Ducks to Face Tedford and the Ducks

Considering that the California Bears top rated on offense and defense in the Pac-10 and ranked No. 4 in the nation, would Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti like the game to be a defensive struggle?

Oregon's Terrence Whitehead (24) celebrates with Nick Steitz, center, and Ryan Loftin (48) after his winning touchdown against California in the final minute of the game in Eugene, Ore., Saturday Nov. 8, 2003. Oregon beat California 21-17. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

"Since Cal is number one the league in both offense and defense, I'm not sure what I should say whether I want it to be an offensive game or defensive game," Bellotti said in his weekly media conference streamed on oregonlive.com. "Obviously we played a very close game against this football program last year at our place and prevailed in the fourth quarter and it was more of a defensive football game."

Last season, Oregon found itself at the end of the rope with the lights ready to be turned off for the season. Actually, the lights did go out during a 23-minute power outage on Nov. 8, 2003 at Autzen Stadium. When the lights came back on the Ducks used a 14-point come back to beat Cal, 21-17 in a game that turned the season around for Oregon.

This year however, the Bears are a year older and wiser under former Oregon offensive coordinator and current California head coach Jeff Tedford. Cal has been spectacular in amassing their current 6-1 overall record and 4-1 Pac-10 record. Their only blemish for the year was against the No. 1 ranked team in the country, USC, losing on the road, 23-17. The Bears are averaging 39.0 points per game to their opponents' 12.3 ppg. They out rush the opposition 243.9 yards per game to 91.6 ypg. The Bears average 248.9 ypg in passing while holding opponents to 190.7 ypg.

The Bears are led by senior quarterback Aaron Rogers, who is No. 1 in the Pac-10 in passing efficiency with a 167.76 rating. He has completed 71.2 percent of his throws (126-for-177), 1,541 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He is now 10th on Cal's career chart (4,444 yards), needing 68 more yards to pass No. 9 Craig Morton (4,501, 1962-64). While the Cal receiving corps has been slowed down due to injuries, the Bears have some formidable targets. Wide receiver Geoff McArthur has rebounded from an abdominal injury putting up impressive numbers in the past four games. He's caught 25 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns during that period, averaging 6.25 receptions and 100.5 yards per contest. For the season he has 32 catches for 476 yards total. Garrett Cross has 20 catches for 257 yards, and two touchdowns. Running back JJ Arrington has 14 catches for 66 yards. Robert Jordan has 12 catches for 156 yards and a score. Freshman running back Marshawn Lynch has 10 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.

Bellotti believes part of Cal's turnaround is due to Arrington. The 5-foot-11, 210 pound back from Nashville, North Carolina has 158 carries for 1,106 yards, 11 touchdowns and an average of 158.0 yards per game rushing. Arrington has been named Pac-10 Player of the Week twice this season.

"The emergence of J.J. Arrington, who was a back up last year but has really taken this team on his back the past couple of weeks," analyzed Bellotti during the weekly Pac-10 media conference of the Bear's season. "The defense has really stepped up. They are the No. 1 defense in the conference."

California's defense has been extremely stubborn thanks to some ex-Ducks. California defensive Bob Gregory, who was the defensive back coach (98-00) and a graduate assistant (89-90) at Oregon, has incorporated some unconventional schemes that take advantage of the player's talent. Senior defensive end Ryan Riddle has 11.5 tackles for loss this year, including eight sacks, while senior linebacker Wendell Hunter has led or tied Bear tacklers each of the Bears' past five games. Hunter was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week Oct. 25. Sophomore cornerback Tim Mixon had a 58-yard interception return against Arizona State last week. Junior cornerback Harrison Smith had a team-high nine pass break ups against ASU. California's linebacker coach Justin Wilcox was an Oregon player from 1995 to 1999 and actually played under Gregory as a cornerback. Two other Cal assistants have Oregon connections. Running backs coach Ron Gould played for the Ducks (87-88) and was a graduate assistant (90-91). Receiver's coach Eric Kiesau, was the teamwork coordinator at Oregon in 1999.

"Jeff Tedford and his crew of Oregon Ducks have done a nice job," Bellotti mused of his former assistants and players. "They have their kids at a high level."

