Monday, October 31, 2005

Sacramento Bee: Young Bears were forced to grow up fast on field

Cal's future looks bright, as the underclassmen have performed well in key roles.

By Ryan Lillis

BERKELEY - The future of Cal football isn't just riding on the feet of tailback Marshawn Lynch, although that's a big part of it.  It's also in the hands of wideouts Robert Jordan and DeSean Jackson, on the shoulders of linebacker Anthony Felder and with the dozen or so other players on this Bears team who are sophomores or younger and have seen considerable playing time. After losing 13 starters from last season, No. 23 Cal has arguably the most talented young crop in the Pacific-10 Conference, a notion that has some around Strawberry Canyon already looking forward to next year. "Not to look past the rest of this year, but we're already trying to get things going in a positive direction for next season," said Jordan, a sophomore who is second on the team with 24 catches for 375 yards. "We're returning almost everyone."  As Cal (6-2, 3-2) has seen a 5-0 start transform into a fight for a bowl berth, the underclassmen have been asked to carry a big part of the load. Seven of the Bears' top eight receivers should return next season, as should their three top running backs and three quarterbacks.  The only other team in the conference that won't lose its top three receivers, top running back and starting quarterback to graduation is Washington. "I've been very impressed with how we've jelled for such a young group," coach Jeff Tedford said. "The goal is that you're able to build camaraderie so they hold more of an investment in the program." To Lynch, a sophomore who is averaging 108.8 yards rushing a game, Cal's youth is exactly the reason why the team gets along so well. "We're all young and we can all communicate the same way," he said. "It's easier for me to explain something to a freshman than it is an older guy." With Lynch and sophomore Justin Forsett, Cal is the only team in the nation with two running backs averaging more than 100 yards a game. While Lynch was nursing a broken left pinky earlier in the year, Forsett stepped in, rushing for 422 yards in the two games Lynch missed.

And while Lynch is getting healthier each week and is expected to see his workload increase starting with Saturday's vital matchup at No. 15 Oregon, Forsett will still be asked to carry the ball around 10 times a game, Tedford said. "We probably have more younger guys contributing on a consistent basis this year than we have in the past," Tedford said. In a season in which six offensive opening-day starters have missed playing time due to injury, Tedford has had to dig deep into his roster, pulling out guys like redshirt freshman LaReylle Cunningham. After Jackson, a freshman and Cal's leading receiver, went down with a shoulder injury, Cunningham was thrown into his first collegiate start Oct. 22 against Washington State.

He responded with a 57-yard touchdown reception that keyed a fourth-quarter comeback in a 42-38 Cal victory. "Having that depth has been the biggest thing for this team," said senior center Marvin Philip, a Cameron Park product. "These guys are young and enthusiastic and it's been such a huge thing." And the offense isn't the only place where young players are making a difference. A defensive unit that leads the Pac-10 in scoring average and is second in yards allowed will lose only safety Harrison Smith and rover Donnie McCleskey to graduation. "Unless someone told you who was a freshman or who was a sophomore on this team, you'd never know by watching them play," said Felder, a true freshman. For all the positives that come with having a young roster, however, there can be just as many negatives. Cal's two losses have been by a combined 10 points, both times the Bears failing to hold fourth-quarter leads. "I feel like if we were an older team, we would have been able to overcome those two losses," Jordan said. "With experience, things like that won't happen. We've had our growing pains. Everyone does." The Bears must put Jordan's visions of next season on hold and finish strong, however. They have a tough road ahead, as they face Oregon, top-ranked USC and Stanford. "We have a good young team and they're getting better," Tedford said. "The game preparation, the practice habits, all these things improve, and each week it gives them one more game of experience."


