UO/UW: Dancin' on the "W"

Simply because the loser of Saturday night's 95th-renewal of the Uncivil War between <!--Default NodeId For Washington is 71047,2003--><A HREF=http://washington.TheInsiders.com>Washington</A> and <!--Default NodeId For Oregon is 553,2003--><A HREF=http://oregon.TheInsiders.com>Oregon</A> will be hard pressed to make a post-season bowl, doesn't mean there can't be a little rib-jabbing among friends.

Oregon (2-2, 5-3) at Washington (2-2, 4-4)
Saturday, November 1 - 7:06 PM (PST) – TBS National
Husky Stadium – Seattle, WA
Series All-time: Washington leads, 57-33-5
Last Meeting: November 16, 2002 – Washington 42, Oregon 14
Line: Washington by 3

Duck free safety Keith Lewis still thinks that Cody Pickett is "average", and that Reggie Williams "isn't very fast". Lewis also checked in on last year's impromptu Husky celebration on the Autzen Stadium carpet, telling the Seattle Times "Trust me, if we win, we'll celebrate the same way." Sophomore corner Justin Phinisee told the Oregonian, "I think we're going to repay those dues". Even Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti chimed in. "It was in very poor taste," the PAC-10's elder statesman said. "We may talk about it some, yes."

Keith Gilbertson
The Huskies' Khalif Barnes echoes, "They're going to be juiced up over what happened last year." Says Williams, "Whatever they got to do to get motivated, that's what they got to do." Husky head coach Keith Gilbertson checked in with, "I can't tell Mike (Bellotti) how to talk to his team about it. That wasn't in my lane last year, and I certainly can't change it."

Shucks, just another Washington/Oregon cage match, scheduled for one fall at – for the first time since 1999 – a possibly frigid Husky Stadium on All Saint's night.

And apparently, just in time for a Duck team that looks to be recovering from an exasperating three-game run that followed what should have been a landmark 31-27 victory over (then) third-ranked Michigan.

Bellotti, now in his ninth season with a 72-32 overall mark, had his first units go head-to-head all during the bye week to re-establish some surliness after dropping those three games – the last two to Washington State and Arizona State by a combined 114-30. "We needed to refocus on competing, which is the essence of fun for a player," said Bellotti of the knuckle-down practices, "and we felt it could carry over to the game itself."

Then the day-glo Yellow uniforms returned (a laundry-room snafu had ruined the first set after their opener at Mississippi State), and apparently with it so did the Oregon swagger. The 35-0 whitewash of Stanford was the Ducks' first shutout of a PAC-10 opponent in 11 years. Included was one unbelievable defensive sequence, where the Cardinal couldn't manage to score on seven plays from inside the Oregon two-yard-line, netting a minus-14 yards and turning the ball over on downs even after a facemask penalty had given Stanford new life.

Mike Bellotti
(Getty Images)
"Hopefully, that's something that can define the rest of our season," Bellotti would say later of the stand. "That was maybe one of the greatest things I've ever seen."

So the Ducks are feeling like the wheels are back on the wagon as they drive for their seventh-straight bowl appearance. "We're back on track," Bellotti said at his post-game press conference. "I don't care who it is – to shut out a PAC-10 opponent is an amazing accomplishment."

Bellotti certainly liked what he saw on film, expressing on Tuesday, "We have to keep playing with a chip on our shoulder. Not because we're playing Washington or what happened last year, but because I believe this team still has something to prove."

He noted the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the Huskies, and wonders which Husky team will be showing up. "Their defense is still emerging, and they are pretty balanced this year when they protect," said Bellotti. "They really handled Oregon State, and now this past week Cody Pickett started to show his mobility again."

"It's going to be interesting to see how we respond to the prosperity we enjoyed in the Stanford win."

Heck, it's going to be interesting to see if anyone is planning to dance on the "W" at the end of the game.

How about a best two-out-of-three?

TEAM STATS:  28.8 points (4th PAC-10),
             417.8 yards (3rd PAC-10, 151.0 rush, 266.8 pass)
             22-27 in Red Zone offense (.815, 2nd PAC-10) 

RUSHING:     Terrence Whitehead 122-513-5 TD (4.2), long 44
             Chris Vincent 55-161-0 TD (2.9), long 23
PASSING:     Kellen Clemens 95-167-6 (.569), 1382 yards, 8 TD 
             Jason Fife 53-97-4 (.546), 743 yards, 5 TD
RECEIVING:   Samie Parker 41-677-3 TD (16.5), long 55
             Demetrius Williams 35-675-6 TD (19.5), long 86
             Kellen Taylor 16-158-0 TD (9.9), long 20

Similar to Washington's move of John Pettas from the press-box to the sidelines, Oregon made the same adjustment against Stanford, moving offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig from upstairs down to the field. It isn't a perspective Ludwig is used to, but sophomore QB Kellen Clemens endorsed it highly. "The communication is unbelievable," said Clemens. "He can talk to us as a whole group now, instead of just one-on-one."

