchdown, tying the game at 20-20.
Oklahoma continued trying to respond by running with Peterson, and again he was stymied by the stout Oregon defense led by Blair Phillips. Thompson was able to connect on a few passes moving the ball into Oregon territory, and now within field goal range a 3rd down & 8 faced the Sooners. Again, a poor referee decision would greatly benefit the Sooners.
Catching the Duck defense off-guard, on 3rd & long Thompson handed off to Peterson, who for the first time all game managed to find some room on the outside, but was forced out of bounds by Oregon linebacker AJ Tuitele two yards short of the first down marker. However, the referees incorrectly spotted the ball mere inches short of the first down marker, prompting Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops to decide to go for it rather than attempt the gimme field goal to take a 23-20 lead. Had the ball been placed correctly several yards short of the first down mark, the field goal would have been a no-brainer.
On the 4th & inches play, an Oregon linebacker over-pursued in the gap leaving a wide open hole on the backside and Peterson shot through, his first long run of the day as he sprinted into the endzone untouched. The bad spot by the referees had resulted in a touchdown rather than a field goal for Oklahoma, yet another bad call drastically changing the game.
“It was like the Kelly catch earlier, people started pressing trying to make a play and getting caught out of position,” said Phillips. “It was what we didn’t do more than what Peterson did. He wasn’t carrying guys on his back, we were missing tackles all of a sudden. We were getting a little tired, and once you get tired physically the mental part follows, but it was more the result of us being frustrated over the bad calls that let them get loose in the game.”
Oregon got the ball back, and made a huge mistake on the first play. Quarterback Dennis Dixon threw the ball into triple coverage, directly into the hands of cornerback Nic Harris, Blair Phillips’ friend from high school. Immediately Oklahoma was set up in scoring range again, and Peterson went to work earning his “All Day” nickname finding running lanes consistently for the first time all day.
But just as in the first half, when the Sooners got to the goal line, Blair Phillips stonewalled Peterson, forcing them to kick a field goal.
With under six minutes left in the game, Oregon had to overcome a 10 point deficit. The Ducks stormed down the field, but again Dixon threw into coverage with Nic Harris once more intercepting the pass.
Oklahoma went into full ground-and-pound mode, gashing the tired Duck defense with long runs by Adrian “All Day” Peterson. Some Oregon fans began leaving the stadium, convinced there was no way Oregon could come back and unwilling to sit through the inevitable anticlimactic ending. There were things to gripe about sure, the turnovers, the bad calls, the missed opportunities…the Ducks should have dominated this game, but four turnovers and 11 points total given to the Sooners by bad referee calls was too much to overcome.
A long Adrian Peterson run set up the Sooners near the goal line, but a great stop by AJ Tuitele on third down that also stopped the clock once again forced the Sooners to kick a chip-shot field goal, Garrett Hartley’s fourth field goal of the day, making the score 33-20 with only a couple minutes left to make their comeback.
The Ducks got the ball back and went into their two-minute drill offense while the Sooners played soft, keeping the plays in front of the safeties while Oregon picked up 10 yards at a time with completions. Multiple completions to Jaison Williams moved Oregon to the 16 yard line, but with little over a minute left the clock was greater foe than the Oklahoma defense. Dennis Dixon dropped back to throw again on first don from the 16, but finding room to the right he chose to run and sprinted his way into the endzone. The extra point cut the deficit to six, ensuring that an onside kick would be follow…
THE ONSIDE KICK SEEN ‘ROUND THE WORLD
The Ducks lined up for an onside kick with their “onside specialist” Luke Bellotti, the head coach’s son. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as the other games being broadcast at that time around the country had just ended, and all national broadcasts switched to the Oklahoma-Oregon game to cover the final moments. Fans tuning in for the first time around the country hadn’t seen the bad calls giving Oklahoma free points, hadn’t witnessed the four turnovers, or great defensive effort until the 4th quarter, but the entire nation was going to watch this onside kick.
Bellotti hit the ball and it got a good bounce, Oregon wide receiver Brian Paysinger leaped for the ball while simultaneously an Oklahoma player also jumped, reaching his arms through Paysinger’s. Both touched the ball simultaneously 9 ½ yards downfield.