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Contra Costa Times: Tedford works out

By Eric Gilmore

Looking back, former Cal athletic director Steve Gladstone calls it the key interview he had with Jeff Tedford four years ago. Gladstone was searching for a new football coach, and he spent nearly five hours talking to Tedford at the Hotel Mac in Point Richmond that December day in 2001. "He's very understated," said Gladstone. "He's not flash. He's not a self-promoter at all. But there was an intensity about Jeff that really was palpable." Gladstone said he sensed in Tedford not just a desire to win, but an "absolute need," a trait he had seen in many great coaches. "This is not an add-on to his life or a piece of his life," Gladstone said. "To Jeff, it appears to me it's a defining piece of his life." Gladstone ultimately hired Tedford, who took over a 1-10 team and quickly transformed Cal's football program into a national power. During Tedford's tenure at Cal, we've learned about his tireless work ethic. We've learned about his 18-hour work days and that he sleeps in his office four nights a week on an inflatable mattress during the season. If you want to know what drives Tedford and why football and, yes, winning, are so important to him, you have to start at the beginning. Long before Tedford became a highly paid, highly successful football coach with a beautiful home in Danville, he was a skinny quarterback from a broken home on the wrong side of the tracks in Downey, a Los Angeles suburb. Tedford's was not a "Leave it to Beaver" childhood. His father was an alcoholic. His parents divorced when he was 10, and he has had little contact with his father the past three-plus decades. "You can't choose your circumstances, but you can choose to overcome them," said former Warren High School football coach Randy Drake, Tedford's coach in 1977 and '78. "It motivated him. He was going to overcome them one way or another. That's a credit to his personality and makeup. Very determined guy." Tedford, 44, downplays his hardscrabble childhood. He said he was "very fortunate to have a great mother and a brother and sisters who were very, very supportive." Tedford, though, said he could have easily taken "the wrong fork in the road" and wound up in serious trouble if not for football and his football coaches. "I was not a saint by any means, and I learned hard lessons," Tedford said. "I was very fortunate to get through some of the stuff. "I think without football and without sports my life would be totally different."

Tedford said the "only fear" he had as a teenager was letting down his team and coaches. "Athletics really saved him," said longtime Cerritos College coach Frank Mazzotta. "As long as he had a basketball or a football in his hands, he was fine."

That fear of letting down players and coaches who rely on him still motivates Tedford today. "I look at the kids and players that we coach. I would be devastated if I didn't work my hardest to give them the right answers on the field," he said.

"You never want to put anybody there on the field unprepared because we didn't spend the time or energy to watch that last tape or do whatever." Mazzotta was Downey's coach when Tedford was a freshman. He later coached Tedford for two seasons at Cerritos. When Tedford speaks to high school coaches at football clinics, he often tells of the huge impact Mazzotta had on his life one day when he was a freshman. That school day had long since ended, but Tedford, in no hurry to go home, was still hanging around campus. "I was a little freshman kid," Tedford said. "Maybe 5-8, 130 pounds or whatever. And I'm walking back and forth in front of the coaches' office." Mazzotta eventually called Tedford into his office and started talking to him, about sports and life in general. "He didn't need to do that," Tedford said. "He didn't know I was going to be a good football player or I could have done something for him. He called me in there just to talk. "So I tell these high school coaches, 'You mean so much more to these kids than just X's and O's. When you see that skinny kid walking back and forth, call him in and talk to him because you may change his life. My coaches did.' " Football defined Tedford's life at an early age. So did his role as an overachieving underdog, making up for his lack of size with toughness, desire and intelligence. "He was always so serious about the game," said Sacramento State coach Steve Mooshagian, Tedford's high school rival and teammate at Cerritos and Fresno State. "It meant so much to him. "Jeff was very intense. He was tough as nails. He was dirt tough. He just played with a passion." Drake, a former Long Beach State quarterback, coached Tedford as a junior and senior at Downey and gave him a solid foundation of football fundamentals. His influence, though, went beyond X's and O's. Drake was a stickler for discipline. Whenever a coach asked a player a question, that player's answer had to include one of the following five responses: yes sir, no sir, thank you, may I or please. "And if you didn't do that, you had to get down and do 50 pushups," Tedford said. "It was one of those schools where everybody would shave their heads for football season. Just a lot of dedication. He was really stringent." Tedford said he thrived in that environment. As a senior who stood 5-10 and weighed all of 150 pounds, he led Downey to an 11-1 record. He was an All-CIF quarterback and played in the Shrine Game, facing John Elway. "He was a click ahead of the game," Drake said. "A hard-working, very insightful, intelligent young man. Studied the game and worked hard. "You could see the moxie and the makeup and the determination. That's been constant throughout his career. Very tough. Injuries wouldn't keep him out of a game. He was different." Still, Tedford was ignored by Division I college football recruiters. He was considered too short and too light.

