Ducks Face Test in Tempe
Oct. 24, 2000
LEADERS OF THE PAC . . . Oregon takes its best shot at persevering through prosperity as it seeks its best overall start since 1959 with its best conference pace since 1957. The Ducks temporarily put their record-setting home winning streak on hold in search of a fourth straight conference road triumph, while remaining as the league's last unbeaten survivor capable of controlling their own destiny. A prominant defense is on the verge of shedding its national anonymity after holding its third foe under 20 rushing yards this year. The visitors try to extend their nine-game Pac-10 winning streak at a venue which hasn't been overly friendly to its out-of-town guests. The host has not suffered more than one league setback in a single season at home since 1996 (Arizona State already has lost to Washington at home in 2000), while Oregon has only been successful at Sun Devil Stadium twice in its last five visits. Yet, the Ducks will counter with a QB who has been statistically superior on the road compared with home.
NATIONAL RANKINGS . . . Oregon remained seventh in this week's Associated Press poll while improving to 10th according to the USA/ESPN voters. The Ducks' AP standing equals their loftiest national perch ever as they also found themselves ranked seventh in the country in 1964. The Ducks first broke into this season's Top 25 five weeks ago at 20th on the writers version and 25th in the coaches poll.
HEAD COACH MIKE BELLOTTI . . . Ranking third on the Ducks' all-time winningest coaching list (45-21-0), Mike Bellotti now stands as the winningest active coach in the Pac-10 based on conference winning percentage, in addition to leading Oregon to more overall victories in the past six years than any other program in the league. Oregon's sixth-year head coach has accumulated a 27-17 record in conference encounters (.614), which moves him into 15th all-time among conference circles in terms of career winning percentage. He has played a vital role in assembling more than 17 percent (84 wins) of the University's all-time triumphs (487) in his 12-year Oregon association (six as offensive coordinator and six as head coach). Only the legendary Hugo Bezdek (72.7 -- 1906, 1913-17) has accumulated better winning percentages than Bellotti's 68.2 percent among the program's career mentors who have coached the Ducks a minimum of three seasons. The 49-year-old former Cal State-Chico mentor owns a 10-year career head coaching mark of 68-46-2.
ARIZONA STATE'S BRUCE SNYDER . . . The former Oregon fullback (1960-62) and assistant coach (1967-71) has accumulated a career mark of 125-102-5 in his 21st year as a collegiate head coach, including stops at Utah State (1976-82), California (1987-91) and Arizona State (1992-present). The 1990 Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year and 1996 national honoree has acquired a 57-41 mark in his ninth season guiding the Sun Devils, while leading ASU to Rose Bowl (1996), Sun Bowl (1997) and Aloha Bowl appearances (1999).
AGAINST THE OPPOSITION . . . Oregon's Mike Bellotti has accumulated a 2-3 record vs. Arizona State (including a 0-2 slate at Sun Devil Stadium), while Bruce Snyder has totalled a 6-7 ledger against his alma mater.
ONE OF A KIND . . . Although last year's nine-win season was one of only six Oregon contingents to equal the school record for most victories in one season, Mike Bellotti became the Ducks' first head coach to lead teams to that pinnacle on two separate occasions (1995 and 1999). This year's 6-1 start equals the program's openings from 1995 and `98.
