Below are excerpts from Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti's weekly press conference on Saturday's matchup against Oklahoma.
On what it means to have the home field advantage against Oklahoma
Bellotti: I liken it a lot to when we went back to Oklahoma. Their crowd was dressed in their colors and very supportive and very loud throughout the game. Autzen Stadium is a loud place to play, a tremendous fan base that fills every seat. This has been a game that's been talked about for several years since it was scheduled.
I think our fans and players have done a great job focusing one week at a time and not looking ahead to this game. But now that it's here, everybody can talk about it and get excited. It's an early game so the fans won't get too much of a jump on it. They'll just get there and cheer their hearts out and hopefully make it a great venue for both teams, in terms of a nationally ranked matchup between two top 20 teams.
On liking their chances to win at home against any opponent
Bellotti: I feel good about this football team. We won at home in a good first game for us. We won on the road in a difficult situation. I think it helped us get closer as a team and understand that we can match the physical nature of the game with anybody, and also handle a hostile environment.
We come home to Autzen, which is a great place to play. Oklahoma's a tremendous football program — great tradition, great program, undefeated and ranked and in the top 20 in the nation. That sounds like a heck of a game to me.
On their issues in the secondary having lost one of their starting corners for the season last week
Bellotti: We have issues in the secondary. We're down two corners from the start of camp and that was a position we could ill-afford to lose somebody. But I have a lot of confidence in the guys that we're going to try there.
I feel comfortable right now that we still have enough depth to do the things we want to do and have substitution groups that can match personnel.
On Oklahoma's defense
Bellotti: They're pretty disciplined and pretty well-coached. They don't beat themselves very often. They run a combination of man-blitz and zone-blitz, so they don't just sit in something static. We hope to utilize their speed against them. They flow very well, very fast. Hopefully, we can give them some mis-reads. But they don't beat themselves very often.
Their scheme is fairly simple in application, but as you look at it from the other side they can zone-blitz from the field, zone-blitz from the boundary, zone-blitz up the middle. They can man-blitz. Again, the athleticism and speed in which they come presents part of the problem.
This defense, do to some changes in the secondary that I've read about, I think that's (secondary) their only concern going in. I think they're playing very well up front and we need to find ways to find holes in that whole thing.
On Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon being athletic enough to match up well with OU's defense
Bellotti: There's no question that Dennis' athleticism matches up well with this team. He was very nervous against Oklahoma and it took him a while to get on track in the bowl game.
He is a much better field general now. He's more comfortable within the offense itself, understands the offense, understands what's going to happen. I think the game has slowed down for him based on his study and just his repetitions in it.
There's no question Dennis gives us the best opportunity in terms of matching up athletically.
On what has impressed him about Oklahoma quarterback Paul Thompson
Bellotti: Paul Thompson has a very quick release. Paul Thompson makes quick decisions, knows where to go with the ball. He's also a student of the game.
He has three interceptions, but one was tipped and one he was hit in the pocket as he threw.The other was stolen out of a receivers hands, so those are not very telling stats to me. He's thrown for as much or more yardage per game than Bomar. He has better statistics, in terms of touchdowns-interceptions, and is more mobile, faster and bigger.
And I think he's a fifth-year senior, so he has tremendous experience and tremendous dedication. The thing that's interesting to me is that their team is so solidly behind him when he wasn't the quarterback last year. That shows to me that he has that something special that earns the respect of his teammates.
But the thing I've noticed is he knows where to go with the ball, has a quick release, makes quick decisions and because of that is throwing the ball very well.
On if Oklahoma will bring the most pressure Dixon will have seen since he's become a starter
Bellotti: Well, he faced it last year in the bowl game. They did those same things, but they'll vary the pressure. And from what we've seen so far, they'll have something new. But it will be at a speed that is probably unmatched so far. Again, the best example is last year's bowl game.
On OU linebacker Rufus Alexander
Bellotti: He's a special player. He's so fast, so fast. He's an example of ... watching last year's bowl game the other day and we have a play going the other way and a lineman takes a cut-off angle and he's outside, makes the tackle and we don't even touch him.
I mean, it's like 'Oh my gosh'. He's so quick reacting and so agile in the open field. Again, he hits very well. He runs like a defensive back and hits like a defensive lineman. That's high praise, but he deserves it.
On if they'll scheme around Alexander
Bellotti: No, they all run that way. Their defense is predicated on speed. I think it's just we have to be aware or our angles — taking a greater angle for a play and or trying to utilize that speed against him, knowing where he's at and see if we can get him to pursue one way and we go the other.
On if this feels like a conference game having played Oklahoma the last two seasons
Bellotti: Yes and no. I think we have a greater comfort zone playing Oklahoma now. If you've looked at the relative scores, they're closer. We had chance to win last year the last time we played them.
There ought to be a certain amount of hunger on our part and a sense of confidence that we can plan with them. And then the hunger and desire to get over the hump and win the first game of the series.
On Oklahoma's secondary and what he thinks of the two players who replaced the starters in the second half against Washington
Bellotti: It's interesting because I think they gave up one 50-yard pass play against Washington, but the guy didn't score. I didn't see a lot of glaring things on film that we could take advantage of.
I think, obviously, as coaches who know what they want, the Oklahoma coaches made those decisions based on things we don't know about — what they're asking from a scheme standpoint or a responsibility standpoint. I just noticed that because I know that they replaced the boundary corner in the starting line up.
They must be displeased, but I didn't see a lot of negative things that I would be all that worried about. But I only know that because the other positions seem to be so well-manned and they have so many standouts there.
On Adrian Peterson compared to Fresno State running back Dwayne Wright, who rushed for 156 yards against them last week
Bellotti: I don't think believe he has the patience (of Wright), but that lack of patience scares you because he'll bounce it to the outside and he has the speed to go all the way. He's a faster back than Wright.
They're both very powerful, can break tackles and are dangerous tackle to tackle, but Adrian Peterson, when he gets outside is very difficult to tackle one-on-one in the open field and has the speed to go all the way.
Their offensive line is slightly different, bigger. Probably more athletic.
On what it will take to stop Peterson
Bellotti: You have to stop Peterson from getting to the outside. He likes to get outside and he's very difficult to tackle out there in space. I'd rather keep him between the tackles as long as we can shore that up.
Peterson can run wherever he wants. He's very capable of hurting you inside as well as outside. To me, it scares me a little more if he gets on the edge. He's a big, physical running back who has tremendous finishing speed and it's tough for a DB, one-on-one, to tackle him. So I'd rather keep him inside where we can gang tackle.
I think the key, and we did a very good job in the bowl game, was stopping him from getting started in the open field. Get him stopped in the backfield, but now we've got to wrap up because some of his biggest plays in the bowl game were after we had stopped him.
*Note* Bellotti said the he fully expects running back Jonathan Stewart to be 100 percent healthy by Saturday.
Bellotti on Oklahoma
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