Bellotti Wants More Points when Playing FSU

All questions to Oregon's head coach Mike Bellotti seemed to be on Oregon's ability or inability to score touchdowns in the redzone. Bellotti expressed concern today during his weekly media conference about not converting plays into touchdowns while in the redzone and being forced to kick field goals, but he did acknowledge that the Ducks were still scoring points. Oregon is preparing for Saturday's game with its first ranked opponent, Fresno State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

"The good thing is we made six out of six so I'm pleased about that," Bellotti told the Pac-10 beat writers about Oregon's field goal kicking. "Paul Martinez is obviously a great weapon to have but we'd like him to kick a lot more extra points so we're going to work on that."

Martinez equaled a Pac-10 record of six field goals last Saturday against Montana in the Ducks' 47-14 win over the Grizzlies, but Bellotti and his team want more points from the offense -- not just the kicker. While the Ducks have scored five touchdowns this season via the pass, the high powered offense has only one rushing touchdown, a Dennis Dixon keeper against Houston. So far the Oregon running game has racked up 293 total yards (146.5 ypg), and much of the total yards came from either quarterbacks or wide receivers on option plays.

The actual number of yards for running backs has been dismal. Senior Terrence Whitehead has a total of 67 yards on 26 carries (2.56 ypc or 33.5 ypg), well below his 104.0-yard average per game last season. Freshman Jonathan Stewart has only carried the ball seven times for 52 yards, which extended out could be impressive numbers (7.42 ypc), but an ankle injury in the second half of the Montana game limited his availability. Redshirt freshman Terrell Jackson has also seen action with 38 yards on eight carries (4.75 ypc). In fairness to Whitehead, he was tagged for a minus 14 yards because of an errant lateral in the Montana game.

However, it is clear that the Oregon running game is not quite what it used to be. And that is something Bellotti wants to change, particularly in the redzone. While the Ducks are moving the ball between the 20-yardlines well, once inside the 20 or the redzone, the defenses have less space to deal with and that is to the defense's advantage. The Ducks would like to improve the running game and as with any new scheme, there is a maturation process.

"We need to run the ball better," said Bellotti. "I think that is part of the key and we're learning how run the ball in this offense."

Last week in the Montana game the Ducks were very frustrated with the number of yards they rushed for, but Montana's offense is very similar to the Ducks, consequently the Grizzlies defenders have experience working against the same type of offense. This week however, Oregon is facing a much tougher challenge in Fresno State, ranked No. 23 in this week's AP poll. On a whole, Bellotti is satisfied with his team's offensive performance as they have scored a total of 85 points or 42.5 points per game while giving up 38 points (19.0 points per game). The new Duck offense is different in many ways. Not only is the quarterback mostly in the shotgun formation with a single back, but the offensive line is different as the guards now are in tackle positions and tackles are in guard positions, very similar to a wishbone-type offensive attack. How does Bellotti rate this adjustment so far?

"The only way I can evaluate it is on points scored," Bellotti observed. "So far we are significantly ahead of where we were a year ago in that regard and I'm pleased. I don't think that we've faced a defense like Fresno State. I think this will be a great test for us to see where we are at and see how this thing can go against a top-25 caliber team."

Last week Fresno State, from the Western Athletic Conference demolished Weber State 55-17. Weber State, like Montana is a Big Sky Conference member and is a Division I-AA team. The game was costly for Fresno State losing its star defensive lineman, Garrett McIntyre a preseason WAC defensive player of the year, was taken to the locker room on a cart after apparently injuring his leg on the last play of the third quarter.

Fresno State is the toughest opponent so far on the Ducks schedule and is a force to be reckoned with. The Bulldogs were 9-3 last year including an overtime win (37-34) in the MPC Computers Bowl over Virginia. Bellotti describes them as being very physical and the most complete team the Ducks have yet faced. Starting quarterback Paul Pinegar was 14-for-18, 189 yards and two touchdowns. Devyn McDonald was the leading receiver against Weber State with four catches for 67 yards. Adam Jennings had three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown and Wendall Mathis had two catches for 28 yards. Bellotti said that Pinegar is very good with screen passes and Fresno State likes to take advantage of the play-action.

Oregon fans know that two former Duck offensive coordinators, Jeff Tedford and Andy Ludwig came from Fresno State. What may look differently about FSU this year is that Head Coach Pat Hill's team has a bigger emphasis on running the ball. Mathis scored three rushing touchdowns along with gaining 77 yards on 14 carries. Bryson Sumlin had 12 carries for 68 yards. Last season both Sumlin (5-10, 210) and Mathis (5-9, 185) rushed for about 1,000 yards each, with Sumlin rushing for 1,104 yards and Mathis for 995 yards.

FSU's special teams had an outstanding effort last week as punt return specialist Clifton Smith scored twice on punt returns of 92 and 84 yards.

While Bellotti is thinking that FSU is the Ducks' biggest challenge of the year so far, Hill is thinking the same thing about Oregon. The last time the Bulldogs came to Eugene in 2002, the Ducks prevailed 28-24 and in 1997, Oregon won 43-40.

"We have a big challenge next week," said Hill. "Oregon is the biggest game of the week. They are playing well. We have played well there twice but it wasn't good enough. We will have to play well next week."

What will be the keys in beating Fresno State for the Ducks?

"Win the battle at the line of scrimmage to make sure you slow that thing down," according to Bellotti. "Slow the run, rally to the quick screen and then defend the play-action pass."

Will his team overlook Fresno State with No. 1 ranked USC coming to town the following week? Not according to the Duck head coach. Bellotti thinks this team in particular has stayed very focused on each game and learned a valuable lesson last season with the Indiana upset. If Bellotti perceives any overlooking of Fresno State by his team, he intends to remedy the situation quickly and get the team back on track of the task before them.

"If I perceive any forward looking or looking ahead at all I will jump right back on that bandwagon," exclaimed Bellotti. "But right now the kids themselves have done a very good job. They understand that Fresno is a very, very good football team and very, very good football program."

With a team that has a strong running attack, the Oregon defensive line will have its work cut out for it. So far this season, the Ducks have only allowed 131 yards and much of that yardage was gained when the outcome of the games was no longer in doubt. One factor has been the play of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Questions about defending Ngata continue to pop up, mainly, can he be stopped or does he ever see man-on-man blocking?

"Not very often," answered Bellotti in response to a question asking if Haloti Ngata ever has opportunities for one-on-one situation. "He's a magnet for the double-team."

Both Houston and Montana can attest why that is as Ngata has had terrific games and has blown up the opposing offensive lines.

The Ducks will be tested thoroughly this week and any lingering questions about the Ducks' defense or offense will be resolved or intensified by play on Rich Brooks Field on Saturday afternoon starting at 4 p.m. Oregon would like to put itself into position to be a contender for the Pac-10 crown but first they must pass this huge test against Fresno State. To do so Bellotti feels his team must do more that kick field goals, even though he is happy with the points his two-time Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week, Paul Martinez has produced. Scoring touchdowns by the Ducks will be his goal and aim as he prepares his team in practice this week.

Bellotti said that defensive end Devan Long and running back Jonathan Stewart, are both questionable for the Fresno State game and he gives them both a 50-50 chance of playing on Saturday. Stewart is in a walking boot and told his coach he intends to practice by Wednesday.

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