PSU Game Could Rescue Some Confidence

Eugene, Ore. -- When those that decide who play where and when drew up the Oregon schedule, this upcoming weekend was supposed to be a bye week for the Oregon Ducks. However, when Utah State pulled out of this year's game with the Ducks, a substitute game was needed and Portland State came to the rescue. This week, the Ducks hope that PSU game also rescues some confidence lost at last Saturday.

Oregon will play host to Portland State at Autzen Stadium in a game that is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. and will be carried live on the Oregon Sports Network.

One of the players needing to restore his belief in his own abilities is Jonathan Stewart. Stewart arguably had the worst performance of his career last week in the Palouse against Washington State and if there was ever a time he needed some good medicine to recover from that performance it is now.

Stewart's confidence took a mighty blow as he fumbled once and was on the receiving end of a missed pitch that ended up on the turf. Both miscues led to scores. Stewart also was held to only 28 yards of rushing on 11 carries, well below the 100.5 yards a game rushing that he averaged headed in the Washington State game.

After the game, Stewart met with media and was clearly shaken up over his performance. His coach, Mike Bellotti indicated that there would be nothing more therapeutic for Stewart than to have a big game against Portland State. The best remedy to get the sour taste of the WSU game out of Stewart's mouth is getting back on the field in a game. Practice will not do it and it matters little whom the opponent, but success on the field is the best cure Bellotti can think of for his star running back.

"Jonathan's measuring stick right now is himself and just what he's capable of doing," Bellotti observed of Stewart. "Jonathan is an interesting guy, he felt great in warm ups. He was sitting next to me singing songs in the end zone. When he got into the game his whole persona changed. He knew it; he just got a little too uptight about things. He's very analytical about it now. It is a question of just relaxing, letting it flow and I feel like he'll do fine."

Portland State will present an interesting opportunity for the Ducks. The Vikings (5-3, 4-2) have a win over a Division I team this season (New Mexico) and would love nothing more than to notch a second win over a team that has grabbed most of the headlines in the state of Oregon over the last few years. Is it realistic though to think that Portland State could knock Oregon off? Don't put too much money on the that happening, but Bellotti thinks the Ducks must play good football in order to get back on track for the Pac-10 race.

"I think this is a very good 1-AA team that has already beaten a 1-A team in New Mexico, who was bowl team last year," said Bellotti of Portland State. "They in a sense have arrived.

One of the losses the Vikings suffered was to California (42-16) but Bellotti points out that PSU has 11 or 12 players that transferred from Division I football programs.

The sting of the WSU game still smarts with the Ducks yet there is nothing they can do about that performance but move on. The Ducks are hoping a number of players that have been slowed down by injuries will be available this week. Two players missing from the depleted defensive line may see time this week. Ra'Shon Harris and Jeremy Gibbs could be available this week which is good news for the Ducks but on the other side of the ball, two offensive linemen may see limited playing time. Offensive guard Josh Tschirgi is still bothered by an ankle injury and tackle Geoff Schwartz has a back problem. Bellotti indicated that both players' status would be determined by a late week decision.

Bellotti also said that Cole Linehan will most likely not be able to return this season and that Victor Filipe and Jackie Bates are definitely lost for the season. Filipe is eligible to use his red shirt season.

It is also not likely that there will be any change at quarterback although the head coach mentioned that there could be some sets designed for Brady Leaf if the situation calls for it. While Bellotti thought Dennis Dixon had one of his worst performances as an Oregon quarterback last week, the headman is still firmly behind Dixon.

Bellotti mentioned today in his media conference that there is no plan to continue scheduling Portland State in the future. In the event a future opponent pulls out of a contract and if a Division 1-AA team would need to be scheduled because of availability, that the Ducks would consider Portland State first. Bellotti said that was because the Ducks want to help a fellow in-state program with the financial benefits a game with the Ducks would provide.

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