UW (4-5) at OREGON (6-2)

Washington pays a visit to Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, for the sixth time in their past seven meetings with Oregon to take on the Ducks. Oregon is coming off of an out of conference route of Portland State and looks to defeat the Huskies for the third straight year.

LAST WEEK: The Ducks needed healing and that's what they got with a 55-12 win over Portland State. Turnovers killed Oregon against Washington State the week before by giving the Cougars excellent field position. However last week things turned around as the Duck offense held onto the ball while the defense picked off three passes. Oregon's special teams put the Ducks inside the PSU 30 three times that led to scores. Dennis Dixon finished off with a modest 150 yards on 13-for-23 passing with one touchdown as he shared duties with Brady Leaf (4-for-9, 34 yards) and freshman Nathan Costa (3-3, 51 yards). Jaison Williams had his fifth game of over 100 yards receiving (112 yards on eight catches and one touchdown) to tie a school record for most 100 yards receiving games in a single season. Jonathan Stewart left the game early in the first quarter after being driven out of bounds and toppling over a steel bench well beyond the sideline on a play that still has Head Coach Mike Bellotti fuming at the officials. Jeremiah Johnson picked up the pace though by scoring three touchdowns and gaining 86 yards on 17 carries. Linebacker Blair Phillips was the leading tackler with eight (three solo) while the defensive line recorded five sacks including two for Darius Sanders, 1.5 for David Faaeteete (Phillips credited with a half sack) and Nick Reed with one. LAST WEEK: Washington suffered their second straight OT loss, this time to the Arizona State Sun Devils in Husky Stadium. It was the third time in four games that they have lost on the last play of the game. And the loss to ASU is Washington's fourth straight, so they enter this contest with Oregon on a down note having gone oh-for-October. Washington went to their third string quarterback when Carl Bonnell was sidelined with a concussion after hitting his head on the turf after a late hit. Former Duck Johnnie DuRocher came in and led the Huskies to the tying score with a nice drive late in the fourth quarter to force the extra period. The Huskies were forced to go for a field goal in OT while ASU scored on their second play, a completion to back-up TE Brent Miller, who had beaten Husky LB Dan Howell. Washington's running game was still somewhat dormant against ASU, as Louis Rankin got the lion's share of the carries and averaged less than 3 yards per carry. It was the Husky defense that was perhaps the most disappointing, as they gave up two long touchdown runs, a 24-yarder to Ryan Torain and a 61-yarder by Keegan Herring.
KEY INJURIES: DT Cole Linehan (broken foot - out), LB Brent Haberly (broken arm - out), CB Jackie Bates (broken leg - out), FB Jason Turner (torn ACL - out). RB Chris Vincent (torn ankle ligament - out), DE Victor Filipe (elbow - out). RB Andiel Brown (broken finger - out) WR Derrick Jones (right ankle tendon - out). KEY INJURIES: FS Jason Wells (knee - possible), QB Carl Bonnell (concussion - will play), TB Kenny James (ankle - possible), QB Isaiah Stanback (foot - out).
