"We are lacking some explosive playmakers on offense right now that we had two years ago, (i.e. Samie Parker, George Wrighster and Onterrio Smith)," said Bellotti during his weekly media conference. "We have better depth (at those positions) now we need to continue to develop within the scheme of what we are doing."
Bellotti outlined four points he felt Oregon needed to accomplish in order to beat ASU. The Sun Devils, a team that demolished the Ducks last season, 59-14, holds a two-game win streak over the Oregon. To beat ASU, the Ducks will need to protect the ball, not allow Andrew Walter to throw for more than 300 yards, find ways of scoring on offense and have better special teams play.
Bellotti spoke before the weekly Coaches Pac-10 media conference and the weekly Oregon media conference. Both events were streamed live on oregonlive.com.
Oregon (1-2) is coming off a 48-10 win over an out manned Idaho Vandals team last week, and according to Bellotti, the focus of the Ducks now intensifies as they face their first Pac-10 opponent. Arizona State, is 4-0 for the season with a big win last week over Oregon State, 27-14, at Tempe. The Sun Devils also beat Iowa, 44-7, and Bellotti thinks the most impressive thing about ASU is their improvement on defense. In the first four games this season, ASU has allowed 51 points or 12.7 points per game while scoring 142 points or 35.5 points per game. Senior quarterback Andrew Walter is, in Bellotti's estimation, the best quarterback the Ducks will have faced this season, including 2003 Heisman Trophy winner Jason White of Oklahoma.
Walter is 84-156, 1,085 yards, 12 touchdowns and impressively only one interception. Walter's leading receiver is Derek Hagan who has 31 catches for 451 yards and four touchdowns with a long catch of 47 yards. Terry Richardson is the second leading receiver with 19 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns. True freshman tight end Zach Miller has lived up to his five-star billing with 12 catches for 113 yards and three touchdowns. Moey Mutz has 10 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown. Walter is certainly no stranger to Autzen Stadium and had a monumental game there. Last year he threw for 316 yards on an 18-for-28 performance with three touchdowns. Hagen also had a big day last year catching seven passes for 108 yards and one touchdown. Although Walter admits that each team the Sun Devils have faced this year have shown something different defensively, there is one thing he is expecting at Oregon.
"Autzen is definitely the loudest (stadium) and they are making noise from the moment we step out onto the field," said Walter at ASU's Monday's media conference of the Autzen atmosphere. "That makes it more fun."
While most spectators may focus on how well Arizona State is doing this year, Bellotti is focusing on what the Ducks are doing. So far this season, the Ducks dropped a very disappointing game to Indiana, 30-24, followed up by losing to Oklahoma at Norman, 31-7. The Ducks turned the ball over seven times to Indiana in a game that Bellotti feels the Ducks had no business losing. The story was much different the next week against the No. 2 ranked Sooners. While the Ducks showed improvement over the first week, and stayed competitive for three-quarters, the effort evaporated in the fourth quarter and the Ducks were unable to capitalize on several scoring opportunities. Last week against Idaho, in a game the Ducks should have won -- they did. So far the young Ducks have played well in spots, but Bellotti is still looking for consistency and more playmakers. Bellotti pinpoints Tim Day, who is nearly recovered from off-season foot surgery, Terrence Whitehead, Dante Rosario and Demetrius Williams as the primary playmakers. The Oregon headman would like to see more players from the ranks of Marcus Miller, Brian Paysinger, Garren Strong and freshman Cameron Colvin. Quarterback Kellen Clemens has had decent numbers so far with a total of 59-of-99, 653 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Clemens made a couple of errors against Indiana, but since then has played well and despite some criticism in the media, Bellotti is still behind is quarterback.
"I think Kellen is a winner," commented Bellotti. "He's a leader."
After the Oklahoma game, one of the Sooner defensive linemen suggested that Oregon's offensive line is soft, a suggestion that Bellotti has used to motivate his offensive line.
