Some Changes Could Occur this Week

After a disastrous trip to Los Angeles, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti indicated that there might be some changes to the Duck defense as they prepare this week for a home game with UCLA on Saturday. Will those changes in the defense be schematic or personnel?

"Probably both," said Bellotti on Sunday evening. "Schematically, just the way we approach play-action passes, down and distance when we think we are going to see it. Secondly it could be personnel changes. We've got to find a way to be better. We went from a very good defense to now we've given up passing yardage and some of it came via play-action primarily, that is concerning."

Oregon gave up 176 yards of rushing and 443 yards passing for a total of a shocking 598 yards of total offense. That is compared to an average of 100 yards rushing and 230 yards passing going into the game yesterday. Play-action has become the dirty word when talking about the Duck defense and the obvious question is what can be done to neutralize it?

"The first thing is to stop the run," responded Bellotti to the question. "If you stop the run and you commit to stopping the run without sending the ranch or having nine people in the box you can play a little bit easier on the edge."

Bellotti went on to say that the biggest thing is patience and training the players "eyes" or how they see what is going on during the course of a play. Bellotti feels that most of the time his team has gotten into trouble is because they've become anxious to get to the football and aren't seeing the release of eligible receivers.

"The main thing for us is we need to make sure we contain the quarterback," confessed the head coach. "Containment of the quarterback is the first way to stop the bootleg action. Force him to pull up and sit in the pocket and make sure you are keying correctly in terms of reads at the line of scrimmage."

Last night Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti indicated he would take the blame for the Duck defensive performance. Citing growing criticism on message boards by fans blaming Aliotti for the loss, a question was asked Bellotti if that criticism was fair.

"No, ultimately just put it on me," responded Bellotti. "Anytime we lose a football game everybody wants to place blame. That's the way our society is now a days and that's fine, but there are three elements to a football game, offense, defense and special teams but we didn't play well enough in any aspect to win the game."

Bellotti indicated that the coaching staff has looked at themselves to determine what can be done to improve on the performance.

"What can we do to make those young men successful?" asked Bellotti. "We're going to work, coach, teach and train to get better."

Bellotti further went on to say that he feels USC is a very good football team with great athletes. Last week the Ducks were not at full speed with three of the four starting defensive backs slowed with mid-season type minor injuries and consequently it was more difficult to prepare for speed when the Ducks were not at full speed during practice.

Bellotti was also asked if any consideration was given by the staff at all to put in Darron Thomas in the second half, but the coach simply answered, "no."

Justin Roper will probably be the second team quarterback until the coaching staff figures out how healthy he is. Last week, while recovered from the knee injury he suffered in the Purdue game, he was unable to practice or attend any team meetings due to illness. He was in effect quarantined from the team for the rest of the week but this week he should be able to go back to practice. If he is able to practice and if given a full-go by the training staff then the starting job will be up for grabs between Roper and Jeremiah Masoli.

Fenuki Tupou and Spencer Paysinger should be OK this week according to Bellotti. The initial prognosis is that both suffered strains and will be able to play against UCLA.

Bellotti's assessed Masoli' performance in the USC game as solid.

"He did some good things," observed Bellotti. "He threw some good passes and made some good choices. (He) also helped himself athletically with his feet. He also missed a couple things and threw a pass or two that he'd like to have back."

Overall Bellotti feels Masoli gives the Ducks "a chance to win." The coach feels the quarterback will learn a tremendous amount from watching the film, both the good and the bad. According to Bellotti, the biggest disappointment in Masoli was that he didn't throw the ball away on a big sack on a second down that put Oregon in a very long yardage situation.

Regarding next week's opponent UCLA, the Duck headman describes the Bruins as being in the same boat the Ducks are -- getting accustomed to playing what would have been the third-string quarterback. While beating Tennessee and losing to the likes of BYU, Bellotti feels UCLA has been up and down but that the longer the Bruins play with Kevin Craft the more comfortable they will become and will do all they can to make him successful. The Bruins defense is something Bellotti is envious of.

"Athletically on defense they are still one of the very, very good teams," Bellotti said of the Bruin defenders.

So far Bellotti has watched some film of last year's game and some of the Arizona game to find things the Ducks might do this year and how UCLA attacks on both sides of the ball.

Notes:
One thing that may also be an issue because of being thin at quarterback is that the Ducks do not have a scholarship quarterback on the scout team. Bellotti indicated that Thomas might be moved back to the scout team based on the health and competitiveness of Roper this week.

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