A scrum quickly ensued for the loose ball, with Oregon safety Patrick Chung falling on the ball. As the pile of bodies fell on top of Chung the ball squirted out between his legs back behind the pile, where an Oklahoma player picked it up, and began strutting around the field ball in hand. But the whistle had already blown, the official stepping in blowing the play dead signaling Oregon possession, placing his foot down marking the spot and waving his arms to indicate the play was over.
Oregon fans and players celebrated, Oklahoma coaches screamed that they had recovered the ball. The referees were buzzed for an official review. As everyone anxiously awaited the call, the ABC broadcast team went back over the replay. Possession by 2006 rules was NOT reviewable, so when the whistle blew the play was over possession Oregon, the only aspect that could be reviewed was who touched it first. The TV camera angles in the stadium all were from the south side of the stadium, showing the Oregon player in front of the Oklahoma player as the ball was touched, a poor look to see where the Oklahoma player’s arms were.
While the TV broadcast crew seemed convinced the Duck player had touched the ball first, other perspectives showed otherwise, as just like the Stewart fumble earlier in the game again angles from the north side of the stadium that the TV broadcast did not have proved that the Oklahoma player’s arms were coming through Paysinger’s to touch the ball. After a lengthy delay, the referees announced possession Oregon. Dan Fouts, an Oregon alumnus, and Time Brandt both exploded on the TV broadcast while fans rejoiced and the offense lined up to try to score again with only a minute left on the clock. Earlier in the game Brandt had shunned Fouts for exclaiming that one of the referee calls earlier had been incorrect, but with the entire nation now watching Brandt did not step in as Fouts ranted about the bad call.
After all the bad calls that had gone on in the game, what was one more? The game had already been permanently altered with referee incompetence, and it was a bad call. While first touch of the ball was too close to call, Oklahoma had clearly recovered the ball. The error came in the referees blowing the play dead and signaling possession Oregon when the ball was still live prior to Oklahoma recovering it. Everyone in the stadium knew Oklahoma had the ball, everyone watching knew Oklahoma had the ball, but by 2006 rules that part of the play was not reviewable.
“When he kicked it there was that fight for the ball. Everybody said Pat (Chung) had it, when Pat came to the sideline he said that he had it and lost it,” Phillips remembers. “The minute he has the ball on the ground, it’s dead, he’s down. You can’t get up in college, the ball is dead play is dead, whoever has the ball at that point is whoever has possession. Then to have to sit through all the reviews and arguments, it took forever. I had no idea who had recovered it, I just knew it was our ball.”
“When I saw the OU player get the ball, they teach us that when you recover a ball immediately hand it to the ref so they know where it is,” said Schwartz. “If the ref first saw Chung fall on the ball and they don’t see the ball anywhere, then they’re going to rule it down right there. He shouldn’t have danced around, he should have gone right to the ref.”
More controversy quickly ensued, as a Dixon pass was tipped but pass interference was called. Again, a poor call by the officials, but not far from reality. The pass had indeed been tipped which would negate pass interference, but it would not remove the defensive holding that occurred on the play prior to the ball being thrown. The pattern was a slant, the identical play to the one earlier in the game that had not been called, the first of the bad calls that began the official incompetence frenzy. Bob Stoops argued validly that the ball had been tipped, the broadcast team still frothing over the onside kick poured gasoline on the fire as a national audience out of context watched with amazement at the apparent screw job happening to Oklahoma, unaware of the events that had transpired prior to the onside kick.
The referees reviewed the play, and again stuck to their original call of pass interference. The wrong call, defensive holding should have been called. The yardage difference between the two calls wasn’t what mattered, the incorrect terminology further proved the complete incompetence of the Pac-10 officials.
Next snap the Ducks struck at the heart of the Oklahoma defense. As Dixon dropped back Paysinger sprinted past Nic Harris, the close friend of Blair Phillips who had intercepted two passes in the game, and Dixon fired the ball to Paysinger for a touchdown. After the extra point the Ducks had regained the lead 34-33, scoring two touchdowns in only 22 seconds off of the clock.
“I wasn’t celebrating when Paysinger caught the touchdown, because I thought I had held CJ Ah Yu on the play,” said Geoff Schwartz. “I was looking around dreading a flag, I kept thinking I wasn’t going to celebrate until I was sure there was no flag. Once we got that onside kick I knew we were going to score. ”
Fans that had been making their way out of the stadium wanted back in, the stands somewhat vacated but Autzen Stadium still rocking nonetheless.
