Michigan Win Important but now WSU

How important was the win over Michigan for the Oregon Ducks? Head Coach Mike Bellotti thinks that while it was important that in reality it was only the fourth game of the season and the Ducks will have to maintain the same intensity and focus they did prior to the Michigan game for further success. Bellotti answered media questions on Tuesday morning in his weekly telephone conference.

Oregon will resume Pac-10 competition next Saturday at Autzen Stadium when the defending conference champion Washington State Cougars come to town. Washington State is 3-1 on the season and the Saturday game is their conference opener.

While last week's win in Autzen may have the feel of a bowl win for the fans, the Oregon headman focused on the remainder of the season and indicated that Oregon's goal is to win the Pac-10 championship. Bellotti is glad that the defending Pac-10 champion is upcoming as he feels the challenge will be motivation for his team to avenge last year's loss and keep the focus and intensity on high for the next game. That is not to say that the coach is dismissing the Michigan win.

"We take it (the Michigan win) as a positive step," said Bellotti.

Oregon, 4-0 in the season and 1-0 in Pac-10 play can erase the bad memory from last year with a win over WSU. Last season, the Cougars defeated the Ducks 32-21 at Pullman in a game that Oregon actually led in the third quarter of play. Gone from last season's Cougar team is Jason Gesser and in place is fifth-year senior Matt Kegel. Last week in a 23-13 win over New Mexico, Kegal was 29-of-42 for 346 yards. For the season, Kegal is 80-for-135, 1038 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.

"His passing numbers have gone up every single game," said Bellotti. "I think he's probably not the biggest surprise, but in a conference known for great quarterbacks Matt Kegal has done as well as anybody in the conference."

The Ducks will also have to contend with two big running backs from Washington State in Chris Bruhn, 6-3, 205 and Jermaine Green, 5-11, 220. Brahn has 187 yards on 24 rushes or a 7.8-yard per carry average. Green, who burned Oregon last year for 180 yards, so far has 160 yards on 60 carries or a 3.2-yard per carry average. The leading rusher this year for WSU is Jonathan Smith, 5-10, 190, who has carried the 54 times for 302 yards (5.6 ypc), however none of the rushers have scored a touchdown. Bellotti thinks the WSU running attack will offer a different challenge for the Ducks than did Michigan. The Ducks defense according to Bellotti, "will have to tackle well and wrap-up" the big WSU running backs.

The weekly question regarding the two quarterback system the Ducks are now using caused Oregon's coach to heap praise on both sophomore Kellen Clemens and senior Jason Fife. So far in the season, the two have combined for 77-of-120, 1105 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. Bellotti indicates that each week the Oregon coaching staff prepares plays for Clemens and plays for Fife. Both players have been working in the two quarterback system since last season and Bellotti quickly pointed out that the two are the first people every time, when one or the other comes off the field, to shake each other's hand. Bellotti is very pleased with Clemens' development and though Clemens has started each game this season, the Dean of the Pac-10 coaches is not calling Fife a second-stringer.

"I don't refer to Jason as a reserve or second-string," remarked Bellotti. "He's a starter in my mind."

Oregon's running game has been by committee also, and for Bellotti the results are very satisfying. The combined efforts of Terrence Whitehead, Chris Vincent, Ryan Shaw and Kenny Washington have accounted for over 180 yards of rushing per game. The Ducks are able to show a multi-dimensional offense and Bellotti is pleased.

"I actually like the ability to rotate the running backs," said Bellotti. "I think that is an added plus."

Oregon is now ranked No. 10 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the ESPN/Coaches Poll. Bellotti has mentioned several times that he is more concerned about how his team is ranked at the end of the season, but he did wonder about the logic of how his team could be rated in the Coaches Poll behind a team it has defeated. What bothers Bellotti is that possibly the Coaches poll could effect what bowl a team would play. Bellotti wonders about what effect the voting in the Coaches poll has not only for Oregon but other BCS conferences as well.

"Those things can have an effect down the road," observed Bellotti. "More than I'd like them to be."

Bellotti was asked what effects the new improvements to the lockerroom and the big win over Michigan would have on recruiting. The head coach said that 45 prospective recruits attended the Michigan game as well as potential recruits for the basketball and track programs. A win over a high profile program like Michigan does have a positive effect on recruiting and Bellotti hopes the Oregon facilities will be part of the decision making process of recruits when they take their official visit. However, Bellotti also hopes the recruits want to become part of the team and relate to the current players as well.

The Ducks' offensive line played very well last week and offensive tackle Adam Snyder was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week. Bellotti thinks that the same starting line-up of Snyder, Nick Steitz, Dan Weaver, Ian Reynoso and Robin Knebel will be the starting five this week too. A healthy Mike Delagrange will give them another body to rotate into the offensive line. Bellotti would like seven or eight players available for line play.

Oregon's game with Washington State is slated to kickoff at 12:30 p.m. and will be carried regionally on ABC.

To listen to the complete telephone conference click on Oregonlive.com. The teleconference can also be viewed and heard at GoDucks.com.

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