Bellotti concerned about Sooners' speed

Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti talks about his Ducks' matchup with OU in the Holiday Bowl.

See below for quotes from Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti on Thursday's Holiday Bowl matchup against Oklahoma.

On playing their best football at the end of the season

Bellotti: Well, they have the best defense we'll have faced this year by far. It's not even close. They're very fast, very physical. The quickness and speed they have in the back seven is really amazing, and they're relentless up front on the defensive line.

I think their sixth in the nation against the run and 16th overall in total defense. Plus, they have a healthy Adrian Peterson, which makes a huge difference because that's something that you have to, every play, be aware of where he is, take proper pursuit angles and work very hard to stay alive and help make that tackle because one person can't take him down.

Overall, they won five or their last six and the one loss was a very close game against Texas Tech. So, they're playing at a much higher level than they did early in the season. They had a bump, but that happens sometimes when you have to change quarterbacks and go with a younger quarterback.

For us, we need to be healthy and get our quarterbacks ready. My big goal for this game is to prepare our quarterbacks to see the speed of which their defense is going to come.

On OU quarterback Rhett Bomar

Bellotti: He's much improved. I think he's got eight or 10 games under his belt now as a starter. I'm sure that this added practice for him is immeasurable in terms of the steps he can take.

Just to see things and get to watch film for three to four weeks and prepare for an opponent is a tremendous advantage. So, I would expect us to see an improved quarterback.

On what worries him most about the Sooners

Bellotti: The speed of their defense overall and what they do. Schematically, they mix a lot of zone blitz with man blitz and they can put pressure on you. They create fumbles. They've got a lot of fumbles and picked them up.

I think you have to be aware that they can come and get you at any time. Hopefully, our spread offense slows that down a little bit or makes them come from distance.

I think what we have to do is prove that we can match that speed or negate that speed to a degree.

On having the opportunity to go 11-1 with a win in the Holiday Bowl and tie the best record in school history

Bellotti: Any time you can tie the best record in school history, it's a pretty special occasion.

I think the other thing is, against a team with the tradition of Oklahoma much like when we played Texas, they've been to many, many bowl games. They've been national champions, and they've competed for the national championship three out of the last five years. They're a great football program and a great team. Like I said, they had a rough start but they've smoothed that out and they're going full guns right now.

For us, this group of young men are really amazing in what they've accomplished in terms of hanging together, pulling together, losing our starting quarterback and everybody finding a way to sort of pick up that slack, and having great senior leadership.

On Oregon having a great defense like Oklahoma, with defensive tackle with Haloti Ngata and their improved secondary

Bellotti: The improvement on this football team this year came in the second half of the game against Stanford, and it came because of our defense. Our defense played with greater intensity, finished plays and that made a whole difference in the season.

I think that was a turning point in my mind after a lackluster second half against USC, in which we were very disappointed in our performance. We came back and sort of sleepwalked in the first half against Stanford, and all of the sudden something clicked and our kids understood the intensity with which they needed to play.

We still need to pick up the speed every single play because, again, with a great back like Adrian Peterson I think you have to have all 11 guys staying alive, staying on their feet and pursuing to the football. Again, that's going to be imperative for us to have success.

On going to the Holiday Bowl

Bellotti: It's a great game. Obviously, us having around 35 players from Southern California, it's like going home for them. So, they're really excited.

On last two fifth-ranked teams losing in the Holiday Bowl after getting snubbed by the BCS

Bellotti: Certainly, there's always the avenue for disappointment. We're past that because we educated our kids to the situation before it even happened.

At one point and time, based on the UCLA-USC game, we could go to the Fiesta, Holiday or Sun Bowl. So, in all honesty we feel good about this. We took a straw poll of our players before all the bowls went out and asked where they'd like to play, and they picked San Diego No. 1.

Again, I think that's partly because of the hometown situation. Plus, those people are aware of the experience we had. We enjoyed it tremendously the time before. It was a great game, great things to do, great area to be in.

On the comparisons of Oregon QB Brady Leaf to former NFL QB and brother Ryan

Bellotti: I don't see any similarity. They're different people, different places, different times, and different teams.

Brady looks like his brother, there's no question about that. He throws a little like him. Ryan was one of the greatest athletes I every played against or coached against.

He had issues, obviously, but Brady doesn't have those issues. And Brady probably learned from his brothers' situation. Also, they're different personalities. I think Brady should be judged on what he does for this program and this team.

On the loss of quarterback Kellen Clemens during the season and the decision to go to a two-quarterback system with Dennis Dixon and Leaf

Bellotti: It's somewhat unique. I think a lot of people in college football don't think you can do that.

We've done it before with much success. It's not something you necessarily won't to do but when they can play and compete against each other, I really feel like the competition enhances performance. It really keeps kids moving, keeps them going.

You don't think twice about playing two tailbacks or two wide receivers, but we can play two quarterbacks. Both of these young men can play, bring certain attributes to the game and contribute to the win. The team supports them and they support each other. Those are the intangibles that have to occur for you to play two quarterbacks.

Brady will play. How much? I don't know at this point. Dennis is our starter, Brady's our backup. They will both play. The amount to which a backup will play will be depending on the game itself and how we practice the next couple days.


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