“I made my way back out there for the 2nd half while on pain meds,” said Brent Haberly, who watched in street clothes from the sidelines with his broken arm in a sling. “Everything that happened was from a different perspective, I am having to deal with a lot more than just not being able to play anymore, emotionally it was tough to keep it together. After Paysinger caught that touchdown he came over and gave me a big hug.”
Oregon lined up for the kickoff and squibbed it down the middle of the field, where Oklahoma’s Reggie Smith bobbled the ball at first, then started running left. Smith found a seam thanks to an illegal block in the back, again not called by the referees, and sprinted down the sidelines toward the endzone. In an instant what had become the biggest party in the state of Oregon turned into the biggest pity-party, as joy turned to sorrow over the prospect that Oklahoma could hit a field goal to win.
Oklahoma had burned through all of their timeouts again due to crowd noise just like the first half, and they lined up to run one play from scrimmage, already within Garret Hartley’s kicking range. Thompson handed the ball off to Peterson, but defensive tackle Cole Linehan and Blair Phillips immediately wrapped up Peterson for a loss, pushing the kick back towards the outer reaches of Hartley’s range. Quickly Oklahoma lined up to spike the ball to stop the clock with one second remaining, Peterson giving Hartley a pep talk as he ran out to kick the game-winning field goal.
As both teams lined up, Coach Bellotti called a timeout to “ice” the kicker, giving the special teams unit a chance to plan what they would do.
“I looked at the guys we had up front, we had great size on the special teams unit and I thought we could get a good push up the middle,” Phillips recalls. “During the timeout I went up to Coach (Steve) Greatwood and started shouting ‘middle block! Let’s do middle block, coach! Middle block!’ and he said ok, let’s do it. So I line up behind David Faeeteete and at the snap we push as hard as we could and I tried to time a leap. We got a good push and I got my hand up and got a piece of the ball.”
Fans stormed the field, unaware of who had blocked the ball but knowing that the Ducks had won 34-33. It was pandemonium on the field as players and fans alike gathered at the 50 yard line as a jubilant mob. The Ducks had blocked the kick, but according to the media and nationwide audience that had tuned in right before the onside kick a few minutes prior, the sense was that the game had been stolen from Oklahoma. As this sentiment permeated throughout the media, the myth was only reinforced that Oklahoma should have won if not for biased Pac-10 officials. Bob Stoops in post game interviews cried foul, whipping the angry Oklahoma fan base into a frenzy. Oklahoma’s school president wrote an angry letter to the NCAA asking the game to have an asterisk in the record books and the loss removed from Oklahoma’s record.
Nevermind that Oklahoma was only undefeated because of a bad call in the UAB game two weeks prior.
Nevermind that the Sooners had been gifted 11 points from the officials through multiple bad calls throughout the game prior to the onside kick.
Nevermind that it was Blair Phillips who blocked the field goal, not the officials.
Fact is, had Oregon not blocked the field goal at the end and Hartley had made the kick, there would not have been a peep out of the Oklahoma fans, coaches, or media about calls earlier in the game. It was only because Oklahoma lost minutes later that people pointed to the poor calls in the game made as soon as televisions clicked on across the nation before the onside kick.
It didn’t matter. In a case of perception meaning more than reality, over the coming days the media hung on to their belief that the Sooners had been robbed, and the Sooner fans joined into the fray. Adding fuel to the fire was the Pac-10 offices and commissioner Tom Hansen, who in his gross incompetence tried to quell the fervor by suspending the Pac-10 officials who had called the game and releasing a public statement that the officials had been incorrect in their rulings.
The result of these actions didn’t slow the outcry, it only added validity to the conspiracy theories. Cries of biased officials, a Nike conspiracy, and other lunacies were a daily occurrence. Oklahoma threatened to back out of a future matchup with Washington unless it was guaranteed that the game wouldn’t be officiated by a Pac-10 crew. Death threats were sent to the replay official Gordon Riese, who had to go into hiding and having police protection for months following the game.
But all the media controversy didn’t matter to the Ducks, who had ended the 0-6 streak. Seventh time was the charm, and the Ducks had beaten Oklahoma on the field, all the crying in the world from Bob Stoops to the media wasn’t going to change the outcome of the game in the record books.
