Bellotti Seeks More Touchdowns

Mike Bellotti answered questions during his regularly scheduled Oregon and Pac-10 Media teleconferences that were streamed live on Bellotti addressed a number of questions including his thoughts on senior quarterback Kellen Clemens' performance against Houston last Thursday night and if the running backs can be expected to see a bigger share of the responsibility for running the ball against the Ducks next opponent, Division I-AA's Montana.

Clemens had a terrific performance against the Houston Cougars, passing for 348 yards on a 30-of-47 night, with two touchdowns, no interceptions and very importantly no sacks. Clemens also was the leading rusher for the game with a net 72 yards on 12 carries with a long run of 43 yards. The performance has caused many to wonder if the new spread offense introduced by the Ducks and engineered by offensive coordinator Gary Crowton will make Clemens a primary running back as well as passer. Bellotti thinks that the Ducks merely responded to what the Houston defense had to offer and that while Clemens had a great night running and passing the ball, it was not necessarily unexpected.

"Kellen had some games like that last year," remarked Bellotti of Clemens' performance. "I don't think this is the system as much as Kellen Clemens' talent."

The game allowed Clemens to take advantage of his talented receiving corps. Senior Demetrius Williams had nine catches for 133 yards and a touchdown and newcomer junior transfer James Finley broke onto the scene with 10 catches for 95 yards. The thing that struck Bellotti was that Clemens was able to exploit what Houston's defense was giving up and Clemens sense of the field. Bellotti lauded Clemens' intelligence on the field, his decision making and the ability to avoid tacklers.

"Very pleased with Kellen's decision making and the fact we did not get sacked," said Bellotti of his senior quarterback.

Bellotti admitted that the quarterbacks will be a viable threat within the offense, but the headman would like to get more production out of the very talented and deep running back corps consisting of senior Terrence Whitehead, freshman Jonathan Stewart and redshirt freshman Terrell Jackson. Bellotti indicated that the coaching staff would like to get the trio more involved in the Montana game. Against Houston, Whitehead only had 31 net yards of rushing on eight carries. Last season, the senior from Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, was the second leading rusher in the Pac-10 with 104.0 yards per game. Stewart was the leading rusher among tailbacks against Houston with 47 yards on five carries including a spectacular run of 33 yards. Jackson also showed he is a threat with 26 yards on just three carries.

While the Ducks won the opener in many ways Bellotti thinks his team has yet to be challenged as the initial game spotlighted a new, hybrid offense and this week that advantage of the offensive newness won't be there. The Ducks are working on consistency in many areas including Special Teams coverage especially on kickoffs, breakdowns in the secondary, defending explosive plays, more productivity on offense in the red zone and few penalties. Last week, Oregon gave up two big pass plays that resulted in touchdowns and also a long kick off return.

Mid game against Houston, the Ducks made Matt Everson the kickoff specialist and place kicker Paul Martinez concentrated on field goals. However, the Ducks do not want to see another 74-yard kickoff returns like the one Houston's Ricky Wilson made in the first quarter last Thursday night. The return gave the Cougars great field position on the 12-yardline (after a penalty was incorrectly accessed) and led to the first Houston touchdown.

The Ducks were very pleased with the five field goals made against Houston, however this week Bellotti would like to see less action by Martinez and more touchdowns scored. Consequently, Oregon will work on its red zone production for crossing the goal line.

Bellotti also wants to see few penalties. Last week, Oregon was called for 12 penalties that cost 105 yards. In some ways the youth of the team may account for some of the calls, as there are only 14 seniors on the roster. Bellotti also noted that there may have been a call that was wrong but he feels any missed calls were minor and the majority of calls were correct.

Senior defensive end Devan Long may miss Saturday's contest, however he has not yet been ruled out. If Long is not able to participate then Victor Filipe and Darius Sanders will be the starting defensive ends. True freshman Nick Reed and senior Nate LiaBraaten would be back ups. LiaBraaten is a versatile athlete who has seen action as a tight end for the team. Reed surprised many with his energy during fall camp and has been described as a player with his engine continually on. One other solution Bellotti mentioned was to move one of the starters at defensive tackle, junior Matt Toeaina to the end position and insert redshirt freshman defensive tackle Cole Linehan into Toeaina's spot.

Bellotti has great respect for Montana, a team that last appeared in Eugene in 1993 when Bellotti was the offensive coordinator under then head coach Rich Brooks. The Ducks prevailed 35-30 in the 1993 game. While most of the current Duck players may have been six or seven years old when Oregon last played Montana, Bellotti still remembers the Grizzlies and has great respect for the program from Missoula and believes the Grizzlies will run an offense very similar to the Ducks. Bellotti thinks there is great parity in football across the board. He believes that the upcoming game will be very interesting because of the emotion involved and particularly considering that the Grizzlies arch rival Montana State lost to Oklahoma State 15-10, last week.

"They have tremendous tradition in winning (and) competing for the national championship (Division I-AA championship), not the conference championship every year," observed Bellotti. "They're the real deal."

Duck fans should be greatly entertained by the Oregon-Montana match up and perhaps a new wrinkle will appear in the form of more rushing attempts by the talented running backs. Whatever happens, it is clear that Bellotti knows that his team though successful in its first game must continually improve to have success for the rest of the season.

There is no live television coverage for the game on Saturday, but the Oregon Sports Network will air it on the radio with a kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

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