Duck Running Game Has Big Scrimmage

Eugene -- Oregon's running game showed up big today inside Autzen Stadium as the Ducks held a scrimmage. The Duck runners tore up the defense to the tune of 267 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Oregon's Mike Bellotti wasn't very happy with the Duck defense.

(PHOTO) Senior quarterback Brady Leaf (16) scrambles with the ball during the Ducks' practice inside Autzen Stadium. (Photo by Steve Summers)

"I was disappointed a bit when I found out that nine starters wouldn't be involved in it," Mike Bellotti said of the afternoon scrimmage, and how the daily doubles have taken a toll on the starters. "But that's the way of the world nowadays."

A number of regulars were not suited up for the scrimmage, so it was a bit hard to tell the true measure of the team's capabilities. At this point of camp there are several bumps and bruises, however it was clear that the Duck offense can run the ball.

Jeremiah Johnson started things off at the beginning of practice by breaking a 69-yard scoring run. Johnson blasted right straight up the middle and used his speed to breakaway from the defense. A couple of series laster, quarterback Nathan Costa saw open daylight and took off for a 62-yard run of his own. As practice wore on, sophomore Andre Crenshaw went around the right end for 15 yards into the end zone, and senior Andiel Brown capped things off with a solid 39-yard run into pay-dirt.

"The big plays came against our defense, and that's a concern obviously," conceded Belloti. "We can't have that happening."

While the defense struggled with the run, they did have their moments against the passing game. Not so surprisingly, some freshmen took advantage of having some upperclassmen out of action. Terrance Pritchett and Casey Matthews both had five tackles, while T.J Ward and Spencer Paysinger had four each. Simi Toeaina recorded a tackle for loss and, while still needing to improve his technique, he held his own and it was an encouraging sign for an otherwise less than bright day for the defensive front.

While not pleased with the defensive performance, Bellotti thought that everyone should be back on Monday, and for the first time since practice started, the Ducks will be at full strength.

The passing game was less impressive than the rushing attack on Friday. Dennis Dixon was 4-for-4 for 27 yards. Brady Leaf was 5-of-6 for 61 yards. Costa added 28 yards on 2-of-4, while Cody Kempt threw the solo touchdown pass of 11 yards. He was 2-for-3 in passing. Justin Roper completed 1-of-2 passes for 6 yards.

Brian Paysinger had three catches for 20 yards, while Ed Dickson had a nice grab of 20 yards. Matt Larkin had a catch for 19 yards but it was Aaron Pflugrad that was the leading receiver today. The freshman from Sheldon High School had four catches for 20 yards, including the 11-yard scoring pass from Kempt.

During the field goal kicking drills prior to the scrimmage, Morgan Flint banged two 45-yarders and two from 40, while Daniel Padilla had two from 40, one from 41 and one from 35.

"I thought our special teams got a little better today," commented Bellotti. "I was actually pleased with our place kicking, I thought they handled a tricky wind fairly well."

No significant injuries were reported as a result of the practice, not counting defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's pride at the performance of his charges.

"You've caught me at a bad time," Aliotti told reporters after practice. "I'm a competitive guy and I didn't like what I saw."

The Ducks will hold their annual Fan Day on Saturday, but for the defense, it may be a little less than fun, if the defensive coordinator has anything to say in the matter.

While the defense did struggle today, it was clear that there is a very good set of young players, particularly at linebacker, on the Ducks' roster. There is definitely reason for hope coming a week from tomorrow when the Ducks take on Houston at Autzen Stadium.

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