Spring 2007 Concludes with a Green 20-6 Win

Eugene -- The 2007 edition of Oregon Spring Football ended today at Autzen Stadium with the green team winning 20-6. Jonathan Stewart led the green rushing effort with an 8.2-yard per carry average on five carries (all in the first half) for 41 yards. Dennis Dixon was 9 of 18 for 116 yards passing and was the leader in that category.

(PHOTO) Jonathan Stewart (28) keeps his balance during an amazing run in Oregon's 2007 Spring Game. (Photo by Chris Wilson)

For the head coach having everyone walking off the practice field healthy was good news.

"It's a good day at the office when you play a game and nobody gets hurt," said Mike Bellotti of the Spring Game. "If we played tomorrow we could have the same group. We're healthy, we have to get Ryan DePalo's surgery out of the way and get him ready as soon as possible."

DePalo was the only Duck that was seriously injured this spring and while some thought that DePalo was done for the year, Bellotti's comments suggest that there is still a possibility that the senior from Southridge High School in Beaverton could make it back onto field sometime next year.

Other than DePalo, the spring was very free from the injury bug. Several players including starting tackles Geoff Schwartz and Max Unger sat out the spring recovering from surgery. While the absence of the three-year lettermen would be disastrous in the fall, this spring it allowed less experience players more repetitions. The green team was able to run the ball effectively all day as Stewart's running mate, Remene Alston was the leader in total yards. The redshirt freshman had 66 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Quarterback Nathan Costa ran six times for 18 yards and also was 5 of 6 passing for 38 yards. Senior Brady Leaf rushed twice for four yards and was 7 of 11 for 70 yards and a touchdown.

"The green team ran the ball better today and thus they won," observed Bellott. "That's pretty typical of any college football game though, the team that runs the ball better is able to control the game and win."

What could be a foreshadow of things to come, the white team also had success running the ball (27 carries for 72 yards) with Jeremiah Johnson leading the way with 29 yards on six totes. Andiel Brown had seven carries for 17 yards while Andre Crenshaw added 10 yards on three carries.

The most spectacular play of the day was when Stewart bullied his way for a 22-yard gain, and used his strength to keep his balance, much to the oohs and aahs of the 11,723 in attendance.

"I saw a cut back and I just wanted to get there," described Stewart of his run. "I ran hard the whole time and tried to get to the goal line because once the half was over I knew I wasn't going to be able to get back in there."

Dixon rushed the ball eight times for nine yards and could have had more but was the victim of the touch rule that meant when he was touched in the backfield he was ruled down. The coaching staff installed this rule in order to protect all the quarterbacks.

"Brady Leaf did what he does best, which is to be cool and composed under pressure," commented Bellotti. "Dennis (Dixon) was affected by the two-hand touch rule more than anyone because he was not down by contact and that really affected his game."

Garren Strong was the leading receiver for the game and the white team with five catches for 71 yards. Andre Crenshaw had two nabs for the white and 36 yards. Ryan Keeling caught the only pass for a score and impressed his coach for the work he did. Keeling had five grabs for 65 yards.

"Ryan Keeling was a pleasant surprise today, because he has been in Ed Dickson's shadow all spring thus far." Bellotti mentioned. "He stepped up and made some plays."

The Duck defense was very adequate on both teams and some new names are starting to appear on the horizon of players that could make a contribution next fall. Redshirt freshman rover Marvin Johnson was the leading tackler for the white with eight tackles (four solo) with Mike Speed also recording eight (three solo.) Both had tackles for loss. Josh Thomas-Dotson was the leader of the green pack with 10 tackles (four solo) while Kwame Agyeman had three solo tackles of his six total stops. There was only one interception (by Caleb Tommasini) for the game and the first pick off for the entire spring.

"We're a good defensive football team and there is some good defensive tradition being created here," exclaimed Bellotti of his team. "Our offense led the league last year and the fact that our defense was able to stop it today is certainly a credit to that unit. We won't really know until we play an opponent and that will come in September when we play Houston."

Special teams seemed to play better but Bellotti was more cautious in handing out praise. The coverage teams stay in their lanes but the kicking game still needs work.

"I thought our coverage lanes were very good for most of the kick-offs and punts and that's good but they weren't tested today like when you face DeSean Jackson or Sammie Stroughter," cautioned Bellotti. "We need to be ready to go and will be at that time. (Right now) we're working out the bugs."

Punting was much improved however even with field goal kickers Matt Evensen and Morgan Flint hitting a total of three field goals (Evenson was successful from 40 and 30 yards and Flint hitting a 40-yarder) Bellotti thinks things will change this August.

"We will be much more serious about improving our kicking game in the fall," admitted Bellotti. "The addition of all-state kicker Daniel Padilla will certainly help with that."

Now that the spring work out sessions have ended, the players will return to the normal workout grind of lifting weights, going to school and keeping up their conditioning. The coaches will take Sunday off and get back on the recruiting trail on Monday. (Sunday is a non-contact day for coaches meeting or talking to potential recruits.)

The team looks like the one that had so much promise in August of 2006 and it seems things are somewhat more scaled back on the offense. However as Bellotti pointed out nothing really be known until the team takes the field in the fall.

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