Ducks go Cougar hunting.

"Our psyche is good," said Head Coach Mike Bellotti at his weekly telephone press conference. After losing a heart breaking game to Stanford at Autzen stadium last week, the Ducks now take on the Cougars of Washington State in what will be the toughest game of the season for Oregon so far.

For the first six games of the season the Ducks have been the favored team, however this Saturday will be different. The Cougars are ranked 14th in the AP poll and are 7-0 so far this season. The pressure of contending for a shot for the national championship may be off the Ducks and Joey Harrington, but they will have to contend with a ferocious Cougar defense.

"You have to stay out of obvious pass situations against Washington State," said Bellotti. WSU's defense has racked up 26 sacks this season. WSU's starting secondary for Oregon has a collective 68 starts and 29 interceptions - seniors Lamont Thompson (28 starts, 17 interceptions) and Billy Newman (30, 8), and sophomores Jason David (6, 1) and Eric Coleman (4, 3). Trying to rush against the Cougars is also tough as they have allowed only 652 net rushing yards in the first seven games and are ranked 13th nationally at 93.14 yards per game.

"I think the improvement on the Washington State team is more on defense," said Bellotti.

On offense Washington State Head Coach has cause to be very excited though his leading rusher may be sidelined with a knee problem. Senior Dave Minnich had surgery on his knee two weeks ago and it could be a game time decision on whether he will be available. Minnich has had three games this season that he has rushed for at least 100-yards. Minnich had 195-yards on 34 carries against Oregon State. "Dave Mimmich has been one of the forces of that team," said Bellotti.

Quarterback Jason Guesser already has had a 432 yard passing game game against Cal this year. Guesser is described as a very daring by Bellotti has dangerous receivers in Mike Bush and Nakoa McElrath. Bush, a junior turned out for the Cougar football team last spring. Bush who also plays for the Cougar hoopsters, has started all six games this season for the football team and is ranked 22nd nationally and is second in the Pac-10, averaging 86.71 receiving yards per game.

Bellotti isn't ready to throw in the towel against Washington State. When asked about Harrington's chances at the Heisman trophy being spoiled by last week's loss, Bellotti thought Harrington and the rest of the Ducks will be ready to go against the Cougars.

"Joey has done a good job of handling everything thrown at him this year," said Bellotti.

When asked if Harrington will be challenged by the prospect playing opposite Guesser this Saturday, Bellotti though Harrington will be looking for a win. "I don't think Joey cares a lick about stats or who he is playing against," said Bellotti. "His goal is for us to win."

Will the cold and wind of Eastern Washington have an affect on the Ducks? "We don't worry about it," said Bellotti. Bellotti felt both teams had to play in the conditions and that neither team will have an advantage because of the weather.

The game will be televised nationally on ABC starting at 4:00 PM PDT.

Keenan Howry was named Pac-10 player for the week last week for his performance against Stanford. Howry had 338 all-purpose yards. Howry now is the team leader with an average of 111.7 all-purpose yards. Onterrio Smith is right behind Howry with an average of 111.6 all-purpose yards per game.

Five players have scored five or more touchdowns so far this season. Justin Peelle has scored eight, Maurice Morris has scored seven, Keenan Howry and Joey Harrington have scored six and Onterrio Smith has scored five touchdowns.

Wesly Mallard leads the Oregon defense with 48.5 tackles per game. David Morretti is the second leading tackler with 39.0 tackles per game.

The Ducks will be the hunter instead of the hunted against Washington State. The Cougars have been anxiously awaiting the contest after they had lost in overtime last season to the Ducks. Oregon had received much preseason publicity and the fall to Stanford last week may have caused the Ducks to refocus on their play. Bellotti has indicated that the Ducks have had a good week of practice and some changes have been made as the Ducks make their way north and east to Pullman. Will the Ducks get back on the winning track?

"It is easier to be the hunter," said Bellotti.

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