Ducks Redeemed in 30-20 Win

Eugene, Ore. -- If last week was a gut-punch then this week when the Oregon Ducks walked off the field after beating UCLA 30-20, this week was redemption. The Ducks (5-1, 3-1) made amends against a team that is arguably as fast and as talented as anyone in the Pac-10 Conference and Oregon did so convincingly.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Jonathan Stewart (28) led a devestating Duck ground game with 121 yards on 20 carries as Oregon defeated UCLA 30-20 at Autzen Stadium.(Photo by Chris Wilson)

"We got to a fast start on both sides of the ball in both halves," said Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti of the win. "I think that was very, very important."

The Ducks played fast and nearly error free in the first quarter essentially knocking the Bruins out in the first quarter of play by scoring three touchdowns and only allowing a field goal. Dennis Dixon found his rhythm early and the Oregon offense followed his lead by rolling up 20 points and 164 yards in the initial 15 minutes of play. Dixon hit on two touchdown passes, first to Dante Rosario with a 11-yard scoring toss and then later in the quarter with a strike to Brian Paysinger for 26-yards. Dixon was much calmer within the confines of Autzen Stadium as he was 7-of-12 for the first quarter. Dixon finished the game with 144 yards on 10-of-17 for the game and two touchdowns.

Earlier in the season, Jaison Williams had three games each with over 100 yards receiving. Last week Jordan Kent had 113 yards receiving but today it was Paysinger that ended up with the big numbers catching four balls for 105 yards and a score.

"I always have confidence in my targets," admitted Dixon. "I just have to give them a chance on the ball."

The UCLA defense described by Bellotti as being a squad faster that California's seemed lost and unable to catch their breath when Dixon and company were on the field. The Ducks' offensive line came out tuned up and ready to protect their quarterback and opened holes for the running game. Dixon, Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson responded with a solid day that silenced anyone questioning Oregon's ability to run the ball. Stewart finished the day with 121 yards of rushing on 20 carries. Dixon ended up with 69 net yards on 11 carries and Johnson had 66 yards on 12 totes.

"We had good tempo from the start," claimed Stewart. "That's what set up the rest of the game."

If last week was a game where the Ducks looked a step slow, today was much different. What is particularly impressive about the Ducks' play is that it appeared sometime during the week the Ducks decided to put last week's loss behind them, take some hard earned lessons and do what was necessary to play faster against the No. 1 defense in the Pac-10 – UCLA.

"I think we played fast, we played with confidence," Bellotti reflected. "We learned some things from last week. UCLA is as fast a team as Cal."

While scoring settled down in the second quarter with the Ducks being shut out and the Bruins only putting up a solo field goal, the game was very much in Oregon's control. Offensive guard Josh Tschirgi was knocked out of action with a sprained ankle and it took a bit for the Ducks to regain their synchronization. With Tschirgi sidelined, it could mark the first time in 19 games that the Oregon offensive line may have a change in the starting line up if Tschirgi is unable to play next week. Pat So'oalo came in during the second quarter and Jon Teague saw time in the second half at the guard position.

"Pat So'oalo did a good job," Bellotti said of Tschirgi's replacement. "Pat is a gifted athlete, he's bigger (than Tschirgi) he just hasn't played a lot."

Oregon scored 10 points in the second half. James Finley had a 4-yard touchdown reception from Brady Leaf. Leaf came in on two occasions to spell Dixon, who had the wind knocked out of him. Matt Evanson kicked 22-yard field goal to close out the Oregon scoring in the fourth quarter. Offensively the Ducks' confidence soared as they finished the day racking up 404 yards of total offense (148 yards passing, 276 yards rushing) but uncharacteristically gave up two sacks. Overall, there was no question who was in charge.

"I thought offensively we played well," observed Enoka Lucas. "We played well, we played fast."

Defensively, the Ducks were playing a team less explosive than Cal, but even still the Bruins were not producing many yards when they had the ball. Bruin quarterback Patrick Cowan finished the afternoon going 16-for-31, 112 yards and was picked off once. Oregon's rushing defense only allowed 137 yards of rushing with UCLA's Chris Mackey ending up with 97 net yards on 17 caries. According to Duck linebacker Blair Phillips it was a matter of Oregon setting the tone early and having the raucous Autzen crowd urging the green and yellow on.

"We had the crowd behind us," said Phillips. "Even for a veteran quarterback, it's tough in this environment…Once we started disguising and the crowd was going, it took a toll on him.

Phillips was Oregon's leading tackler with nine (four solo). The Ducks recorded two sacks with J.D. Nelson and Darius Sanders each getting credit. Patrick Chung picked off Cowan and had five tackles (three solo). Chang thought two Duck cornerbacks, Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd deserved some recognition too saying "we've got two freshman cornerbacks playing like All-Americans to me."

Thurmond was credited with five tackles (three solo) and a pass break up while Byrd was the second leading tackler of the day behind Phillips with eight (five solo). Byrd also had a break up.

Chung was quick to heap praise on his defensive backs coach John Neal for firing up the defensive secondary.

"Coach Neal just got us hyped," Chung said. "He (Neal) told us we were going to win the game on defense."

This past week the shock of the loss to California may have caused some fans to jump off the Oregon bandwagon. The team also may have had some second thoughts but the win, in Defensive Coordinator Nick Alitotti's mind, restored some confidence in this team.

"I'm not so sure they really recovered up until the final score today," Aliotti observed of the team's progress after the loss to Cal. "I thought the spirit was a little bit down but by getting the win hopefully it will change our attitude."

Perhaps the key to the recovery though was last week in practice. According to Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton, Bellotti deserves much of the credit for helping the team overcome a tough loss and put the Ducks in a position to play well this week.

"Coach Bellotti did a great job in letting those guys recover from the (Cal) game, we practiced a little shorter on Wednesday and Thursday," Crowton said. "We made some adjustments offensively to help our line understand blocks, gave our backs a better chance and are a little healthier in the passing game."

For the screaming 58,618 fans in Autzen, the UCLA win was just the ticket and the best cure for a stomach ache and for the Oregon Ducks the only thing they'd like to talk about now is the Washington State Cougars.

The Ducks travel to the Palouse to take on the Cougars. Kickoff at Martin Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m. No live television is currently scheduled for the game.

Injury notes:
Josh Tschirgi – sprained ankle (came back and played after suffering the injury)
Patrick Chung – sore ribs
Chris Vincent – sprained ankle (could have played at the end of the game)
Jonathan Stewart – sprained his left ankle (but continued to play)
Ryan Keeling – quad contusion

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