Ducks Give Stewart the Ball

Eugene, Ore. – The Oregon Ducks (7-2, 4-2) overcame two interceptions and a fumble on a breezy day at Autzen Stadium and pummeled the Washington Huskies (4-6, 2-5), 34-14. While the swirling winds may have caused the Ducks' passing game problems, the running game moved efficiently with Jonathan Stewart racking up 159 yards and two touchdowns.

(PHOTO) Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart (28) once again led a dominant Duck running attack in a 34-14 victory over Washington. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

Stewart rebounded from a couple of disappointing outings by carrying the ball 25 times (a career high) and became the first Oregon player to run for so many yards against Washington. With his performance today, Stewart now has 798 yards for the season and he could have had more had the Ducks wanted to pour it on to their heated rival.

"He is obviously a very good man, and we knew this coming into the game," remarked Washington Coach Ty Willingham of Stewart. "The way Oregon does its spread offense, it makes it very tough to get to him. It doesn't allow us to be very aggressive."

The Ducks simply dominated the Huskies on long, time-consuming drives with two drives of 80 yards each and one of 94-yards. Stewart carved up the Husky defense with his power and to throw salt on the wounds, quarterback Dennis Dixon rushed for 53 yards on seven carries and receiver Brian Paysinger chipped in with 43 yards on three carries. Jeremiah Johnson also contributed with eight carries for 22 net yards.

"Overall I'm very pleased with the way we ran the football," said Oregon's head coach Mike Bellotti. "In the last two weeks we've made some minor adjustments with our running game to really involve the quarterback."

Bellotti indicated in the post game interview that the swirling winds created some problems for the Ducks offense, particularly when they tried to throw the long ball. So when all else failed they ran the ball. Actually Duck Offensive Coordinator Gary Crowton also mentioned that the team had work a bit more on the running game as they expected a wet, rainy day.

While the day was dry, and as Stadium Announcer Don Essig so often reminds the crowd, "that it never rains in Autzen Stadium," the fact of the matter was that it was dry conditions on Saturday. The Ducks moved the ball well, and the only miscues occurred when the ball went into the air. Perhaps it might be understandable though. The Ducks are now getting some people healthy but part of the price that is some guys just weren't able to practice much over the last few weeks.

Case in point was Cameron Colvin who has seen limited action this season and while he appeared to run well, the rust was there when it came to executing routes and holding onto the ball after a catch. Dixon's first interception occurred when he tried to link up with Colvin, but there was some miscommunication issues. As a result the ball was turned over on a short field and eventually Washington was able to score. Later on, Dixon found Colvin again but this time after making a move, the ball squirted out of Colvin's grasp and the Huskies recovered. Bellotti was not too upset though as he recognized some extenuating circumstances.

"I thought they played very, very well, and the two turnovers were a result of miscommunication," said Bellotti. "One in which Cameron Colvin hasn't played enough football lately, and it's hard for him to get back in there – he'll be fine down the road. He just has to protect the football. Those were unfortunate, but we have to go through the growing pains to get him back in."

Colvin redeemed himself in the third quarter though with a nice catch in traffic that set up a first down.

A couple of other factors adding to the Ducks' success was getting offensive guard Josh Tschirgi and tackle Geoff Schwartz back in the line up. The Duck offensive line moved the line of scrimmage at will and at the end of the day, Oregon was completely in charge with 316 yards of rushing of the total 454 yards offense compared to Washington's 138 total yards. The Ducks also owned the time of possession by nearly 10 minutes.

Passing was nearly a non-factor for either team as Dixon had his lowest output of the year going 14-for-25, 109 yards and two interceptions. Brady Leaf came in the fourth quarter in mop-up duty and was 4-for-5 for 29 yards.

Washington's Carl Bonnell threw more, but the Oregon defense was all over the field and the Husky receivers had trouble catching the ball. Bonnell was 15-for-34, 125 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

"We just kept dropping them," Willingham said of the dropped passes. "I think there were about three that might have made a difference, but we dropped them."

The Oregon scoring parade started early in the game when the new return specialist, Patrick Chung fielded a low Sean Douglas punt and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown.

"All ten people blocked for me," said Chung of his return. "I saw open field and I just took off."

Chung replaced Andiel Brown, who was lost last week with a broken finger and his first punt return of his career wasn't bad, although he also fumbled a punt later on in the game. Fortunately for the Ducks, Chung's fumble was overturned because of an illegal procedure penalty against the Huskies on the punt. All in all, it was good day for Chung and his head coach noticed.

"He's an interesting guy in terms of receiving the punt," observed Bellotti of Chung. "He's a very physical runner and fast with the ball in his hands. I was pleased with Pat and pleased with our special teams."

Defensively, Oregon was up to the task. Aside for giving up two scores aided by short field advantage for Washington, the Ducks controlled the day. Linebacker A.J. Tuitele was the leading tackler with eight (five solo) including one tackle for loss. Blair Phillips had five tackles (four solo) with one being a sack. Ra'Shon Harris, back for only his second game of the season also had a sack as did Darius Sanders.

"We did a great job of mixing up pressure with coverage," Bellotti mentioned of the defensive effort. "That was a huge goal for us because he (Bonnell) is so dangerous outside the pocket, and we're very pleased with the way we executed."

The Ducks also fixed a little problem that has been nagging them for the last few weeks – giving up big yardage on the ground. On Saturday the Huskies only rushed for 51 yards.

"We made it a mission to stop the run today and make them one-dimensional," explained defensive tackle Jeremy Gibbs of the defensive plan against the Huskies.

For most Duck fans, beating the Huskies is good no matter what the circumstances and today's win had to be especially pleasing because of the complete dominance Oregon had over Washington. While the official attendance was announced at 58,408, there were a few empty seats in the West end zone and in the Oregon student section. Maybe it was the threat of rainy weather or perhaps it was because the game was on TV, but this year's Husky game was not quite the same old wild rivalry game that folks have come to expect from these two teams. For Bellotti's part, he's not at all concerned that the game was less emotional, in fact he liked the fact his player gave no ammunition for various outlets to exploit. The Ducks let their actions do the talking.

"I like what we did today," commented Bellotti on the emotional build up of the game. "I like the fact there wasn't a lot of stuff in the papers, that it was all on the field and we took care of business."

Next up for Oregon are the Trojans of USC at Los Angeles. Bellotti believes the Trojans will bounce back from the loss last week to Oregon State and present one of the biggest challenges for his team's success. If the Ducks can continue to recover some of the injured players lost earlier in the season, the game should be a great one.

"We need to continue to get better, get our health back and hopefully we'll have a couple of more players back next week," said Bellotti of the upcoming USC game.

Notes:
Bellotti reported that Dan Kause sprained his ankle, James Finley sprained his knee as did Kevin Garrett. Kause is the most serious of the three and his status will be better known on Sunday.

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