“It was just one of those games…” Geoff Schwartz recalls. “Play hard to the end no matter what happens, play hard because you never know, you make your breaks by playing hard. I remember the crowd rushed the field and we had a huge celebration, it was a great feeling.”
While the party was going on at Autzen Stadium, it was a surreal time for Brent Haberly. Facing a season ending injury his senior year, Haberly would have surgery with screws and a metal plate installed in the hope that he could return to the field later in the season. With the reconstructed arm Haberly did manage to play again, eight weeks later, in the Civil War game.
As for the hero of the day Blair Phillips, his dad had been at the game to watch his son play, the first game he had seen Blair play at Autzen. “After I made the block everyone streamed onto the field and I thought I was going to mobbed, but everyone ran right past me to the middle of the field, nobody had any idea that I was the one who had blocked it. I started heading off the field, then ran back to find my dad in the stands. My dad came down and hugged me and told me good game. Everyone else was celebrating like crazy but not him, he had no reaction whatsoever. I told him I blocked the kick and he said ‘I know, I expected you to block it.’ I thought ‘ok well thanks dad.'”
Phillips continued, “I didn’t go out after the game, my dad and girlfriend and I all went out to Outback Steakhouse for a post game meal. We were there and a couple other guys from the team were as well. Everybody there was buzzing about the game, but still nobody knew I had made the block on the field goal. So Dante Rosario (Oregon senior tight end) is there and he decides to be a smart ass and announce to everyone that I was the one who blocked the kick, and suddenly everybody is coming over to shake our hands and talk to my dad and I’m thinking, ‘Dammit Dante, you asshole!’
While even to this day Oklahoma fans often lament about the referee screw job that day in Oregon, ignoring the hypocrisy of it in the wake of the UAB call and all the other calls that went in favor of Oklahoma, the game remains a key moment in Oregon history. Seventh time was the charm, and regardless of outside perception, the victory can never be taken away from the players who finally overcame and beat the Sooners.
“That was one of those things looking back where it put us on the national stage, and it made people realize that we could play football at Oregon, we were about more than just uniforms,” Blair Phillips recalls. “We never talked about what anybody else was saying about the win…it was a win, it was a W, and that was it. I didn’t care what anyone else said.”
Geoff Schwartz played right tackle for the Oregon Ducks from 2004 – 2007. One of the largest human beings to ever suit up for the Ducks, he was one of the key cogs to the powerful Oregon rushing machine that led the conference in rushing in 2007. Schwartz joined the Carolina Panthers, along with fellow Oregon Duck Jonathan Stewart, and is in his fourth season with the team. Schwartz is on injured reserve for the 2011-12 season due to hip surgery, but keeps busy as a writer for Outkick The Coverage. He is fondly remembered by Oregon fans for both his massive shoe size, quick wit, and lone carry in the 2007 USC game.
Brent Haberly grew up an Oregon Ducks fan in Sutherlin, OR, moving to Cottage Grove, OR in high school. He participated in multiple Nike Camps on the University of Oregon campus, gaining the attention of coaches who invited him to join the team as a walk-on in 2002. Haberly played extensively starting in 2005 and earned a scholarship with the team, becoming a key part of the Oregon defense. In the 2006 Oklahoma game he broke his arm, but returned to action at the end o the season. After sitting out a year, Haberly played in the Arena Football League with the Little Rock Twisters and the Stockton Wolves. Haberly now lives in Portland and works for Rose City Transportation and coaches high school football, while also doing radio analysis on 750AM The Game with Jay Allen in the fall on Oregon Ducks gamedays. Haberly and other former Oregon Ducks formed Oregon Football Association, a non-profit aimed at enhancing the lives of youth through sports training and mentoring.
Blair Phillips was born and raised in Oakland, CA. Part of a military family, the Phillips family moved often, changing location from Oakland to Chicago, Philadelphia, Mississippi, and eventually Alexandria, LA. He played junior college football at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he drew a lot of attention for his services but settled on joining the University of Oregon. Blair Phillips played middle linebacker for the Ducks in 2005 and 2006, leading the team in tackles his senior year. Phillips joined the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, then later joined the New York Jets. He then played several years of arena football in Arkansas and Cleveland, before returning to Alexandria, LA where he is now a teacher and high school football coach.