The Oregon special team's play is under scrutiny since the Indiana contest because of turnovers on punt returns. The Ducks managed to fumble two successive punt returns, giving the Hoosiers excellent field position. The Oregon kicking game seemed also weak because of poor punts, but that seems to have improved last week when junior David Dittman took over the primary punting duties. Last week, Dittman had three punts with a 45.0-yard average. Field goal kicking also has been an adventure this year, surprisingly, former first team All Pac-10 kicker Jared Siegel is only 1-for-3 for the season, and last week missed a point after, ending a streak of 98 consecutive made points.
Bellotti's opposite on the Arizona State sideline, ASU Head Coach Dirk Koetter, is not taking anything for granted when it comes to playing the Ducks. Koetter, who spent two years at Oregon as the offensive coordinator (1996-97) is well aware of Oregon's winning ways and of Autzen Stadium.
"With the Ducks, number one is playing at Autzen Stadium," indicated Koetter at his weekly news conference on Monday. "Number two is that Oregon is one of the most successful programs in the Pac-10 over Mike Belotti's tenure."
A number of other issues were brought up during the media conferences including the status of transfer Richie Incognito. Incognito, an All-American offensive lineman at Nebraska, has enrolled at the University of Oregon and will start practicing with the team as soon as he passes all the necessary medical physicals. Bellotti indicated that he had long discussions with Incognito and Incognito's parents about the situation that led the dismissal from the Nebraska program. Bellotti does not feel Incognito in any way represents any harm to the Oregon image, and that Incognito knows he has the responsibility to live up the Ducks football program standards.
In an article appearing in Tuesday's Oregonian, columnist John Canzano questioned, in his article entitled Incognito in name only, if Incognito was a risk. Canzano referred to Anger Management Expert Charles Spielberger, a professor at the University of South Florida.
"He can't be fixed overnight," said Charles Speilberger, in the Oregonian story that was published on Tuesday. "They're taking a risk. They're certainly taking a chance. I think you need to protect your bet here by having him undergo continuing treatment while he's there. In fact, I'd make that a requirement."
In Canzano's column, Speilberger added, "You also have to alert faculty and students (about his history). Because when you have someone who has been inappropriate and destructive with his anger, you have to observe him carefully."
Bellotti said that one of the conditions of Incognito's acceptance with the Oregon football program was that he would have to enroll in an Anger Management course. One of the reasons for Incognito's dismissal from Nebraska was an incident where Incognito was involved in a fight.
Bellotti also announced that safety Jordan Carey was dismissed from the team yesterday (Monday) due to repeated team violations. Carey is the second player from the Olympia, Wash. area to leave the team over the last two weeks. Last week, quarterback Johnny DuRucher left the team to enroll in junior college with the hopes of having a better opportunity of playing with another program. Carey and DuRocher both graduated early from high school in order to join the Ducks in time for spring camp in April 2003. Bellotti said that he does not encourage early enrollments and did not dismiss the suggestion those young players who enroll early can become disillusioned if they do not see immediate playing time. Bellotti pointed out that he would prefer players to spend their entire senior year in high school. Another player, Jerome Johnson was ruled ineligible for play at Oregon or any other Pac-10 school because of a reversal of a NCAA clearinghouse decision that granted Johnson eligibility to participate. No further details have been release regarding Johnson's case.
Bellotti has outlined what the Ducks must do to win at Autzen on Saturday. Now it is a matter of a team that had such high hopes at the beginning of the season to accomplish the tasks. The Ducks have been accused of being soft, a refuge for players with troubled pasts and underachievers. . Oregon has a tremendous amount of talent on paper, but as Bellotti indicated, that potential must be realized quickly, and in this instance by 7:15 p.m., Saturday night.
The late 7:15 p.m. kickoff is because the game will be televised nationally on TBS.
Bellotti reported that cornerback Justin Phinisee and Ryan Keeling have returned to practice. Phinisee should be available for the ASU game. Keeling will redshirt this season.
To listen to entire media conference click oregonlive.com.
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