So he went to Cerritos, reuniting with Mazzotta. As a sophomore, he led Mazzotta's team to an 11-1 record. By then he had grown another inch and a half and gained 30 pounds. That made him big enough for former Fresno State coach Jim Sweeney, who offered him a scholarship. Midway through his first season at Fresno in 1981, Tedford owned the starting job. As a senior, he led Fresno to an 11-1 record, including a come-from-behind 29-28 victory over Bowling Green in the California Bowl. He set school single-season records for passing yards (2,993) and touchdowns (24). Three teams. Three 11-1 seasons. That qualifies as a trend. "He was a leader in high school and a leader in junior college and a great leader here," Sweeney said. "The players loved him." When Tedford left Fresno State, he was the school's leader in career passing yards (4,872) and touchdown passes (35). "Jeff was one of those players you loved to have on your side," said Stephone Paige, former Fresno State and Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver. "He was so intense. Just like you see him coaching, he had that same intensity. He had that fire in him. "He's such a leader. That stuff rubs off on everybody around him. When he has a mission, he's definitely going to get it done." Many of Tedford's touchdown passes at Fresno State went to Henry Ellard, a former NFL great now working as an assistant coach for the St. Louis Rams. "He wasn't a real big guy," Ellard said of Tedford. "But he could throw the ball down the field. We lit up the scoreboard pretty good. "In '82 we were throwing bombs. It was amazing. He was launching the ball." Ellard caught 62 passes for 1,510 yards and 16 scores, averaging 24.4 yards per catch. Paige averaged 19.6 yards per catch. He grabbed 48 passes for 943 yards and eight touchdowns. The NFL ignored Tedford -- too small again -- but he played six seasons in the Canadian Football League before becoming a coach. If Tedford's life had taken a slightly different twist, he might be selling corrugated boxes in the Fresno area instead of coaching football. That's what he was doing in 1989 after spending two seasons as an unpaid coach at Fresno State. Tedford and his wife, Donna, had a young son, Taylor. They had spent the money he had saved from playing in the CFL and the $1,000 he had earned washing windows at a huge building in Fresno. "So I was down to absolutely zero money. Zero," Tedford said. So he took the sales job. That same day, Calgary Stampeders coach Lary Kuharich called Tedford to offer him a position on his coaching staff. Tedford turned him down. He was tired of moving. He wanted "more stability" in his life. So he went to work, learning the ins and outs of his new sales job. Three weeks into the job, Tedford was miserable. He remembers driving home from work one night thinking he had made a huge mistake. "And then I walked through the front door and my wife said, 'Hey, Lary called you back.'" Kuharich offered the job to Tedford again. "I said, 'Oh, thank God,'" Tedford said. "That's when I got started. He gave me a break." Tedford spent three seasons at Calgary, getting a crash-course in coaching offense. In the small-budget CFL, Tedford was responsible for coaching quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers, as well as coordinating the offense. "It really forced me to submerge myself in all the game," Tedford said. In 1992, Tedford returned to Fresno State as quarterbacks coach under Sweeney. The next year he was promoted to offensive coordinator, a job he kept for five years. "He was a super guy for play calling and play insertions, double-passes and all that kind of thing, putting in new plays," Sweeney said. "We used to go in with three or four (trick) plays every week. He designed most of them." Sweeney retired at Fresno State after the 1996 season. Tedford, as Sweeney's former quarterback and longtime offensive coordinator, seemed like the likely successor. "He was kind of stamping me as the next coach there," Tedford said. "I was not ready for that. And so I took my name out."

