Who Will Be More Hungry?

Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti insists that this week is and will be very interesting as the Ducks prepares to face Arizona, a team Bellotti characterized as being very hungry to win its first Pac-10 game, just as Oregon was last week against WSU. On the heels of a win that may have saved the 2004 football season for the Oregon Ducks, Bellotti is not taking the Wildcats lightly. The difference in the game on Saturday at Autzen Stadium according Bellotti will be mistakes.

Oregon's Tim Day (85) pulls down a touchdown catch against Washington State's Tim Derting during the fourth quarter Saturday, Oct. 9, 2004, in Pullman, Wash. Day had 152 yards receiving as Oregon won 41-38. (AP Photo/Rajah Bose)

"Statistical analysis-wise it is a very close game," Bellotti said during his weekly media conference that was streamed live on oregonlive.com. "The team that is least penalized and the team that has the fewest turnovers will probably win."

Despite their 1-4 record, the Oregon headman thinks Arizona is just few plays away from being undefeated. Bellotti describes the Wildcats as being much improved compared to the team that was humiliated by the Ducks at Arizona Stadium last year, 48-10. Citing an improved defense with good speed and schemes that will be similar to a team the Ducks have already played this year, Oklahoma. There is a good reason to believe the Cats will have a similar approach to Oklahoma. Arizona's first year head coach Mike Stoops spent five years with the Sooners as his brother Bob's top aide.

"Every staff tend to cater to the talents and abilities of their players," remarked Bellotti. "The basic scheme (Arizona and Oklahoma) is very similar."

The Arizona Wildcats look to snap a five-game losing streak to the Ducks. The Wildcats lost last week to UCLA 37-17 and are 1-4 for the season, losing to Utah (23-6), Wisconsin (9-7), Washington State (20-19) and beating Northern Arizona (21-3). Bellotti believes that the Wildcats will play a "4-3" defensive scheme, with multiple defenses and zone blitzes. Safety Lamon Means (6-3, 232) is a player that stands out in Bellotti's view, along with true freshman corner back Antoine Cason (6-1, 180) and junior free safety Darrell Brooks (6-1, 210).

"Lamon Means, their strong safety is a great football player," said Bellotti. "He makes a lot of plays,"

The Wildcats allow opponents only 18.4 points, 109.6 yards rushing and 196.6 yards passing per game. Expect to see Arizona keep the ball on the ground with running backs Mike Bell (88-403 yards, two touchdowns), Gilbert Harris (50-212 yards), Chris Henry (23-108 yards, two touchdowns) doing most of the work. So far this season, the Cats have had 188 running plays while attempting 119 passes. Quarterback Kris Heavner is 74-of-118, 748 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and 149.6 yards per game passing average. Arizona is averaging 136.8 yards a game rushing. The Wildcats have also held onto the ball longer than their foes so far this year, averaging over 31 minutes each game. The critical statistic the Wildcats lack is scoring. The average 14 points per game. Bellotti does think that the Wildcats will have to throw the ball more to be successful in Pac-10 play. While the Wildcats have recorded a number of miscues this season, overall the Arizona program has made major steps to improve from a program that was in disarray.

"We beat ourselves in critical area and that is not playing smart at times," Stoops told the weekly Pac-10 media conference also streamed live on oregonlive.com. "(But) you can see tremendous improvement in our program."

Against Oregon, Stoops thinks that his team will have to come up with a good game plan and execute it. He acknowledges that Arizona will not be able to sit back and allow Kellen Clemens to pick them apart. Stoops believes the Cats will have to blitz early to keep Clemens off balance, but thinks the Ducks have lots of offensive weapons.

"You see the explosiveness of that offense when they get moving and they start distributing the ball," observed Stoops of the Ducks. "Between the running back, the tight end and the wide receiver, they're a three-headed monster."

Last Saturday's win over Washington State at Pullman, was a turning point for the season and particularly one series of plays that didn't go in the Ducks direction. During the third quarter, the Ducks were trailing the Cougars 21-14, and after exchanging the ball back and forth Oregon stalled out a drive and was forced to punt. Junior punter David Dittman kicked his best attempt of the day with a 59-yard kick that was fielded by Washington State's Michael Bumpus. Bumpus caught the ball at the WSU 23-yard line and fumbled. The ball was recovered by the Cougars on their own 16. The play though was called off by an illegal formation penalty against the Ducks. Dittman had to kick again, but this time Bumpus returned the kick all the way into the Oregon end zone. Haloti Ngata blocked the extra point attempt, but the situation looked very grim for Oregon. However, Bellotti viewed it differently. The coach was very frustrated but instead of being mired in the turn of events, Bellotti chose to inspire his players and coaches in an a rather untypical fashion. Bellotti, felt the team would win the game despite trailing on the scoreboard 27-14. He indicated that he told all of his coaches and his players along the sidelines that he felt confident the team would win. He indicated during the Pac-10 media conference that he was able to maintain an eye-to-eye contact with his players and that seemed to bolster their confidence.

"I can probably pin point it as the turning point in that game," said Bellotti of the series of plays. "I hope it will become a turning point in the season."

Was this similar to last season in the "light-out" game with California that turned the 2003 season around? Perhaps so, but still the Ducks have to work on reducing penalties and turnovers. Last week Oregon was flagged for 13 penalties for 104 yards. The Oregon coaching staff is reemphasizing playing smart to the team during meetings and has continued more physical training and are more forcefully telling players in and after practice to reduce penalties.

Another area the Ducks are working on is reducing the number of sacks they are giving up. So far this year, Clemens has been brought down behind the line of scrimmage 18 times, a far higher number than the Ducks are accustomed to. Bellotti indicated that his staff will look to include more players participating this week including Sean Flanagan on the offensive line. The coach also said the quarterback would work on avoiding being sack by either getting back to the line of scrimmage or throwing the ball away. The running backs and tight ends will also work on their blocking responsibilities.

Oregon as observed by Stoops appears to be back on track to the team the Ducks thought they would be in fall camp. A team capable and believing it will win every game it plays. However, Arizona will present an obstacle to the now high-flying Ducks because of a very stringent defense that is going to slow down the running game. If the Ducks can pick up where they left off from the fourth quarter in the Palouse, then Autzen Stadium will be as emotional, loud and hungry for success as ever.

Kickoff is scheduled for the home coming game at 12:30.


Bellotti mentioned that Matt Toeaina is listed as questionable for Saturday with an ankle injury. Robin Knebel (ankle) and Marley Tucker (elbow) are out. Keith Allen had swelling in his knee last week but has returned to the practice field along with Brian Paysinger (dislocated ring finger) and should be available for the Arizona game.

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