Hurry Up Ducks Down Fresno State 37-34

Eugene, Ore. – Just when the Oregon Ducks needed a win over a top-25 team, they got one. Oregon defeated No. 23 ranked Fresno State 37-34 in a thriller at Autzen Stadium before a sold out crowd of 58,201 screaming fans. The Ducks came back from a 17-point deficit in the first half to take control of the game and it was some familiar faces doing so along the way.

(Photo) Oregon's Terrence Whitehead (24) is pushed out of bounds by Fresno State's Richard Marshall (24) during the second quarter in Eugene, Ore., Saturday Sept. 17, 2005. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

"I was very proud of this group of kids, especially the seniors," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti. "We kind of felt like we had been called out during the week by Fresno and the media and I thought that we responded well to that. Fresno State is a good football team and they gave us a battle."

It was a battle for sure as the Ducks amassed 492 yards of total offense to Fresno State's 530 yards. Senior quarterback Kellen Clemens was spectacular throwing for 332 yards on 28-for-38, four touchdowns and rushing for another 58 yards. Clemens was especially hot in the second quarter when the Ducks used a hurry-up type offense that continually had the Fresno State defenders back on their heels. To demonstrate just how hot Clemens was, consider that he was 4-of-5 for 54 yards in the first quarter but upped that count in the second quarter going 14-of-17 for 160 yards and three touchdowns passes. He finished the first half 18-for-22, 218 yards and the three touchdowns. The Ducks were so fast at bringing in their plays that Fresno State appeared confused and had trouble keeping up with the various Duck receivers. Clemens for his part took advantage of the faster tempo.

"Kellen (Clemens) played an unbelievable football game," remarked Bellotti. "This was his style (the Oregon offense) of a football game. His decision making was so good today, he's really looking comfortable in this offense."

Clemens had scoring strikes of 23 yards (to Demetrius Williams), 46 yards (to Cameron Colvin) and 12 yards (Williams) all within a seven-minute stretch in the second quarter.

Fellow senior, running back Terrence Whitehead may have silenced those asking where is the Oregon running game as he rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries scoring once on a run of 20 yards and also had 60 yards in receiving with one touchdown of 46 yards. The Ducks started the game out looking like they were determined to prove to the world that they could run the ball, but the first quarter ended rather bleakly with the Ducks trailing 10-0 and only 87 yards of offense to show for their efforts, and only 33 yards of rushing. However, the second quarter the Ducks got hot and in the second half, Whitehead found his stroke, particularly when he went off the left tackle with about 8:25 showing on the clock and headed into the endzone for first rushing touchdown of the year. If Whitehead's rushing showed up, the play that may have slammed the coffin shut on the Bulldogs was in the fourth quarter when Whitehead took a Clemens' screen pass and zigged and zagged his way to the endzone for a 42-yard score.

"I've been feeling good these last couple of weeks, but I didn't feel like I was helping the team offensively," said Whitehead. "I wanted to make some real big plays."

The first quarter looked like it was going to be a roll for Fresno State because the Bulldogs kicked a field goal on their opening drive and then had an impressive drive ending with a Wendall Mathis 3-yard touchdown drive into pay dirt. FSU quarterback Paul Pinegar was finding receivers and rolled up 112 yards of passing going 7-of-9 with a long of 43 that led to Mathis' score. Pinegar ended the day 33-of-43, 418 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. While Pinegar seemed to find an open man every time he needed a first down during the first quarter drives, things stiffened up from the second quarter on. It didn't help the Fresno cause that they committed 16 penalties for 155 minus-yards. Oregon had four flags for 59 yards.

"We jumped out early, but Oregon found their rhythm," said Pinegar. "They started executing on offense and getting into the endzone."

Defensively, the Ducks seemed to wear down the Bulldogs, especially in the second half. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata became a terror to FSU, recording five tackles, one for loss, but more importantly he seemed to demolish FSU's protection and showed he could run sideline to sideline.

"Haloti made key tackles from sideline to sideline," observed Bellotti. "He is an impressive player to watch."

Bellotti though, while happy his team rebounded from being down 17 points, made it a point to fire up his defensive squad at half time.

"I challenged our defense at halftime to get more pressure on Pinegar in the second half and I thought they responded really well and did a good job of getting some hits on him in the second half," Bellotti revealed.

A.J. Tuitele was the leading tackler with a total of 11 (seven solo, four assisted) with one tackle for loss. J.D. Nelson also had 11 tackles (five solo, six assisted) and Aaron Gipson recorded his third interception of the year and the third straight game with an interception.

While place kicker Paul Martinez has been named Pac-10 Player of the Week twice in a row for his performances in the Houston and Montana games, this week he may not be tabbed again. In the first two games Martinez kicked 11 field goals but today he only had one for 45 yards. He also had one miss of 41 yards. Punting for some reason was again an adventure as punter Matt Dragich had five punts but only averaged 29.6 yards per punt. Bellotti mentioned after the game he was unhappy with the punting game and may hold tryouts for the punting position.

While Bellotti was very happy with the outcome of the contest and calling the season so far a series of stair steps, first winning on the road, then winning the home opener and now beating a top-25 team, he knows there is a big step in front of his team – the USC Trojans. Southern Cal comes to Autzen Stadium next week and for Bellotti it is an excellent chance for his team to show the nation who they are.

"Playing the number one team in the nation, at our house, will be another great opportunity for this team to show what they've got," exclaimed the Oregon headman. "With this win today we've set the stage for a great match up next week."

Bellotti reported that there were no injuries as a result of today's game and he felt that the conditioning of his team had a lot to do with the outcome.

"I think it played a part in the second quarter, they (FSU) were very tired," commented Bellotti. "Our kids kept the pace up we'll entertain the thought of being a no-huddle team…(Strength and conditioning coach) Jim Radcliffe is one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the nation."

The Ducks may be back at full strength next week as Bellotti expects that defensive end Devan Long, running back Jonathan Stewart and wide receiver Brian Paysinger should be available for next week's contest.

Kickoff for the USC game is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be televised live to a national audience on ABC.

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