Beating UCLA Means a Bowl Bid

The Oregon Ducks (5-4, 4-2) return home on Saturday after a disappointing loss to the California Bears last week and will face the UCLA Bruins (5-4,3-3), a team the Ducks have had success over the last four years. The game will be regionally televised on ABC, and for both teams a win can mean bowl eligibility.

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 6: J.J. Arington #30 of the California Golden Bears runs against Jackie Bates #7 of the Oregon Ducks at Memorial Stadium on November 6, 2004 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

"We are attempting to secure an eleventh straight winning season, bowl eligibility," Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti told the weekly Pac-10 media conference streamed on oregonlive.com. "Our focus has shifted to UCLA. Any frustrations we may have had in regard to the Cal game, we are going to turn into positive action against UCLA."

The Ducks lost a heart breaker last Saturday by losing to the then No. 4 ranked California Bears, 28-27. Meanwhile, the UCLA Bruins suffered a set back of their own by dropping a home game to the struggling Washington State Cougars, 31-29. UCLA Head Coach Karl Dorrell has had an up and down season with the Bruins this year. Up until last weekend the traditionally talent-laden UCLA team has been able to beat opponents they should have easily enough, but have struggled against the stronger opposition. Losing to the Washington State at home was a huge disappointment and now they have get back on track in a very hostile environment.

"We have a tremendous challenge of going up to Eugene and winning a game versus the University of Oregon," said Dorrell in his weekly media conference. "We have a lot to address this week in order to get ourselves into the proper mindset for us to go up there and execute and do what we need to do to come away with a win."

The Ducks faced one of the best backs in the country last week, J.J. Arrington of California. Arrington was a player that Oregon had much coveted. This week, the Ducks again face a player that Oregon recruited hard from a high school that produced many of the names on the Ducks current roster. Maurice Drew played a De La Salle High School in Concord (Calif.) along with the likes of Demetrius Williams, Jackie Bates and Cameron Colvin. Drew, 5-8, 198, is a sophomore and was dinged up last week and has a day-to-day status headed into Saturday's contest and there is a question of just how badly he is injured. The hard running back could bring his 98.4 yard per game rushing average into Autzen Stadium, much to the discomfort of the Duck faithful hoping for a sixth game win to cinch up a winning season. Against Washington in September, Drew set a school record by rushing for 322 yards and five touchdowns in a Bruin 37-31 win.

"He left the game early in the first half (against WSU) and was unable to return," Dorrell said of Drew. "His ankle injury is pretty significant, but we are listing him as day-to-day."

If Drew is not available or is not running at full speed, the Bruins still have Manuel White on the field. White, a powerful runner and has as many rushing attempts as Drew (133). White is averaging 74.0 yards per game rushing.

UCLA's passing game is still as potent as ever. Bruin quarterback Drew Olson is enjoying a good year now that he no longer has to share playing time with the departed Matt Moore. Olson is a mobile quarterback and like Kellen Clemens is able to run the ball when necessary. Olson has 1,976 yards for 17 touchdowns but has given up 11 interceptions. He is averaging 219.6 yards per game passing. Two redshirt seniors, Tab Perry, 6-3, 220, and Craig Bragg, 6-2, 195, highlight the Bruins receiving corps. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is the team's leading receiver with 26 catches for 332 yards and six touchdowns. There was concern about Lewis' status for the game but Dorrell believes the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Lewis will be ready to go against the Ducks.

Oregon has its own injury concerns. Tight end Tim Day (ankle) was not available for the second half of the Cal game and Bellotti believes that may have played a role in the Ducks' loss. Wide receiver Demetrius Williams is still struggling with a turf-toe injury that limited him to a one-play appearance against the Bears. Williams is the Ducks main target this season, and Day has proved to be the big play receiver in Oregon's four-game win streak just prior to the California loss. One of the bigger questions injury-wise is to senior center Robin Knebel, 6-6, 310, who also left the game early last week also with a sore ankle. Knebel is actually the back up to starter Enoka Lucas, who was lost for the season as a center because of a broken bone in his snapping hand. Lucas is able to see action on other offensive line positions and will see action against UCLA. Day, Williams and Knebel are all listed day-to-day. If Knebel is not available, junior Ian Reynoso, 6-4, 299, will fill in. Reynoso start against Stanford and according to Bellotti has done a nice job, but Knebel's size and experience makes him the coach's preference for the UCLA game. According the Bellotti, Williams is supposed to practice on Tuesday, while Day and Knebel will practice on Wednesday. The team did practice on Monday.

Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens has been very sharp all season long. He is the Pac-10's total offensive leader with 214 yards of rushing, 2,230 yards passing and 409 plays, for a total of 2,444 yards and is averaging 271.6 yards per game. He has accounted for 21 touchdowns (18 passing, three rushing) and has only five interceptions for the year. Terrence Whitehead is the Ducks leading rusher with 910 yards rushing, six touchdowns and averaging 101.1 yards per game. Whitehead is the Pac-10's No. 2 rusher behind Arrington.

Although Oregon has won the last four games against UCLA, only last year's contest was one-sided. The Ducks beat the Bruins at the Rose Bowl last year, 31-13 in Dorrell's first season as head coach. The previous two games were decided by one point in each contest. In 2002 at the Rose Bowl, Oregon won 31-30 and in 2001 again in Pasadena, the Ducks came out on top 21-20. The last time UCLA traveled to Eugene was in 2000 and Oregon won 29-10. The series between the two schools started in 1928 and the Bruins hold a 37-21 advantage over the Ducks.

Not only will a win by Oregon secure a winning season and bowl eligibility for the Ducks, it would improve their Pac-10 record to five wins and almost guarantee them a trip to one of the better bowls available. The Pac-10 has seven bowls that conference teams can compete in -- the Rose, Holiday, Sun, Insight, Las Vegas, Silicon Valley (San Jose), and Emerald (San Francisco). Bellotti indicates his team is feeling very good and is confident that they can finish off the season with wins, although he stresses the philosophy of taking each game, one-at-a-time.

Despite losing four times, Oregon is still a very potent football team that has faired well against two top-5 five teams. While Bellotti admits that the Ducks who were competitive against Oklahoma early on in the season, is a team that had a very real chance of beating California on the road. A win on Saturday ensures a record eleventh straight winning season for Oregon. A loss to UCLA means that the Civil War the following week against Oregon State will have more serious implications on the Ducks season than it should have been.

Kickoff for Saturday's game at Autzen is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

eDuck Top Stories