Ducks meet the challenge win 31-17

Tempe, Ariz. -- Simply put it was a great win. Oregon came into Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday evening and proved to everyone watching and listening that the Ducks are for real and a team to keep track of. In a game that was supposed to be a pass for the Arizona State Sun Devils, when the final gun sounded just before midnight, the Ducks headed back to Eugene with a record of 5-1, 2-1 in the Pac-10 race and savoring a 31-17 win.

(PHOTO) Arizona State defensive back Jamar Williams pulls the helmet off the head of Oregon runningback Jonathan Stewart, during the first quarter, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2005, in Tempe, Ariz.(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

The win over the 17th ranked Sun Devils marked the first time since 2002 that Oregon has beaten a ranked team on the road.

If ever there was a game that truly reflected Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti's football philosophy, tonight's win did. Earlier in the week Bellotti said that the game would be about the offense, defense, special teams and playing with great pride and that is exactly what happened. The offense not only scored more points, but also had 512 yards of total offense (234 yards rushing, 278 yards passing) compared to Arizona State's 330 yards (53 yards rushing, 277 yards passing). The defense recorded two critical interceptions, sacked ASU quarterback Sam Keller four times and had 11 pass break ups. Special teams blocked a punt and walk on Matt Evensen replaced ailing Paul Martinez and kicked three field goals, two at 42 yards and one at 51 yards. Despite starting off the game trailing by 10 points, the Ducks reeled off 24 straight points in the second and third quarters to take command of the contest.

"I was very pleased with heart and character of this football team," said Bellotti. "We started off by digging ourselves a hole early with our turnovers, penalties and mistakes, but we didn't give up hope. We came out and got the momentum going in the half."

The Oregon offense ran the ball frequently and well. Senior tailback Terrence Whitehead came back after sitting out last week against Stanford because of a groin injury and racked up 122 yards rushing on 21 carries and one touchdown. If that wasn't enough, Whitehead also caught nine passes for and even 100 yards and a touchdown. The feat was the first time a Duck has had a double 100 since Bobby Moore (Ahmad Rashad) in the early ‘70s. The Ducks surprised everyone, especially ASU with their dedication to the run by keeping the ball on the ground 47 times, well over half of the total snaps (87) on offense. Jonathan Stewart had nine carries for 29 yards and Jeremiah Johnson had a carry for 12 yards.

"Our ability to run the football was the difference in this game," Bellotti said evaluating the offense. "It opened a lot for us down the field."

Bellotti was particularly happy with Whitehead. The Ducks have been criticized all season long for a lack of running game, yet all week long prior to the ASU game, Bellotti kept talking about the depth of the running back position.

"I was very pleased with Terrence Whitehead, as well as all of our tailbacks," Bellotti said. "When he's healthy, he is one of the best all-around football players in this conference."

Senior quarterback Kellen Clemens again showed great leadership and the ability to find receivers just when he needed to. Although he gave up two interceptions, Clemens for the most part was right on target going 20-of-39, 278 yards and two touchdowns. Clemens also rushed for 47 yards net. Even more amazing, and a great credit to the offensive line, Clemens was not sacked. Besides Whitehead, Clemens found Demetrius Williams in critical spots to the tune of three times for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Kyle Weatherspoon had two catches for 23 yards, James Finley had 2 catches for 19 yards and Brian Paysinger had 2 catches for 16 yards.

Last week Bellotti also had issued a challenge to the defensive line and it was clear that the Oregon defense was energized, as the pressure on Keller was constant. ASU was never able to consistently get into a rhythm. The challenge to the Duck defense last week intensified when ASU's head coach Dirk Koetter had talked about Oregon trying to make teams one dimensional, and if that happened against his team, it would play into ASU's hands. After the game, Koetter talked about what Oregon's defense caused ASU's offense to do.

"They were forcing us to nickel and dime underneath," said Koetter. "There's nothing wrong with us doing that, but we couldn't make enough plays. We can move the chains doing that, but we couldn't put two plays back-to-back."

Keller finished the night going 31-for-56, 277 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and he was sacked 4 times. Rudy Burgess was the leading receiver with 11 catches for 52 yards and was also the co-leading ASU rusher with 25 yards net on seven carries. Keegan Herring also had 25 yards net on 10 carries. Tight end Zach Miller had seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Derek Hagan had four catches for 46 yards and a score. Jamaal Lewis had three grabs for 58 yards while Terry Richardson had three catches for 24 yards. The Sun Devils also scored one field goal of 34 yards by Jesse Ainsworth.

The win was one of the most satisfying in the locker room after the game. The Ducks marched into Tempe and left clearly a better team and team that is still in the mix of the Pac-10 race, a team that can get better as the season progresses and could find themselves in a BCS bowl in January. While all of that is still down the road, one thing that is clear is the Ducks took on the challenges made to them and played with great pride in the win over Arizona State.

Next week, the Ducks are at home against the Huskies of Washington, a team that had this week off. Kickoff next week is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

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