A combination of things makes the difference

For the last few seasons, the Oregon Ducks have faced failure when matched up with the Arizona State Sun Devils. This Saturday in Tempe, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti hopes things will turn around with a combination of things plus one intangible -- pride.

Last season at Autzen Stadium the Ducks failed to capitalize on two plays in the red zone that they need to make and fell short to ASU, 28-13. ASU's quarterback Andrew Walter, now departed to the NFL, threw for 164 yards on a 14-for-23 effort and three touchdowns. The Ducks could only manage two field goals by Jared Siegel and a 9-yard touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens to Terrence Whitehead in the 3rd quarter of the game. Overall the Ducks had more offensive yardage (311-283) than the Sun Devils, but the Ducks failed to win the most important statistic, points scored.

The year before, it was a much different story. ASU completely dominated the Ducks to the tune of a 59-14 thumping. The started that game off with two Clemens' interceptions, one that led to a 50-yard return for a score and the second that gave the Sun Devils a short field and ultimately a touchdown. The first two turnovers dug a hole into which the Ducks could not climb out of. Oregon gave up 497 yards of offense that day and only managed to muster up 285 yards of its own. While it may appear from the statistics that the loss was a result of a poor defensive effort that day, Bellotti thinks that it was a matter of climate and preparation. While in any lopsided loss Bellotti looks inward first, there are some things his team can do differently. Oregon was taught a couple of lessons on that bad day two years ago.

"We wilted in the heat, we have to make sure we are prepared for the heat this year," said Bellotti about the game at ASU in 2003. "Prepare (for the upcoming game) for any intensity whether running the football or throwing the football and improve performance both on offense and defense."

The upcoming game is not the first time this year the Ducks have prepared themselves to play in hot conditions. The opening game of the season in Houston was played on a hot, humid day and to add to the mix, the roof of Reliant Stadium was opened up just before kick off. The heat had little effect on Oregon as the coaching staff had initiated a hydration regime in the weeks prior to the Sept. 1st game. That one lesson learned from the Houston game is an important one and if the Ducks want success in the dry heat of the Arizona desert, Oregon will continue drinking water this week too.

As for intensity, the question is whether the Oregon team in Tempe is the same as that came out against USC two weeks ago in the second half or will it be the one against Stanford last week? Against USC, the Ducks gave up five touchdowns in the second half of play but against Stanford, the sole Cardinal score was a blocked punt recovery and return. While the Ducks failed to score in the last two quarters of the USC game, against Stanford, Oregon ran up 23 points in the second half plus two touchdowns that were called back because of penalties.

Would Oregon change anything defensively against ASU? Bellotti isn't saying. He is willing to say though that the intangible of pride is a factor and while that may cause posters on eDuck.com's message boards to post lots of opinions, the Oregon head coach thinks that pride is part of the key to success in the desert

"It's a combination of offense, defense, special teams and I think playing with greater pride," Bellotti said summing up his assessment of Saturday's game.

Kickoff is scheduled for a 7:15 p.m. and the contest will be carried live on Fox Sports.

Bellotti said today that both tailbacks Terrence Whitehead and Jonathan Stewart are practicing and will be available to play. Bellotti also mentioned that Stewart is looking as good as he has since fall camp.

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