New Kids On Civil War Block

The Oregon Ducks (8-3, 5-3) take on the Oregon State Beavers (7-4, 5-3) this Saturday in a game that has lost some of the allure it once may have had due to injuries depleting both teams. The players taking the field though will have to secure the ball and in Oregon's case, it is going to be a challenge for a pair of young quarterbacks who have only one game under the belt.

Last week, the Ducks had expected Brady Leaf to be the signal caller against UCLA but when he was knocked out of action in the first half of the game, redshirt freshman Cody Kempt was called upon. Up until that moment Kempt had never taken a snap as an Oregon Duck.

Kempt played for nearly two quarters until he went down and Justin Roper came in. Roper, also a redshirt had seen action once in the year, and that was only long enough to hand the ball off in the waning moments of the Washington State blowout. To say the two inexperienced quarterbacks were thrown right into the fire is an understatement as they were schooled by an experienced and talented UCLA defense last week.

Kempt finished the day 6-for-23 for 52 yards and two interceptions. He also carried the ball four times for eight yards, but was sacked once for a seven-yard loss leaving him with a net one-yard gain rushing.

Roper threw five times, completing one and have one ball intercepted. He also was sacked twice losing a total of 24 yards. He did have seven yards of positive rushing on four carries.

The Oregon offensive line gave up five sacks and provided running room for only 119 total rushing yards. The headman thought that part of the reason was the communication between the line and the new quarterbacks and this week Bellotti believes that the two neophyte quarterbacks will be significantly improved because they will get most of the snaps in practice.

"They learned a great deal," Bellotti said of Kempt and Roper's day against UCLA. "They will be significantly improved based on that experience."

With Dixon done for the year, Nate Costa lost due to a knee injury and Leaf very doubtful for playing the Ducks have had to dip into the emergency pool of talent. What they've come up with is rover Marvin Johnson and running back Andre Crenshaw. In the case that neither Kempt nor Roper workout nor Leaf being unavailable, Johnson and Crenshaw could be jointly handling the quarterback duties.

Johnson played quarterback in high school at Southern California powerhouse Dominguez High School in Los Angeles. His team went 13-1 in his senior season capping the year off by beating Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, 41-14 to win the CIF Southern Section Championship. Johnson accounted for 2,266 yards including 1,016 rushing on 101 carries and 18 touchdowns. His longest run that year was for 92 yards. He threw for 1,250 yards on 54-of-96 with 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions for an amazing 132 quarterback rating.

"As a quarterback he was a great leader," commented Bellotti on Johnson. "Led his team to a section championship and is one of those guys you don't mind putting the ball in his hands because you trust him."

Bellotti also pointed out that Johnson can throw the ball 70 or 80 yards and can even throw it 55 on his knees. While throwing the ball a long way doesn't necessarily translate into being a great quarterback, Bellotti does think Johnson has all the intangibles of being tough and resilient that could translate into success. Certainly on the defensive side and on special teams, those traits have worked well for Johnson, whom Bellotti described as a battler who could bring toughness to the quarterback position.

During Bellotti's weekly media conference he very interesting comment that the injury situation the Ducks face now is not really about Dennis Dixon, it is about the other injuries Oregon has suffered. Citing the injuries to playmakers Jeremiah Johnson, Brian Paysinger and Cameron Colvin as examples of how bare the cupboard became for the Ducks and how the loss of those players are impacting the direction the Ducks are headed.

"That put us on the razor's edge," said Bellotti of the loss of Johnson, Paysinger and Colvin. "Dennis did a great job of masking that to a great degree. When he went down that created more issues because the others came to light."

Bellotti felt the key to the game this week will be turnovers and takeaways. The two Oregon schools are tied at +3 for second place in the conference in the takeaway ratio. Ball security will be paramount and if Kempt and Roper learned anything last week it has to be that they can not force the ball into tight spots. The Beaver defense if very fast playing man coverage and with linebackers that can run all over the field.

Bellotti mentioned the defensive unit today saying that he has noticed a "sense of confidence" with the Duck defenders. As well as the Duck defense has played over this season, it's likely that this game will be low scoring with few long field drives. Field position and turnovers are obviously important as it could be a matter of field goal kicking that determines the game winner.

Speaking of injuries Bellotti said that Casey Matthews is very questionable to play due to a shoulder injury. A.J. Tuitele will be back this game so the linebackers should be Tuitele, Jerome Boyd and Kwame Agyeman. Bellotti also reported that Derrick Jones practiced yesterday and should be available if he continues to practice all week. The headman also felt Terence Scott is much healthier this week and that Jaison Williams had the best practice he's had in some time on Monday. Jeffery Maehl continues to impress Bellotti and do good things and the coach hopes Aaron Pflugrad will be back at practice today. The coach also said that Drew Davis got a lot of work in on Monday.

Garren Strong's brother died on Sunday and Strong missed yesterday's practice but is expected back today. Bellotti did not provide any additional details but did say the family had postponed services this week and that Strong and his family are doing well.

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