Ducks Close Spring Drills With Trio of Clemens' TD Passes
May 3, 2003
EUGENE - The scoreboard displayed a final score of 48-46 in favor of the White team over the Green team. If a conventional method had been used, the offense would have prevailed, 27-0. Yet whichever method you paid attention to, the general consensus left Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti fairly pleased with the end of spring drills as the Ducks concluded formal off-season practice with their intrasquad Spring Game in front of an estimated crowd of 9,087 Saturday in Autzen Stadium.
Sophomore-to-be quarterback Kellen Clemens completed 12 of 16 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns while Samie Parker grabbed seven catches for 135 yards and one score to pace an offensive attack which gained momentum as the day wore on.
Because of a lack of depth at some positions, the Oregon scrimmage was scripted in an offense vs. defense format rather than dividing the team into two squads as in the past, thus creating a need to devise a unique scoring concept in order to keep the scoreboard watchers content. Thus utilizing a plan which awarded the defense points for such things as forcing a punt, sacking the quarterback, creating turnovers and deflecting a pass, both units enjoyed their share of success.
Although the Ducks will enter the fall with Clemens and senior Jason Fife still competing for the nod as the starting quarterback, it was Clemens who won Saturday's statistical battle. In addition to completing a 68-yard TD pass to Parker, he added scoring strikes of 10 yards to tight end Ryan Loftin and 6 yards to wide receiver Demetrius Williams.
Fife was unable to complete any of his five pass attempts, which included one interception by Charles Favroth. But Bellotti cautioned against reading too much into the head-to-head comparisons from one day.
'I like the competition, I like what it's done for Kellen, I like what it's done for Jason,' Bellotti said. 'I think it will continue throughout the summer and then into fall camp. I don't expect to name a starting quarterback until midway through fall camp, or maybe mid-week of Mississippi State (game).
'Kellen Clemens did a nice job,' Bellotti added. 'He got hot in that second quarter, I think he took advantage of some opportunities and certainly Samie Parker gave some great support in terms of catching some balls. I thought Demetrius Williams came up with some big plays and Chris Vincent ran well. I thought he ran with a step more quickness today, which I like. Keith Lewis made some plays, which we expect him to do. Now they have to continue to work very hard through the remainder of spring and summer.'
Clemens capped the third drive of the afternoon with the scoring pass to Loftin in the right flat, moving the offense 55 yards while completing four of his six pass attempts. His second scoring drive took only three plays, with Parker catching the Burns, Ore., native's pass at the 25-yard line before running into the end zone untouched for the 68-yard completion late in the second quarter. Two-and-a-half minutes later, Clemens' passes skipped off the hands of Parker near the goal line before Williams leaped high for the deflection at the back of the end zone and was able to get one foot inbounds for the score.
Vincent again led the team in rushing, as he did in each of Oregon's four major spring scrimmages, tallying 60 yards on 10 carries. It included an 18-yard run in which he carried several would-be tacklers along the way - a trait he quickly has become known for. Fife engineered the 26-yard scoring drive that was capped by Vincent's 2-yard jaunt, with the Philadelphia freshman accounting for all the yardage on three runs.
But it was Parker who clearly has emerged as the Ducks' top offensive weapon despite the senior sprinter splitting time with the school's track team this spring. Entering the final practice accumulating two catches for 12 yards in the first three major scrimmages, Oregon's receiving leader from a year ago (49 catches, 724 yards, eight TDs) appears ready to assume the role as team leader.
'I've always been confident,' Parker said. 'I've had to wait my turn, I've had people in front of me so I had to wait until the opportunity presented itself. It's now here and I just have to go out there and take over.
'I think we made a really good stride and things are starting to come together. We still have some improvements to make but I think overall we did pretty well. We had holes where we didn't know where people were going to fit in but I think everyone's been stepping it up so I think we'll be pretty good.'
Clemens also is one to recognize Parker's importance to the team's success.
'He knows that he's the main guy coming back, he's stepped up and established himself as more of a leader of that receiving corps and he knows the ball has got to be in his hands,' Clemens offered. He's a key element to this offense. We're trying to get him as many touches as we can.'
'I think we did all right,' Lewis said. 'There are a lot of things we still need to work on, but as a whole I was really impressed.
'The secondary has made tremendous progress. Coach (John) Neal came in with a scheme and he made us learn his system. I think it really helped us.'
Although spring drills have come to an end, the players realize that a lot of their work is just beginning if they want to improve over last season.
'I've had a pretty good spring all together and it's nice to end on this positive note,' Clemens addeed. 'My confidence is pretty high right now and we're going to see if we can keep it rolling with all the guys.'
Oregon will return to official fall workouts the first week of August as they prepare for the 2003 opener Aug. 30 at Mississippi State.
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