SEATTLE, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- After a disappointing regular season that began with high expectations, Oregon faces Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl Monday.
The Ducks hope to have 1,000-yard rusher Onterrio Smith back in the lineup. Smith missed three of Oregon's final four games and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Nov. 18 to repair a partial cartilage tear in his right knee.
Prior to the injury, the junior tailback surpassed the century mark for the second straight year, rushing for 1,079 yards -- an average of 119 yards per game.
Coming off the first 11-win season in school history and a victory over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl that cemented a No. 2 national ranking, the Ducks reeled off six straight wins to start this year and were ranked as high as sixth.
But a shaky defense, along with Smith's absence, contributed to Oregon's late-season slump. The Ducks dropped five of their last six regular season games and take a three-game losing streak to Seattle.
Oregon allowed more than 40 points in four of its five losses. It ended the year with setbacks to Washington State (32-21), Washington (42-14) and Oregon State (45-24).
Jason Fife took over for Joey Harrington and completed 189 of 357 passes for 2,748 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Keenan Howry earned first-team Pac-10 Conference honors, grabbing 35 passes for a team-high 734 yards and five touchdowns.
Wake Forest (6-6), which closed the regular season with a 32-14 loss to Maryland, gets another shot at recording consecutive winning years for the first time since 1987-88. The Demon Deacons led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing and ranked eighth nationally, averaging 202.3 yards per game.
James MacPherson passed for 1,596 yards and six touchdowns while Tarrence Williams paced Wake Forest on the ground with 799 yards.
Defensive end Calvin Pace became the first Wake Forest player to earn first-team All-America honors since 1992. He has a school-record 53 career tackles for losses and 29 sacks, one shy of Michael McCrary's team mark. Pace is nursing a leg injury, but is expected to play against Oregon.
Wake Forest is making just its sixth bowl appearance, but has won three in a row and is 3-2 all-time in the postseason. Oregon has won its last three bowl appearances to improve to 7-9.
In the previous meeting between the teams, Wake Forest posted a 35-39 victory in the 1992 Independence Bowl.