Feature: Ducks Focused on Game

Nov. 15, 2007

By Jacob May
Oregon Daily Emerald

November 15, 2007

Eugene, OR (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Being the No. 2 team in the country isn't exactly the best place to be in college football this year. With the likes of USC, California, Boston College and South Florida all dropping from the second-ranked position to completely fall out of the national title race, there's reason to believe the number is cursed.

It doesn't concern Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, however, because as he said, those teams suffered their first loss when ranked No. 2.

'We've already got that out of the way,' Bellotti joked, referring to Oregon's 31-24 loss to then-No. 6 Cal.

The Ducks (8-1 overall, 5-1 Pacific-10 Conference) aren't buying into the 'curse of being No. 2,' but that doesn't mean they're taking the ranking lightly, especially when they head to Tucson, Ariz. to face the Wildcats (4-6, 3-4), a team that embarrassed Oregon in last year's 37-10 Arizona win in Eugene. Arizona has also won its past two games against Washington and UCLA.

'They're playing very well right now. They've hit a high point in the season,' Bellotti said.

The loss to Arizona last year especially, should give the Ducks enough of a reason to be fired up for the game. With six Oregon turnovers, including three interceptions by quarterback Dennis Dixon, the game typified the team's many struggles last season.

'We played very poorly and made some mistakes,' Bellotti said. 'We didn't play well as a team in all aspects.

'Obviously, we have something to prove in that regard.'

The players especially feel the need for redemption despite the team's numerous achievements already this season.

'We saw what Arizona did to us last year,' right tackle Geoff Schwartz said. 'I think we learned a hard, painful lesson. We don't want to repeat that again.'

With that, and the fact that the No. 2 spot hasn't been fortunate to those before them, the Ducks are keeping practice intense.

'Knowing that we're No. 2, there were a few more kids speaking up in practice, exerting others to give great effort or pay attention,' Bellotti said. 'You hope that happens all the time.'

Wide receiver Jaison Williams echoed that sentiments saying while it's an honor to the second-best team in the nation, according to others, it's not just the No. 2 teams losing.

'It's great and all, but we still need to focus on playing Arizona because we all know what happened to Ohio State,' Williams said. 'It can just as easily happen to everybody else.'

And they continue to hammer last year's game home to the players. If the teams gives up during a game, it only makes matter worse as far as the season goes. Williams doesn't believe anything like that is going to happen again.

'Coach Bellotti harped on how bad they beat us last year and we're far from letting it happen again,' Williams said. 'I think we're a lot more potent because we have a lot more to bring to the table. Whereas last year, guys' spirits were down and we didn't give them our best game. But we're flying high right now at No. 2 and we want to stay that way.'

That doesn't mean they don't expect to face a heap of trouble with Arizona, however. Not only are the Wildcats the latest team hoping to spoil a top-ranked teams season, its coach Mike Stoops will be looking to help out his brother, Bob Stoops, whose Oklahoma Sooner sit behind the Ducks in the BCS ranking at No. 4.

'At No. 2, the target's on our back but this week, we see the target on their back because they beat us last year,' Williams said. 'Everyone's trying to take down the titan. We don't want that David vs. Goliath story to happen to us.'

(C) 2007 Oregon Daily Emerald via CSTV U-WIRE

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