WHEN OREGON IS ON OFFENSE: Dixon is the ideal quarterback for Oregon's spread offense when he is not turning the ball over. In the early part of the season, Dixon was making good decisions and showed great confidence. However after tough outings against California and Washington State, Dixon's confidence was clearly shaken up. Last week's game against PSU was a positive and the home crowd seemed to pump him up. Oregon will put as many as five receivers into patterns. When things work well for the Ducks, the combination of Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Cal and WSU were able to slow down the Oregon running attack, but when the Ducks are in front of the home crowd at Autzen Stadium, keeping a lid on the two will be a near impossible task. All of Oregon's scholarship receivers are 6-1 or taller. In seven games this season one of those tall, fast receivers has had over 100 yards receiving. Williams is having a tremendous year with five games over 100 yards but Jordan Kent and Brian Paysinger also had big days too. Cameron Colvin has been hampered by nagging injuries but should be back at full speed against the Huskies. One trademark of the Duck offense is the no-huddle and the number of plays Oregon is able to run. So far this season the Ducks have run more plays (574-510) than their opponents despite having less time of possession (28:06-31:54). WHEN WASHINGTON IS ON OFFENSE: Carl Bonnell had a terrible game against ASU but in his defense, he had a sure touchdown pass dropped by TE Robert Lewis that may have sparked the offense a bit. Bonnell shows good escapability but in the last two games he's been beaten up pretty good (separated shoulder, concussion). Still, the game is on his right arm. He will need to scramble and create some things outside the pocket. When he does, he'll look to WR Sonny Shackelford and WR Anthony Russo. Shack has been the top pass catcher to date and Russo has been the main deep threat, but neither one gets open consistently. TE Robert Lewis gets open and Bonnell has looked to him more often. TE Johnie Kirton presents a bigger target and is tougher to bring down. WR Marlon Wood and FL Marcel Reece have yet to make much of an impact on offense despite their big-play reputations. The offensive line is the same as it's been all year, WT Ben Ossai, ST Chad Macklin, OG Clay Walker, OG Stanley Daniels, and C Juan Garcia play every down possible. If Kenny James can return, it gives the Huskies a badly needed between-the-tackles back. Louis Rankin breaks free for long gainers on occasion but has trouble breaking tackles and getting to the holes quickly, preferring to break things outside. True Freshman Paul Homer might be a good guy to try in short yardage.
WHEN WASHINGTON HAS THE BALL: The Duck "bend-don't-break" defense has played well enough this season but was overwhelmed at Cal and had to work too much in the short field against WSU. The defensive line has labored short-handed due to injuries this year but that might finally be easing up. Matt Toeaina and Faaeteete start and Jeremy Gibbs is moving much better now after battling a gimpy ankle since the ASU game. Ra'Shon Harris has returned after what was thought to be a season ending injury to a triceps and had a blocked pass last week. Duck fans want to see more blitzing by the defensive ends including Sanders, Reed, Dexter Manley and Ed Dickson. Phillips has been very impressive all year long and is the Pac-10's leading tackler (9.5 per game). Kwame Agyeman will be listed as a strong safety in the program but he really is an outside linebacker in the Oregon scheme. A.J. Tuitele is the weakside linebacker, and a tenacious tackler. J.D. Nelson and Patrick Chung are big hitters out of the safety positions. The Ducks hope that the cornerback position will be healthier this week. Walter Thurmond could not go last week but that allowed Willie Glasper his first career start. Thurmond should be available this week along with Terrell Ward, a player that had been penciled in to start after the spring workouts but has been sidelined with an ankle problem. Jairus Byrd has been a solid starting corner. Somehow through all the injuries to the defensive line and to the secondary the Ducks have remained the best pass defense in the Pac-10 at 144.2 yards per game but the rush defense is another story. Too often this season the Ducks have been run over not only by the likes of Adrian Peterson (211 yards), Dwayne Wright (154) and Justin Forsett (167), but also by Ryan Torain (114), Dwight Tardy (145) and last week Portland State's Mu'Ammar Ali (139). The Ducks will probably allow one of the Husky running backs to have a big day running the ball if the Oregon offense jumps out early enough on the Washington defense. Oregon will be more than happy to give up time-consuming runs in exchange for not allowing blow up passing plays. WHEN OREGON HAS THE BALL: Washington's rush defense was terrible last weekend. The front four, ironically, had one of their strongest games in terms of pressuring the quarterback. But this week they'll be facing Dennis Dixon, one of the most elusive and dangerous playmakers in the conference. Dixon keeps plays alive and shows nice touch and a strong arm to make defenses pay when he escapes the rush and gives his solid corps or receivers time to get open. DE Brandon Ala and DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim will have the job of