SEASON REVIEW . . . Oregon's defense made its pair of first-half touchdowns hold up over the final two-and-a-half quarters while the Ducks grabbed sole possession of the Pac-10 lead with a 14-10 win over Arizona. Wide receiver Marshaun Tucker was on the receiving end of both of Joey Harrington's scoring tosses while the Ducks limited the Wildcats to only 17 yards on the ground.....Harrington threw for a career-high 382 yards and four touchdowns as the Ducks posted their third straight win over USC, 28-17. Oregon countered the Trojans' opening scoring drive and grabbed a lead it would never relinquish early in the second quarter for its 11th consecutive Pac-10 win.....Oregon built a 23-3 cushion through the first three quarters (accumulating a 323-162-yard total offense advantage) before holding off the nation's sixth-ranked team for the second week in a row en route to a 23-16 win over Washington. Maurice Morris rushed for 152 yards while the Ducks maintained possession of the football 11 minutes more than the visitors for their fifth win in seven tries over the Huskies.....A suffocating defense held UCLA to minus nine yards rushing while Morris picked up 139 yards and two TDs on the ground to fuel Oregon's 29-10 win over the Bruins. The Ducks overcame a 10-10 deadlock after jumping out to a 10-0 lead, and allowed the visitors to penetrate past midfield only four times all day.....Oregon capped five of its first six drives of the day with touchdowns while converting all four red zone ventures in the end zone to fuel a commanding 42-13 win over Idaho. Joey Harrington tied an Autzen Stadium record with his fourth scoring pass of the game early in the second half before the Ducks substituted liberally the rest of the way.....Big plays foiled the Ducks' attempt to upset the fifth-ranked team in the country as it fell to Wisconsin, 27-23. Despite a pair of long touchdown runs by the Badgers and a blocked punt for a score, Oregon appeared to regain control following a Matt Smith 47-yard interception return for a TD, before an 83-yard gallop set up the home team's winning score.....An inspired Oregon defense allowed its fewest total offensive yards since 1962 (103) and held the opposition to negative rushing yards (-3) for the first time in five years in defeating Nevada, 36-7. The Ducks scored 21 unanswered second-half points to set a school record with its 15th consecutive home win.
SERIES RECORD . . . Oregon has claimed the last two meetings against Arizona State (and 5 of the last 8) to close the deficit to 13-7 in the series which originated in 1966. However, the Sun Devils own a commanding 7-2 advantage in games played in Tempe, with the Ducks seeking their first win in Sun Devil Stadium since 1993.
THE LAST TIME . . . Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington connected with Marshaun Tucker near the right corner of the end zone with only nine seconds remaining to cap the Ducks' 20-17 come-from-behind win over Arizona State in Eugene. Gerald Green's 1-yard dive with 1:04 to play put the Sun Devils in front, 17-13. But Harrington, who came off the bench in the second half to direct one field goal and two touchdown drives, marched Oregon 79 yards in 55 seconds for the winning score. Harrington finished the night completing 12 of 21 passes for 148 yards and two TDs.
POINTLESS . . . The 100 points surrendered by the Oregon defense through the first seven games this year is its fewest during that span since the Ducks' 1966 version allowed only 85 tallies to Oklahoma, Utah, San Jose State, Stanford, Air Force, Washington and Idaho. In addition, Oregon's 14 points in last week's Arizona win was its fewest scored in victory since defeating Oregon State, 12-10, in Mike Bellotti's first season at the Ducks' helm in 1995.
NOTHING NEW . . . The fact that the Ducks are ranked among the nation's elite in passing offense certainly is nothing new. They have finished the season among the nation's Top 20 in passing offense in each of the first five years that Mike Bellotti has been at the team's helm, including 20th in the country (263.5 avg.) a year ago.
BALANCED ATTACK . . . There's no better situation than have both your offensive and defensive attacks striving for peak proficiency. That's where the Ducks currently find themselves, statistically, in comparison withi the rest of the country, ranking 13th in the country in total defense (235.0 avg.) and 17th in total offense (455.0). The closest in recent memory that Oregon came to finishing the season ranked among the Top 25 in both categories was 1995, when it headed into its 10th game of the year at Arizona ranked 24th offensively and 17th defensively before culminating the year 30th and 12th, respectively.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE . . . The Sun Devils lost their starting quarterback and tailback before the season started. yet have still managed a 2-2 conference start. On offense, junior tight end Todd Heap paces the team in receptions with 24 catches for 383 yards -- 16 of which have netted first downs or touchdowns. Over his career, he has a 22-game catch streak, 14th longest in the nation. On the ground, junior tailback Tom Pace became the team's second +100-yard rusher this season with his 103 yards on 26 carries at Washington State, after freshman Mike Williams rolled up 143 yards against Colorado State. One of 11 semifinalists for the Dick Butkus Award, linebacker Adam Archuleta leads the Pac-10 in tackles (72) and was a first-team league pick last year. Kicker Mike Barth has sealed three of the team's five wins this season, including 41-yard field goals versus Washington State and Colorado State, and a 21-yarder versus San Diego State. Punter Nick Murphy was on the Ray Guy Award preseason national watch list for top punter honors. As a team, the Sun Devils have scored first in all seven games this season and hold a 57-16 first-quarter scoring edge. The defense has been equally on par early, holding opponents to eight first downs and 183 yards on opening drives, and only one touchdown in the season opener against San Diego State. ASU is 1-2 against ranked teams this year -- opening with a 13-10 win at home against then-No. 25 Colorado State before losing at then-No. 15 UCLA and then-No. 11 Washington.