The job went to Pat Hill, but Tedford remained at Fresno State for the final year of his contract. "So without moving I got a chance to see how the team, who I knew, responded to new people coming in. How coaches respond to kids they don't know. How new systems are taught. How new recruiting ideas and methodologies were brought about. Just a lot of learning." Tedford used all that knowledge when he started his own program at Cal. In 1998, Tedford left Fresno State to become offensive coordinator at the University of Oregon under Mike Bellotti, a job he held for four years. Tedford's offenses at Oregon were spectacular, but Bellotti said he often worried about the way Tedford pushed himself. Bellotti said he told Tedford he "needed to relax" and spend more time with his family. "He would get worn down by the end of the season, physically worn down, more from the stress than the workload," Bellotti said. Tedford acknowledged as much. "By the end of the season, I don't know if it was just total fatigue, borderline breakdown stuff."

Tedford said he'd often wake up at 2 a.m. after only two hours of sleep "in a cold sweat and panicked." He was worried about what he hadn't done or needed to do, about "this play or that play." So Tedford would turn on the light and "scribble notes" to himself about the game plan and specific plays. As he saw it, the problem wasn't that he was spending too much time at the office. He was spending too little time. Bellotti typically had his coaches work from 7:30 a.m. to around 11:30 p.m., when they all left the facility together. Tedford went home and worried about his unfinished work. So when he took over his own program at Cal, he changed his schedule. "I sleep in the office (Sunday-Wednesday)," he said. "That helps me. ... We work until 1 o'clock in the morning. Lay down, get up at 6, 6:30 or whatever and start over. I feel much better. "The extra two hours here gets those final thoughts out of the way. I'm much more rested now."  Tedford said he's not worried about burnout now. The only thing that worries him is not putting in enough hours.  "It's what keeps me motivated," Tedford said of his work. "It's what keeps me going. If I didn't spend the time doing it, I would feel more stress."

Corvalis Gazette-Times: Stewart makes an instant impact

Freshman running back is third in rushing for No. 14 Oregon, which has the weekend off

By Kevin Hampton

Corvallis Gazette-Times

A true freshman’s role on a football team can be a tough one.  Most of them spend the fall of their first year in a program working on the scout team to get the starters ready to play. On Saturday, they stand on the sideline. A lucky few might get in on special teams or a play or two in a blowout. Others redshirt and never see the field on Saturday for the season. There are exceptions. Once in a while a recruit comes in ready to play. Jonathan Stewart arrived at the University of Oregon touted as the top high school running back in the nation and he quickly showed why. There was no doubt he had the skills and development to step on the turf right away. The only question remaining was how much playing time he would be able to get. Oregon coach Mike Bellotti had the luxury of a senior starter at running back and several young players at the position. Even so, Bellotti could see Stewart was special. He made sure Stewart got some carries from the start and the blend of speed and power was immediately evident as Stewart often simply blew through would-be tacklers. “We knew he had finishing speed and he was a very hard runner,” Bellotti said. “He made people miss and he also ran over people. He’s shown the ability to do both here. The nice thing is it’s translated to this level of football.” Stewart is third in rushing behind Terrence Whitehead and Kellen Clemens with 118 yards on 29 carries in six games. He has a long gain of 33 yards and leads all UO rushers with four touchdowns. Stewart said he is having fun with his first college football experience despite an ankle sprain that has hindered him since the second game. “It’s been pretty tough because it seems like I tweak it a lot and it just gets re-injured throughout the season,” Stewart said. “I’ve just been trying to continue to get it better.” It took a game or two for Stewart to get used to the speed of major college football. He said the biggest difference was the atmosphere of home games and playing in front of close to 60,000 fans in Autzen Stadium. “It seems like they’re also competitive, just as a crowd, just keeping us into the game and stuff,” he said. Stewart was used to being the focal point of the offense at Timberline High in Lacey, Wash. He got his share of carries and piled up 7,755 yards through his career, erasing the previous state record by more than 1,600 yards. He had 2,301 yards and 32 touchdowns his senior season.