QB Jason Fife
(Getty Images)
Clemens and senior Jason Fife have split the duties all season long, with equal portions of good, bad, and ugly results. Seems that if one is on, so is the other – and if one is off, well, you get the picture. The Good: The pair had zero interceptions in Oregon's first four games – all wins, the culmination being that 31-27 victory over Michigan. The Bad: They suffered 10 picks over their next three, all defeats – including those Ugly seven in their 55-16 debacle at home to Washington State. Then last week against Cardinal, a return to the Good with zero indiscretions – Clemens completed 15 of 17 passes while Fife was 8-of-10 in relief, combining for 265 yards. Clemens is third in the PAC-10 with a 135.0 efficiency rating, and Fife ranks fifth (127.7). Fife also has five rushing touchdowns.

Sophomore tailback Terrence Whitehead enjoyed the best day of his young Duck career last Saturday, rushing for 172 yards and two touchdowns. It was Oregon's first 100-yard effort since Whitehead's 132-yard effort against the same Cardinal 11 games ago. Redshirt-freshman tailback Chris Vincent has been going through the injury bugaboo – the 22-year old re-injured a surgically-repaired knee in the season opener at Mississippi State and then turned and ankle against ASU. He gained 80 yards against Arizona in Whitehead's stead. Senior fullback Matt Floberg has only one carry, but caught a pair of touchdown passes against Mississippi State, and true freshman Dante Rosario scored his first-ever TD against Stanford. The Huskies are going to have to deal with some speed on the boundaries. Senior Samie Parker boasts a 10.18 100-meter sprint and has 15 career touchdowns – at an average of over 30 yards per score. Parker averages 16.5 yards per reception. Sophomore Demetrius Williams exploded on the scene replacing the injured Keith Allen, burning Arizona for 139 receiving yards and three TDs. Williams has three 100-yard games so far this season, and leads all PAC-10 receivers at 19.3 yards per catch. JuCo transfer Marcus Maxwell banged a shoulder against Stanford and may not be able to go.

On the offensive line, the season-long injury loss of Joey Forster has been felt, as like Washington the corps is a bit thin. Senior center Dan Weaver makes his 31st-straight start, and guard Nick Steitz makes his 20th, while Junior guard Adam Snyder - who graded out highest against the Huskies a year ago - makes his 19th career start. Junior starting tackle Robin Knebel suffered a mild concussion last week, and his backup Mike Delagrange has been fighting back problems.

GAME OUTLOOK: Oregon ran some shotgun against Stanford for the first time all season, with good results – expect more of the same, especially with a banged-up offensive line. Both QBs had forgettable days against the Huskies last year in Autzen, and would love nothing more than to erase that memory with big efforts here.

TEAM STATS:     28.1 points (9th PAC-10),
                366.9 yards (6th PAC-10, 85.2 rush, 281.6 pass)
                19-26 in Red Zone defense (.731, 3rd PAC-10) 

TACKLES/TFL:    Kevin Mitchell 62/2.5
                Keith Lewis 46/1.0
                Jerry Matson 36/8.0    

PASSES DEF/INT: Keith Lewis 11/2
                Kevin Mitchell 7/1
                Justin Phinisee 6/2 
SACKS:          Devan Long 5.5
                Robby Valenzuela 4.0
                Four tied, 2.0 each

Like Washington, the Ducks are a bit undersized in the defensive backfield and have struggled against the pass, allowing opponents an average of 281.6 yards per game to rank 109th among 117 Division I-A teams. But led by a stout front wall, Oregon employs the 10th-best rushing defense in the country.

DT Haloti Ngata
(Getty Images)
340-pound sophomore Haloti Ngata hurt his knee in the season opener against Mississippi State and hasn't returned. It was thought that junior Igor Olshansky – moved to defensive end at the beginning of the season – might slide back over to tackle, but Junior Siavii (29 tackles, four TFL) and Robbie Valenzuela (4.0 sacks) have filled in capably, allowing the 309-pound Olshansky to remain outside. Anacortes' sophomore Devan Long – Rien's brother – leads the Ducks with 5.5 sacks from the right end. And it's been a long ways back for senior Quinn Dorsey, a starter in 2001 who redshirted last season for personal reasons, then began this season on a mandated NCAA four-game suspension for improper ticket hawking.

Senior inside linebacker Kevin Mitchell had perhaps his best day as a Duck a week ago, scoring on a nine-yard interception return to go with 11 tackles against Stanford. Mitchell ranks seventh in the PAC-10 with 62 total tackles. Kamiak junior MLB Jerry Matson had a season-high 10 stops against the Cardinal, and has eight tackles-for-loss in 2003. Senior outside ‘backer David Martin chipped in with his first interception of the season last week. Martin had a career-best seven tackles against the Huskies a year ago.

Keith Lewis, a senior, has a PAC-10 second-best nine pass breakups, and is Oregon's second-leading tackler with 46. Cornerback Steven Moore, also a dangerous punt returner, sprained his ankle against the Cardinal and is questionable, meaning the 5-11 Phinisee, who had a big day against Stanford with three pass-breakups and his second interception of the season, could get the starting call opposite JuCo transfer Rodney Woods. Phinisee had a team-leading eight tackles against Michigan. Rover Marley Tucker had five-tackle days against Mississippi State and Nevada.

