One more opportunity in Tempe

Oregon will face Arizona State at Tempe this Saturday and Head Coach Mike Bellotti hopes the Ducks will stop their losing slide before the bye week. The Ducks coming off a loss to Utah last Friday night in a game that Bellotti characterized as winnable look to the Sun Devil game as a good start for the second half of the season.

The Ducks have done some soul searching according to Bellotti in his weekly telephone conference. The team conducted a players-only meeting after the regular team meeting yesterday in order to find some solutions to their losing streak. Offensive center Dan Weaver came to Bellotti and told him of the meeting. The significance of the All Pac-10 performer organizing the meeting is not lost as Bellotti pointed out that the main problem the Ducks have now is controlling the offensive line of scrimmage. Last week the Ducks had the ball nearly 10 minutes less than the Utes in the 17-13 loss to Utah. Oregon was only 4-of-14 in 3rd down conversions and gave up five sacks. Even worse, Duck ball carriers only rushed for 80 yards and 27 of those yards were gained by a scrambling quarterback, Jason Fife. In the first four games of the season, the quarterback combination of Kellen Clemens and Fife did not throw an interception. However, in the last two games the pair has thrown eight interceptions. In the first four games the running game averaged 180.75 yards per game, but in the last two games that average dropped to and anemic 67.0 ypg.

"(The) biggest problem is the line of scrimmage," commented Bellotti in addressing what is going wrong for the Ducks.

This week's game will be a return match up between two programs that are very similar in nature. ASU Head Coach Dirk Koetter was the offensive coordinator at Oregon in 1996-97. His assistant head coach Tom Osborne was also on the Oregon coaching staff 1995-2000. The similarities don't stop there, as ASU is also in a losing slide of its own. After starting off the season with wins over Northern Arizona and Utah State, the bottom fell out as the Sun Devils were only able to score a safety against Iowa in a 21-2 loss. The next week the Devils traveled to Corvallis and were beaten by the Beavers 45-17 and last week they lost 37-17 to USC at home. The Sun Devils are searching for a receiver to be able to replace Shaun McDonald. Dayrl Lightfoot is the player that the ASU coaching staff would like to emerge in Bellotti's opinion, but so far has not. Lightfoot has appeared in three games this season and has yet to get untracked. He has six catches for 68 yards, the longest for 25 yards and no touchdowns. Skyler Fulton is the leading Sun Devil receiver with 23 catches for 338 yards and four touchdowns. ASU has four receivers that have double figures in catches this year, yet no one has had a big game.

"Lightfoot has been the explosive guy...I hope in our game nobody becomes that (explosive) guy," said Bellotti talking about ASU's big play athletes.

Andrew Walter had the biggest day of his career last year against the Ducks throwing for 536 yards on 31 completion of 53 attempts and four touchdowns in a game that saw Oregon leading at one point by 21 points only to lose 45-42. So far this season, the junior signal caller from Grand Junction, Colorado is averaging 239.4 yards per game passing, thrown nine touchdowns and has been picked off six times. Does Walter think that he will repeat his performance this year?

"Last year against Oregon, to play at their stadium, and be down by 21 and come back to win was exciting," Walter said in the ASU weekly press conference. "This year, we're not as much of a big-play offense. I think we have the capability, but so far we haven't done it."

Oregon's goal this week is to take each day, one day at a time. Bellotti said that yesterday's (Monday) practice was good and the goal for today is to have another good practice. Things for the Ducks might be helped out with the return of tight end Tim Day and running back Chris Vincent. Both are expected to be available and play against Arizona State. Bellotti also had good things to say about the play of Rodney Woods at corner back. Woods started for the first time last week against Utah, filling in for an injured Justin Phinisee. Bellotti indicated he was pleased with Woods' performance in his first start and that Woods has shown steady improvement this year.

The attitude of the team is good and that is a positive in a program that has not had a lot of good news in the last two weeks.

"The attitude at yesterday's meeting and practice was very good...showed a determination that I liked," said Bellotti of the Ducks.

Some have wondered if the difference in temperature between Eugene and Tempe will be cause for concern. Bellotti indicated that the team might go inside the Moshofsky Center and turn up the heat to simulate the conditions of Kush Stadium in Tempe. However, Bellotti feels his team is in good physical shape and will rely on a hydration regime starting on Thursday to be able to withstand the possible hot temperatures on Saturday. In fact, Bellotti pointed out that the Ducks were delayed in their arrival at Salt Lake City last week because of lightning storms in Phoenix. The team seemed less effected by the travel delays at the end of the game and Bellotti described the Ducks as sluggish at the beginning of the Utah game.

Oregon can not afford to be sluggish against Arizona State. A loss at this stage of the season could be devastating for the second half of the season. The Ducks will have a bye next week but this week is a chance to stop a losing slide and get back into the Pac-10 race.

Kickoff for the Saturday's game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. The game will be carried on ABC.

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