The offense was nothing like the new spread offense he had to learn when he arrived at Oregon. “I enjoy it,” he said. “It spreads the ball out a lot. It gives a lot of people the opportunity to get the ball.” The numbers at Timberline were a big reason Stewart was regarded as the top running back recruit last year. Although he lived in Washington, Stewart followed East Coast college football and wasn’t a big fan of the Pacific-10 Conference. Yet he chose Oregon for its college-town environment over Washington and Washington State. Tennessee was the only school on his final list outside of the area. He said there’s been no extra pressure to produce as a top recruit and he simply follows the instructions of the coaching staff. The production will come in time. “I think he’s going to be a great football player,” Bellotti said.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Daily Herald, Everett Washington: Washington State Coach Made Wrong Call

Speaking of mistakes made last week, there were few bigger than Washington State coach Bill Doba's decision to try a fake punt with six minutes left and his team ahead by 10 points against California. The play was stuffed and Cal went on to win 42-38. I can understand Doba's desire to get a spark going for his struggling team, to build some excitement and confidence. But wouldn't simply beating California, a ranked team, do that? Why not punt the ball and make the Golden Bears move the ball down the field? Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob has been erratic this season, completing just 50 percent of his passes. I know WSU's defense has struggled recently, so why not make things a little easier for it? And at worst, if Doba wanted to keep his offense on the field, which would be understandable, why not just go for it? The Cougars needed just 2 yards for a first down. You've got the nation's second-leading rusher who is averaging 6.3 yards a carry, and one of the nation's top receivers, going against a defense that was having trouble stopping you. Every week on the Pac-10 conference call, Doba sounds like he's not sure exactly what to do to get his team to play better. Heck, he even says so. Doba was trying to be aggressive on the play, but there's a time to be aggressive and a time to be smart. If your team is struggling, as a coach you put your players in the best position to succeed, and in the case of Saturday, that meant doing anything but faking a punt. It's not the only reason WSU lost its fourth game in a row, but it played a big part in it.

Daily Cal: Ta'ufo'ou, Reed Shine in Redshirt Scrimmage


Contributing Writer

At least for one day, the redshirt freshmen on the No. 24 Cal football team were able to take the spotlight away from the regular starters.  Bears coach Jeff Tedford scheduled a 20-minute scrimmage for the team's 28 redshirt freshmen at the end of Thursday's practice, giving the Cal youngsters some much-needed time to take live snaps on the field.  Considering Tedford nabbed such a highly ranked recruiting class in the offseason, it's no surprise the full-contact scrimmage provided numerous standout performances.  The player leading the way was tailback Will Ta'ufo'ou, a 6-foot, 250-pound walk-on from Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif.  Ta'ufo'ou looked extremely impressive running up the middle, finding and hitting holes hard, on many occasions pulling one or two defenders before going down.  Maybe the most anticipated performance, however, was that of quarterback Kyle Reed from McClymonds High School in Oakland.  Ranked as one of the elite gunslingers in the nation last year, Reed showed some of the skills that garnered him that recognition.  Reed scored the first touchdown of the scrimmage on a three-yard quarterback sneak. He also showed off accuracy on his throws to complement his already well-publicized strong arm.  "It was really fun just being able to get out there," Reed said. "I'm really starting to get used to the speed of the game now. The only thing I still have a little trouble with is having to absorb all the mental aspects of the playbook right now."  With Ta'ufo'ou and Reed in the backfield, the Bears' redshirts on the offensive side of the ball moved the chains on a consistent basis.  Cal's young offensive line, which features former prep stud Kevin Bemoll from Mission Viejo High School, seemed to open up solid running lanes and give Reed plenty of pass protection.  Though the Bears' defense was outplayed for much of the afternoon, it did stand out in several instances.

On one occasion, Reed took the snap from center and rolled right.  After avoiding two pass rushers, Reed set up his feet to throw, only to have defensive end Tad Smith crush the former Elite 11 quarterback into the Memorial Stadium turf.

