Ducks Still Have Burden of Proving

Eugene -- If you think Mike Bellotti is ready to rest on the laurels of beating a traditional national powerhouse in the largest stadium in the country as the Ducks did last week – think again. Bellotti believes that the upcoming opponent Oregon (2-0) faces this week in Fresno State is something to be very concerned about.

"I'm concerned with Fresno State's attack, said Bellotti at his weekly media conference. "I think we still have some things to prove defensively."

Bellotti believes Fresno State (1-1) is a combination of the two offenses the Ducks have seen so far this year. FSU has elements of Houston in terms of screens and wide receiver sets yet like Michigan, the Bulldogs can mount a power running game. Throw in a tight end that weighs 260 and is an exceptional player, Bear Pascoe, there is good reason to be concerned. FSU lost to Texas A&M last week in triple overtime, 47-45 and beat Sacramento State the week before 24-3.

Pascoe is a player Oregon recruited out of Exeter High School in Exeter, California. The Ducks wanted him as a tight end, but Fresno State told him he could be a quarterback. Standing 6-5, Pascoe eventually ended up as a tight end and Bellotti describes Pascoe as a player that can run great routes and is an outstanding blocker in the running game. Last week Pascoe was the leading receiver, catching seven throws for 70 yards, three for touchdowns. His quarterback Tom Brandstater, 6-5, 220, was 21-for-31 for 260 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the game and was also sacked once. Bellotti believes Brandstater is mobile and the Ducks will have to be concerned with his ability to escape the pass rush.

Running back Ryan Matthews, 5-11, 205, was the leading ground gainer for the Bulldogs against the Aggies, rushing for 66 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Bellotti feels that FSU has a number of backs that could be weapons and as of yet the Duck headman still has some questions about his own defense being able to defend against the run. However, he does have reason to be hopeful.

While in the first two games of the season, the opposition had a running back pile up over 100-yards in the game, not too much damage has taken place in terms of points scored. The Ducks have been particularly tough in the red zone. Against Houston, Anthony Alridge had a monstrous day racking up a whopping 224- yards on 22 carries, but he only scored one touchdown for all his work. Last week, Heisman Trophy hopeful Mike Hart toted the ball 25 times for a net 127-yards but no touchdowns.

"Yards don't beat you. First downs don't beat you (but) points beat you," Bellotti confessed. "We have shown the ability to turn people away when it counts."

Another concern Bellotti has about this game is the focus his team has on the game. Last week, Oregon traveled cross-country to Ann Arbor and knocked the stuffing out of Michigan, 39-7 on a national televised game and in front of 109,733 spectators in the Big House. Some might temper Michigan's performance against Oregon by pointing out the Appalachian State game. That loss suffered by the Wolverines has been described as the biggest upset of all-time in college football. Granted, losing to a lower division team was a big disappointment and it's possible that the Wolverines spent too much time reading all the things that were said about them in the newspapers.

Big wins or losses have a way of doing that to people.

The truth of the matter is as far as Bellotti's concerned, is that at this point no one really knows how good (or bad) Michigan really is. For that matter though there are still questions about Oregon. If the Duck players get too big a head over beating the Wolverines so badly the Head Coach has the things to point out to them.

The Ducks left a potential of 24 points on the field against Michigan. Oregon failed to score a touchdown from the 1-yard line on three stabs at the goal line. The Ducks recorded the first turnover of the year when the ball was fumbled inside the 5-yard line on the way to a score. Two field goals were missed.

"You give up over 300 yards of offense in the first half," commented Bellotti. "That is not the mark of a great football team."

Not that he's entirely upset over what happened in the Michigan game. He thinks his team proved great resilience, resolve and demonstrated Oregon can be a very good football team.

A national TV audience and 109,733 spectators probably agree with that.

Bellotti is a cautious man and he's alert to the reality of the situation. After all the Ducks have had great starts to a season in the past. Last year Oregon knocked off Oklahoma at Autzen Stadium and was flying pretty high for the first four games. Then the Ducks ran into California at Memorial Stadium and things got real bumpy after that.

"As I said to everybody, ‘that (Michigan) is the second game of the season,' if we could stop right there, that would be great, awesome, but you don't. You can't," observed Bellotti on the team's attitude. "We've had great starts in the past, we had a great start last year. We did not finish. I think the burden of proof is still there."

The Head Coach indicated he has made it very clear in the locker room, in team meetings and at practice that the burden is still on the Ducks to prove they are a good team. Bellotti thinks his team and coaches understand that and are working in the right direction.

"It only gets tougher from here on out," confessed Bellotti. "We made a statement on the type of team we believe we can be and we want to be and we want to earn national respect. Well, that happens every single day of every single week. You have to earn it every single week."

Do all the stories and comments made about the success Oregon has had have any effect on the team? Bellotti thinks his team demonstrates the human trait of listening to what others are saying about you. Even while Michigan's coaches and players were saying all the right things, it's really hard not to read what is in the papers. While Bellotti won't jump the gun on what some guy posts on a highly popular message board, he reminds his players that the same people who cheer you this week maybe the same ones who jeered last year and wanted him fired or for him to fire assistant coaches.

It all comes with the territory.

A recent column indicated that some Michigan recruits were highly impressed by Oregon's performance and even wanted the Ducks to give them a call. While Bellotti won't comment on who he is recruiting he was willing to say that the win over Michigan has caused some recruits the Ducks thought they'd lost contact to suddenly get Oregon back into consideration.

"It's great to play on national TV," said Bellotti wryly. "It's even better when you win on national TV."

Kickoff for the Fresno State game is at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Former Duck great Ahmad Rashad will be recognized for his introduction into the College Hall of Fame. Also honored this weekend is the 1958 Rose Bowl team.


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