Mobile Quarterbacks Will Make (or break) the Day

Mike Bellotti has become concerned about a quarterback -- Trent Edwards of Stanford. Responding to questions during his weekly media conference that was streamed live on oregonlive.com, Bellotti describes Edwards as a player similar to Kellen Clemens, only a couple inches taller.

PULLMAN WA - OCTOBER 9: Quarterback Kellen Clemens #11 of the Oregon Ducks passes against the Washington State Cougars on October 9, 2004 at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

"A much improved football team," said Bellotti of Stanford. " Trace it to the development Trent Edwards, (and) the health of Trent Edwards at quarterback. He's a very accurate passer and one of the most mobile quarterback I've seen this year."

Oregon (3-3, 2-1 Pac-10) travel to Palo Alto for the first time since 1997, when the Cardinal won, 58-49. Oregon won last year's contest 35-0 at Eugene and won 41-14 in 2002. None of the players on the current Oregon roster have played at Stanford Stadium and many weren't even in high school in 1997. Edwards, a player the Ducks coveted out of high school has become a very mobile threat with good accuracy. He is 112-for-200, 1,390 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions so far this season. Standing at 6-feet-4 he is not unlike Clemens, who stands 6-feet-2. Clemens is 133-for-214, 1,603 yards, 12 touchdowns, and three interceptions and has rushed for 273 total yards (139 net yards) on 67 carries and three touchdowns. Edwards has rushed 41 times for 156 total yards (115 net yards) scoring one touchdown. While Bellotti was busy singing the praises for Edwards, Buddy Teevens, Stanford's head coach had some nice things to say about Clemens.

"Consistent with the quarterbacks coming out of Oregon," Teevens described Clemens during the weekly Pac-10 media conference also streamed live on oregonlive.com." Gifted guy (that) seems like a very tough guy. That's what really impressed me. He's very, very mobile. He'll take a hit. Seems to be a real competitor. (He) has a good touch on the ball. Has a good relationship with his receivers. He just seems game after game, (to) continue to make improvement."

The Ducks are on a two-game win streak, but the improved Stanford team will present a tough Pac-10 challenge. Stanford has four receivers that are tall and can make plays. Tight end Alex Smith, 6-5, 255, having 25 catches for 286 yards and one touchdown. The wide receivers are Evan Moore, 6-7, 235, Mark Bradford, 6-2, 190, and Justin McCullum, 6-4, 220. Moore has 23 receptions for 407 yards and five touchdowns, while Bradford and McCullum each have 20 catches. McCullum also has a touchdown grab.

Bellotti jokingly said that he might put springs on the shoes of his cornerbacks to counter balance Stanford's tall receivers, but seriously felt the key to playing the Stanford's talented receiving corps was playing with good technique and relying on the entire defensive play. The Ducks are only allowing 176.5 passing yards this season and have picked off eight passes. A corner back that fought his way out of what Bellotti described as psychological scarring during his freshman season to become the best cover man on the Ducks, is Aaron Gipson. Gipson recorded two interceptions last week against Arizona and one the previous week against Washington State.

"To his credit, he is now our best cover corner," remarked Bellotti of Gipson's progress over the last two seasons. "Same guy, same speed, same quickness but just a better mental approach better understanding of the defense."

Last season, Stanford averaged 16.9 points per game, 187 passing yards, 96 rushing yards and 283 yards in total offense per game. So far this season, the Cardinal average 28.8 ppg, 126 rushing yards, 263 passing yards and 389 yards in total offense per game. Stanford is 4-2 on the season and 2-1 in Pac-10 play.

J.R. Lemon is the leading rusher for the Cardinal. He has 421 yards on 72 carries and six touchdowns. His longest run of the year was for 82 yards. Lemon also had a 58-yard touchdown run against Washington. Kenneth Tolon has carried the ball 62 times for 293 yards and two touchdowns.

A player on the Oregon defensive line that has made an impact is Haloti Ngata. Ngata came alive during the Arizona game, and virtually took over the line play and stopped the Arizona running game with his sideline-to-sideline play. Although Ngata is still working on his pass rush game, the Ducks have an answer on the front line in Devan Long and the contribution of the line helps in defending the passing attacks.

"Haloti Ngata's development, he is evolving now as a player and doing some things we thought he could do," mentioned Bellotti of how Oregon's defense is improving. "I still look for more consistency from him in the pass rush, but we get that type of consistency in Devan Long."

Long leads the team in sacks with five this season and is tops in tackles for loss with a total of 10.5 tackles. Ngata has 26 tackles for the year.

Oregon's leading rusher this season is Terrence Whitehead with 566 net yards on 100 carries and four touchdowns. His longest run of the year is 53 yards against Washington State.

A topic that Bellotti has become tired on responding to is penalties. The coach indicated that the resolution for penalties is now a team problem. While he did initiate a stair-running campaign to encourage players to play smarter, he says he does not believer in negative-reinforcement. The Ducks have been flagged 62 times for a loss of 590 yards. Perhaps with this team, penalties will be part of its personality, but on the other hand if the team reduces the number of penalties the point output could dramatically increase. The Ducks are averaging 26.8 points per game this season.

The Stanford game may well come down to Oregon not turning the ball over and reducing the number of nagging penalties. Edwards presents a special problem with his mobility and speed with the tall receivers as targets. The Duck secondary has been playing well, particularly Gipson and freshman Jackie Bates. Playing against tall receivers may not be as critical as it once was because the defense faces tall pass catchers everyday in practice. Oregon has a stable of tall, fast receivers and Gipson (5-9) in particular has shown great improvement in equalizing the size difference. The game should be very competitive compared to the last two Oregon blow-outs and it is a critical step for the Ducks in their goal of reaching post-season play. Clemens will be as much concern to the Stanford coaching staff as Edwards is to Oregon's. The winner of Saturday's game could be the one who is able to keep the mistakes at a minimum, and the quarterback who has continued to make the most improvements.

Kickoff for Saturday's game at Stanford is 2 p.m. There game will not be televised live, but will be carried on the Oregon Sports Network, with Jerry Allen calling the game, Mike Jorgensen adding commentary and Bobby DeBisschop reporting from the sidelines. The game will also be rebroadcast on Comcast 14 in the Portland area, KEZI in Eugene, as well as KDRV in Medford and KDKF in Klamath Falls. Joe Giansante handles play-by-play and Anthony Taylor is the analyst.

Internet users can keep up with the game and join in with other fans on eDuck.com's message boards and live chat.

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