Dropped Flags and Passes Dot Practice

Eugene, Ore. -- Oregon's Head Coach Mike Bellotti was not very happy with his offense and special teams after practice on Saturday. In fact he gave them failing grades. The Ducks conducted a long practice session that included a nearly hour long scrimmage that saw too many dropped passes and too many flags, however Bellotti did see improvement on the defensive side of the ball.

(PHOTO) Garren Strong (1) hauls in a pass over an unidentified defender during a scrimmage held at Autzen Stadium on August 19, 2006, in Eugene, Ore. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

"We failed the test today, said an aggravated Mike Bellotti. "We failed it on special teams, we failed it on offense. I was very disappointed with our offensive play, I was pleased with the defense for the most part."

The practice was really the first extended scrimmage for the squad and the coaching staff piped in noise as a distraction. Mother Nature provided another problem for the young Ducks – a hot day.

"The heat and noise," cited Bellotti of the day's problems. "We succumbed to both."

The Ducks rotated quarterbacks and offensive lines and some of the numbers reflect that. Dennis Dixon was 8-for-17 for 112 yards and a touchdown. Brady Leaf was 6-of-16 for 43 yards and a touchdown. Nathan Costa was 0-for-5 and Justin Roper was only 1-of-7 for five yards. Surprisingly Cody Kempt, who had struggled all camp long had his best showing going 4-of-6 for 36 yards and leading the offense on an impressive drive.

Garren Strong was the leading receiver grabbing five throws for 65 yards. Kyle Weatherspoon had two catches for yards and a touchdown. The only other Duck to have more than one catch was Jeremiah Johnson hauling in two for seven yards.

The offense fared slightly better running ball as Chris Vincent saw extended carries and ended up with five rushes for 20 yards, but his most impressive run of over 40 yards was called back because of a holding penalty. Dixon picked up 12 yards on three carries, Leaf ran twice for 19 yards and Jonathan Stewart had two rushes for 19 yards, but one of the totes went into the end zone after covering an impressive 16 yards.

Bellotti said in a challenge to the receivers that Garren Strong is the No. 1 receiver and no one has stepped up to be the No. 2 or 3 receiver. Several dropped passes dotted the scrimmage and obviously Bellotti was not happy.

"We have depth at wide receiver, I'm still waiting for that second and third receiver to step up," remarked the unhappy headman about his receivers. "I don't think we have a second or third receiver right now that we can count on."

The final two-minute drill was the best output for the offense today and Bellotti thinks that his first stringers did well because of a sense of urgency. The drill simulates end of game situations and the first team scored on a Dennis Dixon 3-yard pass to Kyle Weatherspoon against the first team defense after driving the ball nearly 70 yards.

Still though, Bellotti didn't like the dropped passes. The headman does credit an improving defense, something that lagged behind during the first part of Fall Camp.

"The offensive performance was really pretty awesome for the first 10 days," observed Bellotti. "It has declined in the last three and I think it is a combination of our defense catching up and recognizing certain things…we might be a little leg and arm weary."

A number of defensive players had a good afternoon including Nick Reed, Brian Butterfield and Darius Sanders all with four tackles. Sanders also recorded a sack along with former tight end-now-defensive end Brandon Bair. Bair had three tackles (two for loss) and a pass-break up.

Place kicking was so-so today, as Paul Martinez was the most consistent booting the place kicks. Matt Evensen kicked well in kickoffs, but the return team shined as Jeremiah Johnson returned one kick nearly 97 yards for a touchdown. Johnson also demonstrated his fancy footwork in a nifty 40 plus punt return.

Penalties and over all sloppy play were a source of frustration for the coach. Eight flags were thrown at the offense for 65 yards while the defense had four infractions for 22 yards.

Bellotti is glad that he did not face Stanford on Saturday but felt that things that went wrong could be corrected in practice. He intends to practice inside Autzen at least once next week and will incorporate the piped in noise.

"We need to practice more in here (inside Autzen Stadium) with this surface and this crown because it did affect some of our passes," concluded Bellotti.

Dan Kause had a bruised hip
James Finley – bruised elbow
Matt Toeaina had a stinger
Darius Sanders had a strained knee

Bellotti did not feel any of the injuries were very serious.

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