"That one hurt a little bit," Reed said. "I'm not trippin' though-it was just good to get out there."

Portland Tribune: Game Preview

Oregon Ducks

Next: California at Oregon, 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5, Autzen Stadium

TV, radio: KATU (2), KXL (750 AM)

Johnny who? Oregon coach Mike Bellotti took a jab at former Duck QB Johnny DuRocher when talking about UO’s quarterback depth now that Kellen Clemens is on the shelf. “There’s a quarterback that defected from us that probably would have been involved now, but that was his choice,” Bellotti said, referring to DuRocher, who eventually signed with Washington.

More QBs: Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf are sophomores and should be in the QB mix the next two years. But the Ducks are shopping around for quarterbacks and already have a verbal commitment from Nathan Costa of Hilmar, Calif. Oregon could sign as many as three QBs, including a junior-college player, in February — all of whom could run the spread offense.

He’s No. 3: Kyle Bennett, a freshman walk-on from David Douglas, is third on the depth chart at quarterback behind Dixon and Leaf.

Notes: Bellotti says Clemens has been invited to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala. It remains to be seen whether Clemens will be able to participate; his rehabilitation from surgery on a fractured ankle, strained ligaments and a cracked fibula could take three to six months. … One of Bellotti’s favorite sayings these days: The Ducks have “a confidence — not an arrogance.” Like arrogance in past seasons was part of the equation? … Linebacker Brent Haberly, a junior from Cottage Grove, has sure been solid — and he made the winning fumble recovery against Arizona. Said Bellotti on his television show: “He’s not the biggest or fastest, but if you measured heart, he’d be off the charts.” … Are you questioning why Nick Reed didn’t just fall on that loose punt last week at Arizona? “They’re taught to scoop and score,” Bellotti says. “They’ve got to make that attempt.”

Contra Costa Times: Walk-on gets chance to excel


Cal Coach Jeff Tedford appreciated a statement made by freshman walk-on wide receiver LaReylle Cunningham, who said he felt important to the team even before he made some big catches in the Golden Bears' 42-38 victory over Washington State on Saturday. Cunningham, who caught a 57-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown strike from quarterback Joe Ayoob along with a 21-yard pass that set up the winning touchdown, said he thought his role in practice always has been important in preparing the Bears for their next opponent, whether or not he got into the game. ``It takes special people like him, and all our walk-ons,'' Tedford said. ``They don't get a lot of attention, but they come out and work every day. It's a rigorous schedule, the practice, the lifting, the meetings. I admire our walk-ons and it's nice to see a guy like that given an opportunity.'' Cunningham, 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, is the latest in a line of successful walk-ons who have played for Tedford. Starting guard Aaron Merz was a walk-on along with backup offensive tackle Jonathan Murphy, who started against Washington State in place of injured Ryan O'Callaghan. Merz and Murphy have been awarded scholarships by Tedford. But there aren't enough scholarships to go around, so Tedford must depend on walk-ons to give their full effort without expecting anything in return. ``They are vital to our preparation and an integral part of what we do,'' Tedford said.

Cunningham received mild interest from Idaho State during his senior year at Vanden High School in Fairfield, but an ankle injury kept him from the kind of season that would attract other universities. Without any solid offers, Cunningham knew where he wanted to go. ``I had come to Cal's football camp on my own,'' he said. ``I developed some close ties to (wide-receivers) coach (Eric) Kiesau. My grades were good, so I applied for a lot of academic scholarships.'' Those scholarships came through, allowing Cunningham to become a walk-on at Cal. Cunningham spent the 2004 season on Cal's scout team, which helps prepare the squad for each opponent. This year, he earned a spot on the traveling team. Even so, he was buried behind Robert Jordan, DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, Noah Smith and Sam DeSa on the depth chart. Then Smith broke his leg in the opener. Jordan (collarbone) and Jackson (shoulder) were injured against Oregon State. ``I just kept my head focused and worked hard,'' Cunningham said. With Jordan, Jackson and Smith likely to return when the Bears play at Oregon on Nov. 5, Cunningham probably will revert to a backup role. ``Everybody plays a role,'' Cunningham said.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Daily Cal: Athlete of the Week - Joe Ayoob

When his team needed him the most, Joe Ayoob was just about perfect.  The Cal quarterback went 4-for-4 for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns Saturday in the Bears' come-from-behind 42-38 win over Washington State at Memorial Stadium.