GAME OUTLOOK: The Ducks have 22 sacks and 36 pass break-ups as a unit – both high numbers, while allowing only 2.6 yards per rushing attempt. It could be a product that teams have decided to throw – and often – against them. With Alexis still dinged (though he should start), Washington may well resort to the same antics.

PLACEKICKING:  Jared Siegel 6-10 FG (long 42), 30-30 XP
PUNTING:       Paul Martinez 44-38.8 (long 66), .318 inside the 20
KICK RETURNS:  Justin Phinisee 15-23.7 (long 74), 0 TD
               Kenny Washington 7-15.1 (long 31), 0 TD
PUNT RETURNS:  Steven Moore 21-10.5 (long 61), 1 TD

PK Jared Siegel
(Getty Images)
Place-kicker Jared Siegel was a second-team all-American a year ago, but has had a rougher time this year. There's no questioning his range, though - his career-best is a 59-yarder against UCLA last season, and he's been successful on a school-record 76-straight PATs. The junior is already Oregon's second all-time leading scorer. True freshman punter Paul Martinez only averages 38.8 yards per boot, but has a fine 31 percent average of his kicks inside-the-20.

Steven Moore a 61-yard TD punt return, and ranks third in the PAC-10, but his ankle may keep him sidelined, meaning Justin Phinisee – who is 5th in the conference with a 23.5-yard kick return average – could be the man returning punts.

Kellen Taylor is the "bullet" man downfield on kicks, having eight special-teams tackles on the year. Oregon has blocked four kicks – one PAT, three punts (all by Keith Lewis) – and have had three of their own kicks snuffed. Olympia-Capital true freshman Jordan Carey recovered one of those Lewis blocks against Michigan for his first-ever score.

GAME OUTLOOK: Interesting in that both teams' premier punt returners may not play. It could be a day full of fair catches and resulting field position. Siegel definitely has more range than Knudsen. Washington could be introducing two new kickoff-return men as well.

How do we match-up against the OREGON Ducks ?
Category OREGON Ducks UW HuskiesNational LeaderPac-10 Leader
151 59 2 120 89 6 NAVY 303.63 USC 160.5
266.75 29 6 278.63 21 4 TEXTECH 513.5 WSU 295
417.75 29 3 398.63 43 5 TEXTECH 615.38 USC 444.13
28.75 40 4 26.75 58 6 TEXTECH 45.13 USC 39.88
85.25 10 3 121 33 7 OHIOST 51.5 WSU 68.13
Pass Eff.
125.28 68 8 124.36 65 7 NEB 78.88 WSU 94.12
366.88 58 6 358.38 51 5 GEOR 243.38 WSU 303.75
28.13 76 9 25.75 67 7 LSU 9.5 WSU 16.88
35.13 77 10 37.75 33 4 UCF 44.72 USC 43.77
10.56 42 3 13.04 20 1 TOL 21.58 UW 13.04
21 62 5 19.03 88 8 CLEM 30.4 ASU 23.74
-0.5 85 7 -0.63 91 8 MICHST 1.88 WSU 1.5
281.63 109 10 237.38 80 5 PENNST 127.63 UCLA 213
132.49 42 2 122.16 70 5 OKLA 174.79 USC 155.54
Source: NCAA.org

If it breaks right (wrong?), it could be that only five teams from the PAC-10 will be bowl-eligible at the end of the season, which may or may not make the Silicon Valley Bowl (targeted for the sixth-place PAC-10 finisher) folks in San Jose happy ... With their pounding of Stanford, Oregon improved to 10-1 after bye weeks under Mike Bellotti, including nine-straight wins ... While Washington has proven to be horrendous in turning red-zone opportunity into points, it hasn't been just one glaring weakness - they've been versatile in the ways of failure. In 33 possessions, they've had two field-goals blocked, fumbled it away twice, had two passes intercepted, they lost it once on downs, time expired on them once, and last week they were actually forced to PUNT after facing a scoreboard-taxing third-and-fifty ... It must be fun attending Texas Tech games. The Red Raiders lead the NCAA in total offense (615 yards per game), and are dead last in total defense (504 yards) ... Terry Johnson is tied for 11th in the country in sacks with 8.0. Three defensive linemen the Huskies have faced are in the top-ten (UCLA's Dave Ball leads the nation with 11.5, Nevada's Jorge Cordova is number two with 11.0, and USC's Kenechi Udeze, T-8th with 8.5) ... The 73 times Charles Frederick has touched the ball has meant 14.6 yards of positive ground for Washington. Wide receiver Brandon Middleton of Houston is the NCAA leader, compiling 822 yards on just 31 receptions ... Both Washington and Oregon have lost 20 turnovers. Only 27 NCAA teams have done worse. Contrasting, Missouri has only five turnovers all season ... Though the point spread says to forego bringing the clippers, it's hard to tell just how these Huskies would react to an actual nail-biter. Only four of Washington's last 21 games have been decided by seven points or less – and none so far this year ...

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