No-Huddle Could Help

The Oregon Ducks are ranked 5th in the latest BCS standings and a win on Saturday could propel Oregon to higher places than they've ever been before, a loss though shatters any dreams a BCS Championship game. Last week the Ducks wore out the Washington Huskies, but will the same thing happen to a team that everyone assumed would be the best in football?

This week Oregon faces the biggest challenge of the season this week when the USC Trojans make an appearance at Autzen Stadium on Saturday.

Oregon, (6-1, 3-1, ranked 5th in the AP and USA Today polls) is anxious to take revenge on the team that has been the major stumbling block in its path (along with about everyone else) to glory and ultimate success. Beating the USC Trojans (6-1, 3-1, ranked 9th AP, 8th USA Today and No. 12 in the BCS) could shoot the Ducks right to the very top of the BCS standings. The Ducks would also erase the memories of a disappointing outing at the LA Coliseum last year in a 35-10 loss. In that game, the Trojans simply outclassed the Ducks when two costly turnovers deep in Oregon's territory led to USC touchdowns. The Ducks actually had 15 more yards of total offense and this year Mike Bellotti hopes that that the trend of racking up more offense continues. That will be a tough chore considering how good USC is on the defensive side of the ball.

"They are one of the best defenses in the nation," said Bellotti of this week's opponent, USC. "They have tremendous talent, tremendous speed and they have very physical players up front."

The Trojans have as many as eight future NFL draft picks on their defensive squad this season and will be matched up against what some are calling the best offense in college football – the Oregon Ducks. USC is second in the Pac-10 in scoring defense at 16.6 points per game. They allow the fewest passing yards (188.8 ypg) are second in rushing yardage (64.1) and are first in total defense at 252.1 yards per game.

The Ducks on the other hand are first in the conference in points scored (46.6) first in rushing (294.4) and first in total offense at 550.9 yards per contest. One of the keys to Oregon's success may have been best demonstrated last week when the Washington Huskies gave up 24 points in the fourth quarter. The constant pressure put on the Husky defense amplified, as Oregon never slowed down to huddle. The pace and tempo had it's effect as the gas tank was on empty for the Huskies in the fourth quarter and it was very clear the Ducks were in superior condition.

"I think we're in good shape because we run a no-huddle offense, we practice a no-huddle offense," revealed Bellotti on the secret of the Ducks' success. "We get a great number of reps than we have in the past and that's obviously a change this year because we're practicing in that tempo."

Last year the Ducks struggled because the team didn't quite have a complete grip on what the spread offense could do, this season though, the team, and particularly the key cog – Dennis Dixon gets it. Dixon has been phenomenal all year as he is the Pac-10's most efficient passer (165.8) and has the most offense producing 306.3 yards per game. By the way, would the Grounds Keeper at Husky Stadium please return a number of jock straps left scattered on the turf to the equipment room. The Huskies need the equipment after getting faked out last Saturday night by Dixon's trickery. Dixon's name keeps popping up in Heisman Trophy discussions and while Bellotti thinks his signal caller is well deserving of the honor, the Trojans are just too good to let post-season honors be the center of attention.

Bellotti even joked about a question asked of him.

"Somebody asked me yesterday if I thought we might overlook USC for ASU and I had to laugh at that," stated Bellotti with a slight grin.

The no-huddle offense and the pressure it puts on a defense can be as much a weapon as Jonathan Stewart and his 134.3-yard per game average rushing the ball. Stewart had the best game of his carrier last week against the Huskies with a 251-yard rushing effort and two touchdowns. Duck fans fretted last week after Jeremiah Johnson was lost for the season due to an ACL injury. However, Andre Crenshaw stepped in and made the best impression of Saladin McCullough that Duck fans have seen since, well the original. Crenshaw, gained 113 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. The Ducks recorded school record 465 yards of rushing on 65 carries (total of 661 yards offense) and Dixon came up one yard short of going over 100 yards rushing also. The Oregon offensive line had its way with the Washington defensive front and everything clicked.

Will the no-huddle help the high powered Oregon offense this week? Bellotti is taking a wait and see attitude, not overlooking USC and inviting folks to watch and find out.

"Part of it is that if you have success on offense then the no-huddle can be effective," explained Bellotti of the philosophy of the spread offense using the no-huddle. "If you don't and you're out quickly then there's obviously issues that way too. That's why you have to come see the game, (and) that's why you have to pay admission to see what happens."

The game will be the first time in Oregon history that two top-10 teams make an appearance at Autzen Stadium. A win by Oregon coupled with a win by ASU will ensure the second time two top-10 teams make their way onto Rich Brooks Field inside Autzen happens next week. This week though is a tough order for the Ducks but over half of the Oregon roster is made up of Californians who in addition to their teammates want to make it clear that the Oregon Ducks deserve to be thinking about Pac-10 and BCS Championships.

Many wondered how Stewart would hold up after his record number of carries (32) last week. Stewart proved to be the workhorse everyone wanted him to be. He seemed to get stronger and stronger as the game went on. Interestingly, of his 251 yards, he did not have a single rush over 28 yards. It would not be unusual for long runs to add to the total of such large out put as 251 yards, and since Stewart didn't have a big burst that just demonstrates how effective he was. After that much work, how did Stewart feel on Sunday?

"Tired and sore, but very happy," responded Bellotti to the question of how Stewart felt on Sunday after the record-breaking performance at Washington. "I think it is a good kind of soreness, when you win; it makes it much more tolerable."

Duck fans are hoping Stewart feels the same way this Sunday too. A step closer, albeit sore and tired to realizing a dream that was too long held as only a fantasy.

Notes: Bellotti indicated that the status of wide receiver Derrick Jones remains the same – suspended indefinitely, but the headman did shed some light on when that period might be up. Jones was suspended last week for violating unspecific team rules.

"Still the same at this point," answered Bellotti to the question of Jones' status. "We've met. There's an expected conduct that can result in him being reinstated but it won't be decided until Friday."

Bellotti also indicated that if Jones meets the conduct standard that he could play on Saturday.


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