For the game, Ayoob tossed four touchdowns and completed 19-of-35 passes for 274 yards. He threw two interceptions, but each pick first bounced off the hands of the intended receiver.  Ayoob connected with redshirt freshman LaReylle Cunningham for a 57-yard score with 5:19 left in the fourth quarter.  A little over three minutes later, the junior hit Lavelle Hawkins on a crossing route for the game winner.  Ayoob's clutch performance came on the heals of a pair of contests in which Cal failed to mount fourth-quarter comebacks in losses to Oregon State and UCLA.


Daily Cal: Bye Helps Heal Cal's Walking Wounded

With Injuries Galore, Bears Attempt to Use Week Off to Recuperate


Daily Cal Staff Writer

Currently enjoying a bye in its schedule after eight straight weeks of football games, Cal seems to be welcoming the week off with open arms-that is, arms as open as the team's plague of injuries will allow.  Six key players missed Saturday's victory over Washington State because of injuries. The Bears needed to score two touchdowns in the final 5:19 of the fourth quarter to squeak out a 42-38 win against the Cougars and avoid coach Jeff Tedford's first three-game losing streak in his Cal career.  The No. 24 Bears, who will face consecutive ranked teams for the first time since 2002 when they travel to Oregon to face the No. 14 Ducks on Nov. 5 and return home the following week to host No. 1 USC, are thankful their bye week fell at this point in their season, sophomore wide receiver Robert Jordan said.  "The bye is super crucial," said Jordan, who wore a red no-contact jersey at Tuesday's practice after spraining ligaments near his collarbone, an injury that prevented him from playing against WSU. "The bye came at a perfect time really, because we get all of our linemen back and all of our receivers back."  Of Cal's plethora of injuries, Tedford said only two have been season-ending.  "We should have most of them back," Tedford said after Wednesday's practice. "We've really tried to get healthy this week. I would hope and assume that we have most of our guys back for next week."  The two players who will not return to the field, however, are quarterback Nate Longshore and left tackle Andrew Cameron.  Longshore, who broke his left fibula in the first half of the Bears' first game of the year against Sacramento State, is expected to miss the rest of his redshirt freshman campaign, although Tedford said he has started to throw the ball at practice.

Tedford also said Cameron would have surgery today to repair his left ACL, an injury he incurred in the first half of Cal's win over Arizona. The game against the Wildcats was Cameron's first back after missing two in a row while recovering from a concussion he suffered against Washington in the second game of the season.  Against the Huskies, right guard Aaron Merz also went down with a concussion. He joined Cameron on the sidelines for the following two games before returning to action against Arizona.  Injuries to the offensive line continued to pile up in the Bears' affair with Oregon State, as right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan also suffered a concussion. Already coping with a broken wrist, O'Callaghan was listed as doubtful for Saturday's contest but did not play.  "It's kind of ironic, because last year, the veterans on our team were the receivers and they got hurt," said Jordan, who was activated last year after Chase Lyman suffered a season-ending knee injury against USC. "This year, the veterans on our team are the o-linemen and they're all getting hurt. I don't know if it's like a trend or something like that, but everybody's hurt."  In addition to Longshore and the offensive line, Cal's offense has been hit with injuries in other areas.  Jordan's fellow starting receiver, DeSean Jackson, also missed Saturday's game with a sprained right shoulder. Sophomore Noah Smith has been out since the first game of the year with a broken leg.  At tailback, sophomore Marshawn Lynch, the Bears' offensive centerpiece, broke the little finger of his left hand against Washington and missed two and a half games. He said he expects to have his cast off before the next game.

