Ducks Were Special In 31-24 Win

Fresno, Calif. -- The Oregon Ducks improved to 2-0 for the season on Saturday night by beating the Fresno State Bulldogs at Bulldog Stadium, 31-24 in front of 42,281 rapid FSU fans. The Ducks needed playmakers and a couple of wild special teams plays to allow them to pull out the win.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Matt Toeaina, right, picks up the football after Fresno State blocked a kick, as Fresno State's Jason Roberts, left, and Vincent Mays chase after the ball in the second half of a college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006, in Fresno, Calif. No. 20 Oregon won 31-24. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

"I really thought we battled tonight,"said Oregon's head coach Mike Bellotti. "Fresno State is a very physical team, and that was a great football game for the fans. It was another in a long line of very close games between these two teams, and we found a way to prevail."

Bellotti became the most-winning coach in Oregon history with the win over FSU. Bellotti's record now stands at 92-42 surpassing Rich Brooks (1977-94, 91-104) but in order to do so the Ducks needed some great plays by the athletes, some breaks to go their way and a fake field goal to do the trick.

With the game tied at 24 with just under five minutes left in the game, the Ducks lined up for a field goal on Fresno State's 4-yard line. Back up quarterback and holder Brady Leaf took the snap but instead of placing it for kicker Paul Martinez, he rose up and ran to the left. Just before he was about to be tackled, Leaf pitched the ball to a breaking Martinez, who rambled into the end zone, much to the delight of the several hundred Duck fans present and to the horror of thousands of Bulldog fans. Martinez scored his first touchdown in his organized football career. Bellotti thought the play was executed at the right place and time because in the third quarter Martinez had a 36-yard field goal attempt blocked. The Oregon coaching staff sensed that a there might be some room to run to the outside on a fake and called the play.

"Brady Leaf and Paul Martinez performed it exactly how you draw it up," explained Bellotti of the trick play. "Obviously, I'm very pleased with Brady Leaf. He made his presence felt in the way that he could."

Oddly enough it was the very play that blocked Martinez's field goal that was also a key factor in the Ducks win. In the third quarter the Ducks were able to mount a long sustained drive that covered 80 yards. Moving the ball from the Oregon 10-yardline to the FSU 19, the drive stalled and Oregon lined up to kick. The kick was blocked FSU's Bear Pasone, but the ball bounced in front of the line of scrimmage toward the FSU goal. By rule if the defending team touches the ball it is then considered live. The ball was touched by a Bulldog but squirted along the ground until Oregon's Matt Toeaina recovered it. After Oregon regained possession Duck running back Jeremiah Johnson made quick work of things by running around the left side for four yards on the next snap and scored a touchdown.

Fresno State Head Coach Pat Hill admitted that the two special teams plays were a huge difference in the outcome, but quick to point out that while a mistake was made it is something the Bulldogs will not dwell on.

"It came down to two field goal plays and we generally handle special teams very well," said Hill after the game. "We worked on that one play. We call the ball ‘poison' when it crosses the line after a blocked field goal. It was a mistake by a young player, but we will learn from it and move on."

Oregon had a very solid game from its quarterback Dennis Dixon throughout the game. For the second week in a row, Dixon has showed great poise and good judgment in throwing the ball and has not yet thrown an interception. Dixon finished the game going 23-for-36, 240 yards. He also rushed for a net of 32 yards. While some of his passes may have been dropped, Dixon's accuracy has been right on and the Ducks headman was appreciative.

"Despite the dropped passes, which have plagued us for two weeks in a row now, he threw the ball very accurately and made great decisions," Bellotti said of Dixon's performance. "He's a real threat when he runs the ball and he operated the offense very well."

Dixon had help in the running department from Johnson, who started in place of Jonathan Stewart. Johnson led Oregon rushing with 74 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. Chris Vincent made his first appearance carrying the ball in over two years and made five rushes for 25 yards. Stewart was in the game briefly carring the ball once for three yards, which ended up as a touchdown.

Starting will fall camp in August, Bellotti has spoke of the need for one of his talented receivers to step forth and show they are willing to be a the "go-to" guy, and tonight Jasison Williams may have heeded Bellotti's call. Williams led all receivers for the game with six catches for 106 yards. Dante Rosario had three catches for 43 yards. Brian Paysinger hauled in three throws for 27 yards while Jordan Kent and Cameron Colvin rounded out the double-figure receiving yardage (Kent, 3-31 and Colvin, 2-14) for the game.

Defensively, the star of the game for the Ducks was senior free safety J.D. Nelson, who left his brand on Fresno State on a couple of hard hitting plays. Nelson leveled FSU quarterback Tom Brandstater in the first quarter on a tremendous hit that appeared to cause a fumble and subsequent touchdown return by Oregon. The review officials overturned the play after Hill challenged the referee's decision. At the end of the first half, Nelson delivered another blow to Fresno State's star receiver Paul Williams that caused an interception. Nelson was the leading tackler with 13 tackles (six solo, seven assists) including one sack. Rover Patrick Chung was second leading tackler with 10 tackles (six solo) and intercepted the Brandstater's pass of the game.

Bellotti was very complimentary toward Brandstater, who ended the game going 16-for-33, 150 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Brandstater also rushed for a net 35 yards and scored a touchdown.

"I told our defense that he was a better quarter than (2005 Fresno State starter Paul) Pinegar. He's just as accurate of a thrower and a much more agile athlete and scrambler."

The Bulldog running game had a lot of bite to it. Dwayne Wright was the game's leading ground gainer picking up 156 yards on 29 carries and scoring one touchdown.

"They did a real nice job offensively in the second half," commented Bellotti. "We were a little tired and they ran the ball better. Their offensive line did a very nice job. We need to get better. That's one of the things that will be an area for improvement for next week playing Oklahoma with a running back like Adrian Peterson."

Javon Fairman was FSU's leading receiver with eight catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.

The win was a very solid one for the Ducks and now they can put their full attention on next week's opponent, Oklahoma. With a tough road win behind them and the prospects that Stewart will return to full force next week, the Ducks can savor the win over a tough FSU for about as long as it takes for them to fly back to Eugene. There are still plenty of land mines ahead for the Ducks to be wary of in their pursuit of a Pac-10 championship, but with the win tonight they have convinced at least one person that they are on the right track.

"Oregon is a great team and they play very hard," comment Hill of his Saturday night opponent. "I give them a lot of credit. They have a great program and they will be a contender in the Pac-10, no doubt about it."

Notes: Bellotti reported that Jackie Bates suffered a left sprained ankle and Garren Strong had a low leg strain. No other injuries were reported.

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