Ducks win in desert but suffer big loss

Tucson, Ariz. – Like it or not, it appears the Kellen Clemens era is over at the University of Oregon. Clemens appeared to have seriously injured his left ankle in the 28-21 win over the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. According Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti, Clemens may have surgery on Sunday to repair a fracture.

(PHOTO) Oregon's quarterback Kellen Clemens (11) is helped off the field by the Oregon's trainers during the third quarter in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Oct. 22, 2005. Oregon won, 28-21. (AP Photo/John Miller)

"His foot was planted in this stuff right here," Bellotti said pointing to turf on the floor of Arizona Stadium. "The guy hit it and rolled over on it and it gave. That's the trouble with this grass – Bermuda grass is the worst in terms of ankle injuries."

Arizona's Copeland Bryan sacked Clemens, halfway through the third quarter for a 7-yard loss. When the pile cleared after the play, Clemens was still on the ground in pain. The loss means what Bellotti describes as a "national-type guy" who was having a tremendous senior campaign.

If losing Clemens wasn't bad enough, on the next series Dennis Dixon sustained a concussion and was pulled out of the game leaving third-string quarterback and holder Brady Leaf to come in and finish the game off. And that's exactly what the 6-foot-5, 223 pounder from Great Falls, Montana, did in a calm a business like manner. While his final numbers may not be necessarily be impressive, it was the control of the offense that stood out including a critical pass completions to Demetrius Williams.

"It would have been nice to get Dixon some work," said Bellotti. "Unfortunately, he got a concussion, and Brady (Leaf) cam in. We know Brady is prepared and were confident with him out there."

Clemens ended the game 10-for-18, 187 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Ironically, he was only sacked twice in the game. Leaf was 5-of-10, 53 yards and one interception.

"Me and Kellen are good friends," Leaf said after the game. "We're each others biggest fans. I knew what I had to do."

The game was one of the wildest in a long time. When the Ducks scored first on a 54-yard pass play from Clemens to Cameron Colvin, it appeared the Ducks could do as they pleased. That impression was reinforced later on in the quarter when Duck cornerback Justin Phinisee returned a punt 69 yards for a score and finally with just 54 seconds left in the first quarter, freshman running back Jonathan Stewart scored his sixth touchdown. Then the quarter ended and for some reason everything switched around. For one thing Arizona replaced Kovalcheck with freshman William Tuitama half way through the first and as soon as the Wildcats were headed toward the south goal in the second quarter, things began clicking. Tuitama was sensational in his premier by throwing for 182 yards, going 18-for-34, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked four times. The Wildcats also got their running game going and Mike Bell proved to be a one-man wreaking crew racking up 158 yards on 20 carries, scoring one touchdown.

"We played together as a team," said Mike Stoops, head coach of the Wildcats. "I'm proud of all of them. We competed on both sides."

The Wildcats were able to cut the Duck lead to 21-14 at halftime and in the third quarter, they tied the score on Mike Thomas' reception of Tuitama's pass for 17 yards. The game seemed very tight and one had to wonder if this would spell the end of the Ducks three-game road win streak. However, in the fourth quarter, headed toward the north endzone, Bell fumbled the ball on his own 35-yardline right into the waiting arms of Oregon's linebacker Brent Haberly. Haberly wasted no time in rounding up the ball and headed south – to score the touchdown that would give the Ducks the winning margin.

"Our defense played unbelievably," Bellotti exclaimed. "I felt that our effort was an excellent example of heart and courage. I saw some of the guys on the bench turn to teammates and say, "Don't worry, we've got your backs.' As a coach, that's the sort of thing you always hope for. Certainly, some of Arizona's mistakes helped us in a few spots, but our guys were just able to get it done."

Anthony Trucks was the leading tackler for the game with 11 total tackles including two sacks. Trucks also forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Haberly had seven tackles including three for loss. Patrick Chung also had seven tackles, forced a fumble and had an interception. Haloti Ngata had six tackles, two pass deflections and blocked a punt. Aaron Gipson also had a blocked punt.

"Things went our way tonight," commented Trucks. "We made the plays we needed to make."

Special teams had an odd mix of tremendous playes (the two punt blocks) and missed opportunities (three-missed field goal attempts). Justin Phinisee returned the punt for a score and Aaron Knowles had four punts with an average of 37.5 yards with a long of 42.

The game was a strange seesaw of action, mistakes and plain out turn of fortune. The Ducks uncharacteristically had three turnovers, two interceptions and a fumble. More characteristically, the Wildcats had four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles, plus had two punts blocked. The wind out of the north may have had something to do with it as all the kickoff either went into the endzone or through it.

"There was a significant wind," observed Bellotti of the conditions. "Most of the points in this game seemed to come in this direction (pointing to the south). We dominated the first quarter, they dominated the second quarter, they took it in the third quarter and had it in the fourth quarter."

Overall, the Ducks had 307 yards of offense while Arizona had 411 yards. The Ducks had 240 yards of passing to UA's 199, but the Wildcats out ran the Ducks 250 yards to 97 yards.

With Clemens out, the Ducks sorely needed leadership and playmaking ability and that task fell to Terrence Whitehead and Demetrius Williams. Whitehead had key 25-yard run in the fourth that put the ball into Arizona territory and the second was a 10-yard pass play to Williams to seal the last first down needed to run out the clock. Williams had 123 yards of receiving on five catches and Whitehead had 45 tough yards on 14 carries.

"It was all about believing in each other," said Williams. "Guys stepped up. Arizona gave a great effort."

The Ducks now have the week off. While the rest and recuperation may be enough for Clemens, it will give the rest of the team, who have so great depended on their senior quarterback and leader to find ways to complete the season successfully time to build their resolve. Oregon's record is now 7-1 and the hope of winning all the rest of their games is real and obtainable despite the great loss suffered with Clemens' injury.

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