Moving On Is the Best Cure

After coming off a big loss, what does a football program do to shore up the confidence of its players and get ready for the next opponent? Oregon's Mike Bellotti is facing that challenge this week as his Oregon Ducks prepare to play UCLA this Saturday at Autzen Stadium with a late kickoff time of 7:15 scheduled.

"Over 36 years of coaching college football you recognize that players recover a lot faster than coaches and certainly a lot faster than fans," said Mike Bellotti. "They (players) obviously have a new opponent and challenge, as such we want to recognize what happened. We're not going to dwell on it but we need to process it in regards to figuring out how it won't happen again and what we need to do."

Bellotti feels the new challenge is good and if his team had to dwell on last week's loss to USC too long then he wouldn't be all that excited. However, the fact is that his team has to go back to work in preparing for an emerging team in UCLA. The coach feels that the team has a "wake up call to answer." Bellotti thinks his team is a group of young men having "great pride."

"Obviously we weren't very pleased with our performance," admitted Bellotti of last week's game against USC. "Give credit to USC, they are a very talented football team and played well."

A question was raised at Bellotti's weekly media conference on Tuesday asking if the team had any kind of confidence issues. So far this week Bellotti hasn't noticed any.

There were issues last Saturday with Fenuki Tupou going out on the eighth play of the game. The Ducks also discovered that offensive tackle Jacob Hucko has a fractured shoulder. Hucko has had the injury for several weeks. The Coaching staff knew Hucko was hurt but it wasn't until Sunday when the exact problem was discovered. The injury is basically a pain and tolerance problem that Hucko has to battle through.

But what about the state of the mental and emotional health of the Duck defense that gave up 44 points and nearly 600 yards of offense?

"Defensively, I don't think there is a lack of confidence or confidence crisis," held Bellotti. "On a football team or football program or any position on the field there is probably a little bit of frustration and a desire to get back to work."

Bellotti is proud of the way his team has gone back to work on Monday and Tuesday.

Making things easier for the defense was brought up and Bellotti would not elaborate on how the defense might be simplified other than to say that "the key is the simplicity in the teaching and the presentation to your players and hopefully it can look complex to the opponent."

Another point Bellotti made is that the people who play on Saturday also practice during the week. The head coach admitted to nursing some people over the last couple of weeks while anticipating or assuming that the players would be ready to go at game time. Bellotti emphasized that game speed can't be simulated in practice and hopefully that will not be the case this week.

At the midpoint of the season every team has suffered injuries and the Ducks have not yet had a bye as other teams have. It is essential therefore that the Ducks get out of this practice week relative injury free.

Another question was about Justin Roper. Bellotti indicated that Roper did fine yesterday in practice. Depending how he does in practice this week will determine the reps he gets in the game.

Yesterday, Chris Courtney reported on Duck Pond that Chris Harper was working out at wide receiver. Bellotti acknowledged that fact and went on to say the coaches would like to get Harper more involved. There was concern among the coaches that with only three healthy quarterbacks that playing Harper at another position might be too risky. Now that Roper is back, it makes Harper available for seeing time at other positions. Bellotti mentioned that Harper had approached him about the possibility playing more.

Harper could see time against UCLA as a quarterback or wide receiver. UCLA has a similar situation as Oregon in that they have suffered injuries at the quarterback position and consequently have been rather inconsistent this season. The Bruins are 2-3 for the year and 1-1 in Pac-10 play resulting from a 28-3 win over Washington State last week.

Kevin Craft, a junior college transfer who was the No. 3 quarterback on the depth chart when fall camp started in August, will lead the Bruins this Saturday. In the first game of the season, Craft threw four interceptions in the first half against Tennessee but came back in the second half to lead the Bruins to their only other win of the season by a score of 27-24 in overtime.

"He is improving," observed Bellotti of Craft. "He's very mobile. He's very accurate."

The Duck coach doesn't think the Bruins throw down the field a lot but when they do it goes to Terrence Austin. Austin is a fast playmaker who is also the punt return specialist. Running back Kahlil Bell is now back and healthy for the Bruins. Bellotti describes the UCLA line as very young but very large.

Defensively, Bellotti thinks the Bruins are young but athletic especially on the defensive front. Bellotti said he was impressed with tackles Brian Price and Brigham Harwell.

Bellotti anticipates that the Ducks will see the bootleg off of play-action again this week from UCLA.

Regarding that infamous feud between Bellotti and UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel, a question came up about the fact that the two coaches actually belong to the same country club in Oregon and have played golf together on several occasions.

"We are friends off the football field," revealed Bellotti. "Obviously we are competitors on the football field."

Bellotti also admitted that Neuheisel is an excellent golfer and gives Bellotti strokes when they play each other.

There should be six official visitors this week. Since the game is at night, the recruiting will take place on Saturday prior to the game.

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