12 OF 13 . . . Only Nebraska's 13-game winning streak can surpass Oregon's good fortune as the Ducks are one of four teams in the country to boast of a current stretch of 12 wins in their last 13 games. That tenure of success is the school's most impressive since it claimed 15 wins in 16 games spanning the 1947-48 seasons. Oregon joins Florida State, TCU and Virginia Tech as runners-up to the Huskers.
NO-NAME NEMESIS . . . It's been characterized as flying under the radar screen due to its relative obscurity. Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has been hesitant about comparing it to its 'Gang Green' predecessors that led the Ducks to the Rose Bowl following the 1994 season simply because he feels each group deserves its own identity. Yet at any rate, there is no hiding the fact that Oregon's defense has been a prime component to the team's success this year. Ranked 10th in the country in total defense (278.9 avg.) and 12th in scoring defense (14.3 avg.), the defenders currently are allowing opponents the fewest yards per game in 33 years (1967, 275.8 avg.), as well as only the second time since that season under 300 yards per game. In addition, you have to go back to 1974 (10.7) to find the last season the Ducks yielded fewer points per game than this year.
AGAINST ARIZONA . . . Seventeen of the Wildcats' 32 rushing attempts resulted in no gain or lost yardage. In addition, Oregon sacked the Arizona quarterback eight times -- the most since it posted nine QB sacks vs. USC in 1994.
IN POSSESSION OF A WIN . . . Oregon has won the battle of possession in all seven games this season, claiming a 33:21-to-26:39 advantage. However, that time of possession edge has increased in the Ducks' favor to 33:56-26:06 in their six victories.
1st DOWN . . . Much of Oregon's success has been its ability to dictate first-down yardage, both offensively and defensively. Through the first seven games, the Ducks have accumulated 1,156 yards (5.1 avg., 225 plays) total offense on first down while yielding 818 (4.5 avg., 181 plays). However for the first time this year, Oregon's opponent held the upper hand on first downs, with Arizona outgaining the Ducks, 3.3 to 2.3.
BIG-PLAY BREAKDOWNS . . . The Ducks' defense, which has not finished a season ranked among the nation's top 20 in any of the four major defensive categories since 1995, remains on the verge of snapping that drought in three major departments. An efficient offense has maximized its opportunities and is poised to average better than 400 yards of offense for the fifth year in a row. And a special teams unit has come close to reeling off some big returns of its own. Despite their impressive numbers, this year's output would be even more impressive if it were not for giving up the 'big play'. Among the more amazing stats this season, foes have tallied more than 54 percent of their offensive output (931 of 1735 yards) from a little more than four percent of their plays (19 of 437). Included were runs of 59, 75 and 83 yards, as well as a 40-yard pass by Wisconsin, passes of 53 and 32 yards, in addition to a 56-yard run, by Idaho, passes of 54, 35 and 34 yards by UCLA, passes of 35 and 59 yards by Washington, passes of 49 and 32 yards, plus runs of 59 and 34 yards by USC, as well as a 58-yard pass from Arizona.
HARRINGTON'S HEROICS . . . In the past six games, Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington has twice managed to throw for the most yards of his collegiate career (362 at Wisconsin, 382 at USC), equalled an Autzen Stadium record for touchdown passes vs. Idaho with four (a number he matched in the L.A. Coliseum), helped his team pull away from a 10-10 deadlock to defeat a UCLA team for the first time in five years, staked the Ducks to a 23-3 fourth-quarter lead over Washington and squeezed the right amount of points needed in a defensive struggle over Arizona. He joined five other standouts by throwing for a quartet of scoring tosses (three in the first half) at home. The list includes Akili Smith (twice), Danny O'Neil, Dan Fouts (twice) and Tom Blanchard. After UCLA rebounded from a 10-0 deficit to knot the score midway through the third quarter, Harrington proceeded to lead his team to scores on its next three drives. In the process, he completed seven of 12 passes (58.3%) the rest of the way for 71 of his 153 passing yards, completed a 17-yard pass on a crucial fourth-down conversion and ran the option for 15 yards on a third-and-seven situation.
