Breathe Easy, Dixon Is Back

Eugene – Everyone held his or her breath as Dennis Dixon writhed on ground holding his knee. Was it broken? Was the Heisman candidate done for the year? Was this the end of Oregon's glorious run in 2007? The answer is no on all accounts as the Ducks beat the Arizona State Sun Devils 35-23 and kept marching toward a possible BCS championship.

Dixon took a hit early in the fourth quarter by Sun Devil Omar Bolden and the stadium filled with 59,379 went silent as Dixon held his knee in obvious pain. However, before any of the Oregon training staff could pick up a band-aid, Dixon bounced up and hobbled toward the sideline. Every eye in the place kept track of Dixon's progress as he met with trainers and doctors. A sigh of relief seemed to come up as the senior quarterback kept walking around, putting pressure on his knee. After the game Dixon said that he could have come back into the contest if necessary, but when he left the game the Ducks were up 35-16 and Brady Leaf was filling in nicely.

"Dennis is going to be fine," said a relieved Mike Bellotti in the post-game media conference. "It was just a mild knee strain, and he had a thigh bruise on that same leg from earlier in the game. I think he could have gone back in, but we are comfortable with our depth at that position. He would have gone back in if we felt he was needed."

Make no mistake, Dixon is always needed for this team. Dixon is the most valuable player on this team, hands down. Don't believe me? Just ask the team.

"Last year, Enoka Lucas was in charge in the huddle," said offensive lineman Josh Tschirgi. "This year it's Dennis Dixon."

Dixon was on his way to a huge game. He was 13-for-22, 189 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 79 yards, but 22 yards went into the minus column so he ended up with a net 57. His rushing yardage kept drives alive and he was wearing out Arizona State defense that fruitlessly chased after him. National attention is on Dixon and he is responding. Even his act of courage to spring up after taking a shot to the knee showed the grit he is made of.

The signal caller's passing yardage may have been more but there were too many dropped balls. Jaison Williams caught two of Dixon's scoring strikes. Williams started off well enough today but then seemed to catch a case of the dropsy, much to the chagrin of the fans in the stands. Bellotti mentioned that the coaching staff intends to work with Williams and probably the best medicine is just go back to basics and keep throwing him the ball.

"I know that the team and fans have a lot of confidence in me," confessed Williams of his play. "Those touchdowns help me feel a little better and more comfortable on the field."

Williams still had decent numbers grabbing five balls for 106 yards and the two scores. His long was the first play of the game for 43 yards. Still though, after missing on one catch that resulted in forcing the Ducks to punt, Williams was surrounded by teammates on the sidelines (including Jonathan Stewart, Dixon and Brian Paysinger) all giving Williams encouragement. It was clear Williams felt badly about not making the catch.

Stewart also did his part to support the effort today by gaining a game high 99 yards net including a touchdown run of 33 yards and scored anther touchdown on a pass reception, drawing Bellotti's appreciation after the contest.

Dixon's day though should be appreciated by any Heisman Trophy voter who watched the prime time nationally televised game. The Ducks came out on fire in the first quarter scoring on the first three drives and held a 21-3 lead. Then the ASU defense got stiffer and things were much rougher going.

"We thought we could do some things with the play-action pass," related Bellotti. "They didn't give us too much pressure, and Dennis (Dixon) was able to pick and choose his spots. We dropped a few passes that could have added to the score."

The Ducks scored enough though to ensure an 8-1 record for the season and 5-1 in the Pac-10 race, leaving Oregon completely in the driver's seat on what happens next. If the Ducks win out the worst bowl they would be in would be the Rose Bowl and the best of course would be the BCS Championship game. Only three more games block that goal, Arizona on Thursday, November 15; UCLA on November 24th and Oregon State on December 1st.

So what does Bellotti think about Dixon and the Heisman Trophy? Bellotti says, his senior quarterback "is very important to our football team and to our football program, and he deserves every accolade he can get."

Not many could argue that, particularly the exuberant fans and supporters that stormed the field after the final gun sounded on Saturday and if Oregon continues playing the it has been more accolades are sure on the way.


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