containing Dixon to the pocket, and the inside duo of Wilson Afoa and Jordan Reffett will have the job of collapsing it. DE Greyson Gunheim and DT Donny Mateaki were starters until recently and will get plenty of snaps as well. The linebacking corps of Scott White, Dan Howell, and Tahj Bomar run well but it has been the play of true freshman Donald Butler, a 240-pound heat-seaking missle that has gotten the attention of Husky coaches recently. he has been playing more and more in place of Bomar. White is the leading tackler of the group. EJ Savannah plays a lot as well and on obvious passing downs, Chris Stevens comes in for his outside speed. The secondary has been maligned and is thin. The corners are Roy Lewis and Dashon Goldson and are spelled by Matt Fountaine. These three guys are going to face their toughest challenge to date, trying to cover the big and physical Duck receivers. Jason Wells was hurt last weekend so if he cannot go, Goldson may move back to safety and pair with CJ Wallace, the best tackler on the team (79 stops, 6 tfl). Mesphin Forrester is the nickel back.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Place kicker Paul Martinez has been in and out of the line up because of lingering injuries but last week against PSU he hit at 48 and 34yards on his field goal attempts. Aaron Knowles was punting last week and is averaging 40.9 yards, but Matt Dragich, who was the starting punter could be back in action if his 36.6-yard average improves this week in practice. Jeremiah Johnson or Walter Thurmond or Patrick Chung could be the punt returner. Last week Andiel Brown did the return chores but he's lost because of a broken finger. Johnson is capable of returning punts for major yardage, but sometimes makes poor decisions on when to field the ball. Thurmond and Chung have not been used before but are very good athletes. We'll know who it is the first time the Huskies punt the ball. SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Michael Braunstein has been solid on field goals, having only missed two all season (9-11). His kickoffs have been deep as well, and have good hang time. Punter Sean Douglas has struggled as of late but still averages 44.5 yards per punt. The deep snapping was an issue earlier in the year but Danny Morovick has straightened that out. The returns for punts and kicks have been pretty mediocre. Roy Lewis returns most kickoffs (18.8 yard average, long of 31) and Marlon Wood has returned three, averaging just over 22 yards per return. Wood fields punts as well, averaging 6.5 yards per return.
OREGON CAN WIN IF: Oregon will win if they don't turn the ball over and give Washington a short field to work with. The Ducks have too many weapons coming out of the dangerous spread offense. Too many tall, fast receivers catching pinpoint Dixon passes and if all else fails, the Ducks will simply give the ball to Stewart and/or Johnson to make something happen. A hostile, homecoming crowd for a Husky game at Autzen Stadium is probably worth seven to 10 points alone. WASHINGTON CAN WIN IF: Oregon somehow takes this game lightly. I can't imagine it happening, but if the Ducks decide that the Huskies don't belong on the same field as they do and play the way they did against WSU, the Huskies are good enough to make them pay for it. Washington took USC to the last play and took both Cal and ASU to overtime before succumbing. This is a Husky team that is not long on talent but they do play with a great deal of heart. Carl Bonnell is accurate enough to hit open receivers should the Ducks sit back in a soft defense. And if the Huskies can assemble any kind of running threat, it might just open things up in the middle of the field where Kirton and Reece can make big catches to move the chains. It's a long shot but nonetheless a shot.
OREGON WILL LOSE IF: If Dixon gets rattled and loses his confidence and makes poor throwing decisions, then the 2006 Oregon Homecoming game get to be a very long day on national television. Dixon is the key to success for the Ducks in this game. Brady Leaf may see some time but if he comes in because of turnovers it may mean the Ducks have had to abandon the running game and are passing to cut the score down. The Ducks have been very good at home and there is no reason to think they won't be this weekend too. Bellotti responded clearly to the question of what is the key to beating Washington?

"Very simple," Bellotti answered. "Don't turn the ball over."
WASHINGTON WILL LOSE IF: Oregon shows up to play, and if the Huskies turn the ball over at the rate they have been recently. Interceptions have plagued this team over the past two weeks, and if you give the Ducks more chances than they'll already get on offense, the Dawgs have no shot. Oregon is capable of hanging over 40 points on the Dawgs without turnovers, particularly if the Husky defense has trouble tackling. Against a spread shotgun with an extremely mobile QB, the Husky linebackers already have their hands full. If they give Oregon a couple of short fields to work with, this one will get ugly fast.
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Steve Summers is the publisher for eDuck.com and Editor-in-Chief of eDuck Magazine. David Samek is the Publisher of Dawgman.com and the Editor-In-Chief of Sports Washington magazine. He has been covering Washington football since 1996.

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