Cal's statistics are some stiff numbers for the Ducks to take in and unlike the Bears, the Ducks need one more victory in the next three games to become bowl eligible. Oregon has a 5-3 record for the season and is 4-1 in the Pac-10. The Bears have already cinched up a winning season with six wins and may have some revenge on their minds when they meet the Ducks next Saturday at Memorial Stadium, in Berkeley. The Bears are on a 7-game losing streak to the Ducks and the last time the two teams met on Cal's home turf, the Ducks rolled to a 48-7 win. The game played in 2001 was the widest point difference in the 104-year history of Oregon-California football games. Last year's win at Autzen Stadium also switched the pecking order for bowl games. Oregon's win in combination with their hot streak in November 2003 gave them an appearance in the Sun Bowl. Meanwhile, Cal rebounded after the Oregon game and won their last three games including a 52-49 win over Virginia Tech in the Insight.com Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz. Oregon lost to Minnesota, 31-30 in the Sun Bowl.

The Ducks have been playing extremely well on defense during their 4-game win streak. Oregon is third in the Pac-10 in rushing defense at 101.2 ypg allowed. The Ducks are fourth in pass defense with 190.9 ypg. The most important statistic is scoring and Oregon is fourth in the conference allowing 21.2 ppg. Offensively, Oregon scores at a 26.0 ppg clip and is fifth in the Pac-10 category. The Ducks are third in passing with 260.6 ypg and rush for 168.9 ypg, good enough for fourth spot in the league. While J.J. Arrington maybe getting all the headlines, Oregon has a back that has also been making an impact. Terrence Whitehead is on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing year. He has 153 carries for 819 net yards, six touchdowns and averages 102.4 per game. Whitehead is also the team's second leading receiver with 34 catches, 310 yards, two touchdowns and averaging 38.8 yards per game in receptions.

"Terrence's development has also coincided with our resurgence," observed Bellotti. "He's been a starter, was a starter all last year. He's playing at a greater level this year."

Quarterback Kellen Clemens is the league's No. 1 player in total offense with 161 yards rushing, 2,012 yards passing on 362 plays for a total of 2,173 yards and a 271.6 ypg average. Clemens could be without leading receiver Demetrius Williams who has 43 catches, 539 yards and one touchdown. Williams aggravated a turf-toe injury that requires rest and it will be a game time decision whether he will play against California. If he does not play, expect to see freshman Cameron Colvin being a bigger part of the Oregon offense against California.

"If Demetrius is not healthy, Cameron will get a greater and larger role in the offense," commented Bellotti on the Ducks plans for the receiving corps.

The last two games the Ducks have surprised many with their defensive ability. Against Stanford, Oregon recorded 10 sacks. Against Washington the Ducks had four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. In last year's game against Cal, Bellotti thought there were several missed scoring chances when wide open receivers were missed. The penalty bug that was hounding the Ducks earlier in the season seems to have eased as the Ducks were flagged five times in both the Washington and Stanford games.

Bellotti believes the keys to the California game will be holding onto the ball, avoiding penalties and making the most of opportunities.

"The whole key is keep the turnover-to-take away (ratio) in our favor," said Bellotti. "Avoid penalties and make plays when you get a chance."

Oregon will need to take advantage of the things they have control over such as penalties and turnovers and if they get some fortuitous breaks in the game against a powerhouse California team, that won't hurt either.

Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and the game will be carried on ABC.

Notes:
Bellotti discussed the termination of Keith Gilbertson and indicated that he found no pleasure when a colleague loses his job. Bellotti thinks the common denominator in coaching changes is not winning and being unable to live up to other people's expectations. He pointed out that the new Washington coach would be the fifth new head coach for the Huskies during Bellotti's tenure at Oregon. Taking a sobering view of coaching and expectations of fans, boosters and alumni Bellotti made a pointed comment about the expectations.

"People can talk about graduation rates and running a clean program and all those things," related Bellotti. "The only proof in that is that it doesn't really matter."

Recruiting was touched on briefly when Bellotti said that the Ducks are continuing to look for players that have a sincere interest in Oregon and that may mean they are willing to move to Eugene from other places. Bellotti has mentioned before that Oregon does not have a large number of players due to the population base and that the Ducks do recruit else where for players. He also mentioned his staff also tracks late bloomers or late-developers as players that might have been over looked in the early recruiting process.

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