AT HIS BEST . . . USC didn't count on getting beat by a 47-percent passer. Yet there is so much more to Joey Harrington than what numbers can meassure. He does what he has to do to win. Not only did the Portland junior respond by posting single-game career bests for passing yards (382), completions (28) and completion percentage (.667), he threw four touchdowns in one game for the second time this season -- the most against the Trojans since Notre Dame's Steve Beuerlein did so in 1986. Only 12 single-game totals in school history (five individuals) have bettered Harrington's passing yards from two weeks ago. Against Wisconsin, he threw for 217 of his 262 yards in the second half. Against USC, he set the tone for the game by connecting on 12 of his first 14 passes for 163 yards and two TDs in the first 16:19 of the game, with 19 of his 28 completions resulting in either first downs or touchdowns.
NO 'FLASH-AND-DASH' . . . Oregon's offensive system has been responsible for the Ducks ranking among the nation's Top 20 in passing offense six of the last seven years under six different quarterbacks and four different coordinators. Yet this year's contingent has been different, as confirmed by head coach Mike Bellotti. 'Everyone thinks we're a flash-and-dash team, but we're not. We're going to start with the line of scrimmage.' Oregon's 175.0-yard rushing average is its best in 20 years. Defensively, its 109.4 average against the run has been bettered only once in the last 40 years (1989 - 101.8 avg.).
MO POWER . . . It's hard to deny that Oregon's running game falls directly on the shoulders of junior tailback Maurice Morris when the former all-time junior college rushing leader represents better than 67 percent (824 yards) of the team's entire output. The Pacific-10 Conference's second-leading rusher (12th nationally -117.7 avg.) has run for more yards in his first seven games in a Duck uniform than any other newcomer since Reuben Droughns acquired 824 yards in 1998. (Droughns actually computed his total in only five games due to injuries.) Morris is coming off a 114-yard performance vs. Arizona -- his fourth 100-yard rushing effort of the season -- against a team ranked fifth in the country vs. the run (70.5 avg.) at that time.
CONSUMMATE TEAM PLAYER . . . With USC commiting so much attention to stopping the run two weeks ago, Maurice Morris was happy to turn his attention elsewhere. 'They played me good but they didn't do enough to stop our offense. I don't mind when we've got Joey (Harrington) throwing the ball like that,' the junior tailback said in reference to Harrington's career-best performance. The South Carolina native wasn't immune from the action, with his six catches for 27 yards including one touchdown and another for a first down.
MORRIS ON THE RUN . . . Only two other players in school history have eclipsed the 100-yard pinnacle in their first season more times than Maurice Morris, and only four have ever rushed for more yards during a six-game stretch than the Chester, S.C., junior. The national junior college record-holder has run for over 100 yards in his first season against Nevada (166), UCLA (139), Washington (152) and Arizona (114). Former Canoga Park standout Sean Burwell reached the century mark five times in 1990 while Anaheim all-conference stalwart Reuben Droughns picked up 100-yard honors on four occasions. In addition, Morris has joined some elite company with his consecutive seven-game rushing total. Listed below are the school's career-leading seven-game rushers as well as their eight-game totals:
Yards (7g) Player Year Yards (8g) 967 Bobby Moore 1971 1128 824 Reuben Droughns 1998 824 824 Maurice Morris 2000 ---- 816 Derek Loville 1988 899 740 S. McCullough 1997 853
MORE STREAKS . . . Listed below are other consecutive strings that Oregon has put together:
*Longest conference game winning streak (9 games)
*Consecutive winning seasons (7) -- Oregon's longest stretch since 1928-35 (League's only school to post winning seasons every year since `94)
*Longest Pac-10 winning streak (5 games)
*Conference road wins (4 games)
*The last time the Ducks won seven of their first eight games was 1959 (8-1), while the last time they won their first five conference confrontations was 1957 (5-0).
