Who will be dancing and where?
"I've said all year long to play with a chip on our shoulder, not anything to do with the Washington game," said Bellotti. "It is about playing hungry."
Last week in his weekly telephone conference that is streamed over the Internet, Bellotti emphasized that the turnover/takeaway ratio is a critical factor along with performing and executing assignments in realizing success. This week it was like a repeat of last Tuesday's conference -- takeaways and turnovers.
The Ducks are feeling much better this week after beating Stanford 35-0 in front of 57,000 homecoming fans. The Ducks were able to break a three-game losing streak and along the way found that if they execute their assignments good things will happen. Oregon had 458 total yards on offense including a revived running game that saw sophomore Terrence Whitehead rush for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Significantly the two quarterbacks, Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife were impressive on a combined 23-of-27 passing for 265 yards and no interceptions. Defensively, the Ducks were at their finest recording the first Pac-10 shutout in Bellotti's career and highlighted by what may long be remembered as THE STAND. The Ducks managed to hold Stanford out of the end zone seven times despite the ball being place inside the one-yard line on several of those attempts. Bellotti hopes that his players will long remember the effort.
"It was an awesome display of pride and determination," accessed Bellotti. "To do it not just three plays but seven plays... it is something I hope we can build on for the rest of the season."
The Ducks had used the bye week effectively prior to the Stanford game. The Oregon coaching staff had hoped to reinstill the fun of playing football back into a team that was devastated with three horrible losses. Bellotti reminded his coaches and team of a central reason for a player playing the game and that is to have fun with the game. Too many times after a string of losses, a team will become so intent and serious that they lose their positive emotion for the game. Bellotti thinks restoring that positive emotion is benefitial and the emotion acts as the twelfth man on the field.
"A lot of times we lose track of why the young men are out there," Bellotti observed.
The task at hand this week is going to be a tough one. The Huskies are reeling from their own loss last week to No. 5 USC, 43-23. Washington is 4-4 for the season and 2-2 in the Pac-10 race. The Huskies were unable to stop the Trojan running game. The men from Troy rushed for 214 net yards on 43 carries and picked up an additional 351 passing yards. Meanwhile, the Washington offense sputtered with the running game with 87 yards but the passing game was more respectable with senior quarterback Cody Pickett throwing 22-for-42, 274 yards, one touchdown and one interception. That touchdown reception was by the Ducks nemesis, Reggie Williams. Williams had a nine receptions for 115 yards last week. The star of the game in Washington's win over Oregon State, Charles Frederick had four catches for 57 yards last week but suffered a shoulder injury and Washington Head Coach Keith Gilbertson has not yet ruled Frederick out of the Oregon game.
"We are going to wait a day until we make a final determination," Gilberton said in his weekly media conference on Monday. "He (Frederick) says he feels much better than he did on Saturday."
For the season Pickett has thrown for 2,187 yards on 170-for-298, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His leading receiver is Williams, who has 58 catches for 776 yards and seven touchdowns. Should Frederick be available he would bring his 39 catches, 586 yards and touchdowns onto field and something more for an Oregon secondary that has been tested all year long. Even without Frederick, Williams alone is a more that a challenge. Bellotti thinks Williams is a great athlete and a tremendous force. However, Gilbertson is not quite ready to figure the Ducks will be easy pickings just by throwing the long ball and said so Monday.
"It certainly didn't look like that in the Stanford game," responded Gilbertson to a question about Oregon's secondary vulnerability. "I think we all have balance in our passing game, we have always strive for that. We don't want to be too one-dimensional in anything we do throwing the football."
The Washington running game has not been as impressive the last two seasons as their passing attack. That is not to say it should be taken lightly however. Last year, Rich Alexis broke out against the Ducks for 122 yards and two touchdowns. This year Alexis has 566 yards on 138 carries and four touchdowns. Alexis was knocked out of the Oregon State game and his two backups Kenny James and Shelton Sampson brought speed and running ability to mix.
"They (Husky running backs) do a decent job," noted Bellotti. "A lot of it is set up by the pass. We have to be prepared for that."
Clearly though, the player Bellotti is concerned with is Pickett. Bellotti describes the Husky signal caller as being mobile and very fast. Bellotti is impressed with Washington's awareness between Pickett and his receivers. If in trouble, Pickett is able to dump the ball off quickly to a receiver in a hot route and that concerns the Oregon headman. If Oregon can not contain the run game and keep track of Williams it could be a long night at Husky stadium with Pickett being able to scramble out of trouble and find receivers.
The Ducks will again employ the two quarterback system and should have a healthy Samie Parker back in the hunt to follow up his 8-for-118 yard performance last week against Stanford. Demetrius Williams had two catches for 44 yards, but the third receiver available for the Washington game is somewhat of a mystery. Kellen Taylor had been the third receiver coming in, but he broke his wrist on a special team's play against Arizona State. Even though Taylor did play last week as a receiver, no passes were thrown his way. Marcus Maxwell was the first man in last week and had six catches for 43 yards including two first down conversions. Maxwell hurt his shoulder against Stanford and his availability is not likely and so the third man in may be Taylor or a true freshman. That true freshman could either be Kyle Weatherspoon or Jordan Carey. Also on the injury front, two offensive linemen are still showing signs of injuries that put them on the sidelines last Saturday. Robin Knebel (concussion) and Mike DeLagrange (back spasms) are day to day, but Bellotti feels satisfied that the Ducks have answers for the loss of the two big men. Ian Reynoso drew the coach's praise for his play against Stanford and Bellotti thinks redshirt freshman Shawn Perkins can fill in too.
A factor that can affect both teams is the sudden cooling temperatures in the Northwest. The weather has been unseasonably warm this fall and if the thermometer drops down that may impact on how well the passing games for both teams are able to go. Bellotti noticed that Washington like Oregon has been very successful when the turnover-to-takeaway ratio has been in their favor, but if the ball bounces the wrong way it could be a very different story for which ever team turns the ball over more. Consequently, Bellotti wants his team to take care for the ball and his team is focusing on solid execution during practice this week.
Finally in addressing the incident of the Huskies post-game celebration last year Bellotti chose his words carefully. He does not want his team to do something like that (dancing on a team's icon) and is not encouraging his players to do so.
"We all want to celebrate after a win," noted Bellotti. "It is just where you do it."
Nothing would do more good for the Huskies state of mind than a win over the Ducks, and for the Ducks a win over the Huskies would be a major step in salvaging this season with a road win over an arch enemy. The Ducks' morale was strengthened last week with a shutout, but as Bellotti pointed out that there are lots of reasons to feel good with a blow out win. Stanford is very young and has struggled all season long. The Huskies have beaten a very good Oregon State team. In many ways, the Ducks and Huskies are very similar and this season has had some real ups and downs for both teams. The Ducks beat a highly ranked Big-10 team in Michigan while the Huskies lost to Ohio State. Does that mean anything at all? Other than some "one upsmanship" on the message boards it mean nothing, and since few players and coaches post online then it is safe to assume the season's records for either team mean little. What is important is which team executes its game plan and plays the entire 60 minutes. There are scores to settle and much left to accomplish this season for both teams.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Husky Stadium and the game will be carried live on TBS.
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