The Defense's Day

The Oregon Ducks held their annual spring football game/scrimmage in Autzen Stadium on Saturday afternoon and to the astonishment of many, the defense showed up while the offense stayed away. The Oregon coaching staff used a complicated scoring system that allowed the defense more opportunities to score points than customary. However, what was indisputable was that the Green team (offense) could only score one touchdown all day long.

"It was a dominating performance by the defense today, they did a great job of playing the possession downs, third and fourth down," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti of defensive team's effort. " (They) came up with a lot of key plays, came up with some turnovers and takeaways."

It would be unfair to call the scrimmage a game, not in the sense of a game played on fall afternoons. The coaching staff controlled the Ducks fifteenth spring practice. The offense and defense stayed on the field for the entire two-hour workout with only limited substitutions, primarily the quarterbacks and some other skill players. For the big offensive and defensive linemen it was a different story. The offensive line was down to eight players and the heat on the warm spring day took its toll on the big uglies of the line.

"We didn't perform as we wanted nor do what we wanted," said an exhausted offensive guard Josh Tschirgi. "But we each did take a lot of reps ."

Even though the offensive line struggled, the defense seemed invigorated. Robby Valenzuela, Matt Toeaina, Chris Solomona, Darius Sanders, Nuvraj Bassi and, yes, Nate LiaBraaten, were at full speed on each play. Valenzuela recorded a team high five tackles including three tackles for loss, with one sack. Bellotti had praise for the senior defensive tackle along with other defenders.

"Guys like Ramone Reed, Jerry Matson, Matt Toeaina and Robby Valenzuela made plays and made it a difficult day for the quarterbacks, " cited Bellotti . "Aaron Gipson had some big plays in the secondary…he's back in my mind."

If a final score means anything in a spring contest, then the 124-43 score was impressive, even though a more realistic score in a real game would have limited the Oregon offense to a Johnny DuRocher touchdown run of four yards, and that came late in the day. Bellotti was not as hard on his offensive squad and pointed out a number of players having good efforts.

"Kellen (Clemens) did a very nice job actually, better than the stats would indicate," Bellotti observed. "Ryan Shaw had a couple of runs, one called back. He's a power back and he's going to get stronger as the game goes on."

Bellotti also praised Demetrius Williams, calling the wide receiver a "playmaker."

Overall, the spring was good for the Ducks. The team came out of the workouts healthy and to Bellotti's knowledge none of his team will be ruled out for fall camp due to injury. Several starters including defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive end Devan Long and running back Terrence Whitehead were held out of all the scrimmages this spring. When August rolls around, the Ducks will have 29 more bodies to throw into the mix as the largest recruiting class and maybe the most celebrated in Oregon history arrives on campus.

"We were without three starters on each side of the ball that I think will make a huge difference in the fall," said Bellotti. "I also think the incoming recruiting class will be heard from,"

The spring-summer months prior to fall camp may be the most important time for this team in preparation for next fall. The team leaves the spring practice field and heads back into the weight room, and to Bellotti this is where the success of the program lies.

"The spring-summer preparatory period is the most important for a football season," said Bellotti. "A lot of it is done on their own; a lot of that is them pushing each other and I believe that's been one of the corner stones of our winning football seasons for a long time is the commitment we see from our kids in the summer."

Long hours and heavy weights. That will be the difference maker for a successful team. The spring game showed a defense ready to play and an offense needing some work. May, June and July will be the offense and defense's opportunity to build on the spring.

STATISTICS:

RUSHING: Shaw, 8-53; Vincent, 8-19; Hazel, 1-13; Dixon, 6-18; Rosario, 3-11.

PASSING: DuRocher, 14-8-0 68 yds; Clemens, 10-4-1 50 yds; Leaf, 4-2-0 10 yds; Dixon, 4-3-0 36 yds.

RECEIVING: Kause, 3-78; Williams, 3-43; Strong, 2-19.

DEFENSE

Valenzula, 5-2-7 tackles, 3/9 TFL, 1.0/6 Sack; Spates, 4-2-6 tackles, 1 FF, 1 BrUp; Phinisee, 4-0-4 tackles, 1 BrUp.

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