OUT OF THE GATE . . . So far this season, Oregon has played its best football during the first quarter of the game. In fact, it wasn't until the fifth outing of the year vs. Washington that the Ducks' defense had so much as yielded a first-quarter field goal, with Oregon outscoring the opposition 54-10 during the initial 15-minute stretch. Not until two weeks at USC had it allowed a first-period TD or trailed in the first half. (The deficit lasted for 4 minutes, 35 seconds.) Oregon's second-quarter differential (33-point advantage) is almost as great as the opening period advantage (44).
WELCOMED RETURN . . . No one was more happy about the start of the 2000 season than junior cornerback Rashad Bauman . . . unless it would be head coach Mike Bellotti. Bauman missed all of last year with a knee injury suffered in the midst of the 1999 spring drills after earning honorable mention all-conference reviews in `98 and starting 23 straight games in the Ducks' secondary. Yet his absence from a year ago must have caused some pundits to forget about the return of one of the best cover cornerbacks in the Pacific-10 Conference. Although he still appeared tentative during last spring's workouts, there is no question he has returned 100 percent this fall. It hasn't taken the Phoenix junior long to get back into the swing of everything, as he intercepted his sixth pass of his collegiate career in the season opener vs. Nevada. He picked off a second interception in the victory over UCLA, as well as forced a fumble, and leads the team with 12 passes broken up. He is closing in on the school's career interceptions ledger with seven picks.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS . . . In addition to facing the adjustment of life as one of the squad's primary receivers, Los Alamitos sophomore Keenan Howry is trying to fill the shoes of one of Oregon's leading return specialists of all time. Michael Fletcher departed as one of two players in school history to accumulate over 1,000 yards in punt returns over the course of his four years after earning all-conference reviews as both a defensive back and return specialist a year ago. The craft of returning punts hasn't been an easy indoctrination for Howry, who is averaging 7.0 yards per return. However, he may be getting the hang of it if his demonstration vs. Washington is any indication, despite little to show for his efforts. Howry had several punt returns totalling 138 yards called back due to penalties.
WORKING OUT THE KINKS . . . Senior placekicker Josh Frankel (Pacific Palisades) has been through all of this before. After inheriting the Ducks' placekicking duties late in the 1997 season, a pair of missed PATs against Air Force in the Las Vegas Bowl sent the recruiters hitting the road in search of a solution for the future. That was despite Frankel connecting on both of his field goal tries that season. Although he had planned on putting in his time last year and not returning in 2000 for his final year of eligibility, misfortunes to others, as well as connecting on 29 of 32 kicks in relief, changed all of that in 1999. Beginning this year second on Oregon's career field goal percentage list (81.3%, 13-16), Frankel once again has hit on some rough waters. Snapping a string of 33 consecutive PATs against Washington, he has struggled to connect on only four of his last 11 field goal efforts, including misses of four tries inside of 40 yards. Yet Mike Bellotti prefers to help Frankel correct any malfunctions rather than seek a replacement for the same kicker who provided the margin of victory in two come-from-behind wins (USC and Arizona) a year ago. The team's scoring leader (48 points) has made good on nine of 18 three-pointers this year while connecting on his last six PATs.
WORTH THE WAIT . . . No one will argue that senior linebacker Matt Smith's detour via a professional baseball stint wasn't worth the wait. The Ducks' leading tackler (50) showed up at fall camp approximately one week prior to the 1998 season opener after being away from the game for four years. Regarded as one of the keys to the defense's success against the run or the pass, he also leads the team in interceptions (3), is second in tackles for losses and third on the team in passes broken up (6). Not totally unlike Oregon's quarterback (Joey Harrington), Smith has posted his biggest numbers of the year away from Autzen Stadium, recording 10 at both Wisconsin and USC. Included were interceptions in both games (he returned an interception 47 yards for a score in Madison) as well as was credited with three tackles for loss in Los Angeles. In fact, the former three-sport prep all-stater from Grants Pass, Ore., has managed to come through with tackles for lost yardage in six of his last seven games, dating back to last year's Sun Bowl win over Minnessota.