With other key players missing games on defense-most notably tackle Brandon Mebane and end Tosh Lupoi-Tedford said the number of injuries his players have suffered this season has been unusual.  "Last year, we were really hit hard in one position, and that was the receiver position," said Tedford, who is in his fourth year at Cal. "This year, it's been a little bit of everywhere and probably more than we've had since we've been here, for sure."

Games Missed Due To Injury







Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bothell Herald: Ducks down to second-string QB

Pac-10 Notebook

By Mike Allende

Herald Writer

It was a nightmare for Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, and one that may linger for the rest of the season. The Ducks found themselves battling to avoid an upset last Saturday at Arizona, and in the process saw star quarterback Kellen Clemens go down with a fractured ankle and his backup, Dennis Dixon, leave with a concussion. Oregon was able to escape with a 28-21 win behind third-string quarterback Brady Leaf, but the victory was a costly one. Clemens, a senior who ranked fifth in the nation and first in the Pacific-10 in total offense (329.3 yards) is done for the year. Luckily, Dixon is fine and will get a week (Oregon has a bye this weekend) to prepare to take over as the starter, but the loss of Clemens is a huge one. "He will continue to be a part of our program," Bellotti said. "He'll help coach our young quarterbacks. ... It's disheartening to lose Kellen Clemens at this point but it's exciting to see what our young guys can do. We'll get a jump-start on next year right now." Clemens was completing 64 percent of his passes for 300.8 yards a game with 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions for the 7-1 Ducks, ranked 14th in the nation and, at 4-1, in third place in the Pac-10. He also topped all conference quarterbacks with 228 rushing yards. Bellotti said Clemens' surgery on Monday went well, and the quarterback will have about four months of rehabilitation. Now the reigns of Oregon's explosive offense (464.8 yards, 35.4 points a game) go to Dixon, a sophomore who is 15-for-20 for 130 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and 66 rushing yards this season. Bellotti said Dixon will go from getting about 30 percent of the snaps in practice to about 60-to-70 percent, with most of the rest going to Leaf.

"Dennis is an exceptional athlete," Bellotti said. "He brings an electricity to the atmosphere because he can take the ball and do a lot with it. He's an excellent passer. ... We expect him to step right in. The learning curve will be great but I think he's ready. He's excited and the team is excited for him."

Oregon Daily Emerald: Dixon and Leaf ready for action

After losing Clemens for the rest of the season, the Ducks are eager to continue their winning ways

By Luke Andrews

The 14th-ranked Oregon Ducks, fresh off their fourth-straight win of the season, now enter the bye week in preparation for California, which visits Autzen Stadium in two weeks. And the timing of Oregon’s bye week could not have been better. The Ducks’ draining 28-21 win against Arizona last Saturday proved costly as senior quarterback Kellen Clemens suffered a broken ankle and will miss the remainder of the season. Backups Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf are left with big shoes to fill for the final three games of the regular season. “It was unfortunate what happened and how I got in, but Dennis and I have to prepare to keep this team rolling,” Leaf said. “I am extremely excited for this opportunity.”

The extra week of preparation gives Dixon, who will take the majority of snaps in practice, and Leaf the opportunity to grasp Oregon’s spread offense and a chance for Oregon coaches to formulate playbooks catered to the two respective talents.  “The nice thing about the timing of this is that we have two weeks to prepare, so we can get a lot more work done,” Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said. “It’s a lot more this week about the Oregon Ducks and making sure we figure out what parts of the offense we want to focus on for Dennis and Brady.” Dixon, a sophomore from San Leandro, Calif., has played sparingly this season. He’s completed 15 of 20 passes for 130 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Most known for his flair running the ball, Dixon, who broke Oregon’s 40-yard dash record for quarterbacks previously held by Akili Smith, has rushed for 66 yards on seven carries this season and has scored one touchdown — the go-ahead quarterback sneak in the season-opener against Houston. “Dennis is an unbelievable athlete. He can make plays that me and Kellen could never make just on sheer athletic ability,” Leaf said.

A sophomore from Great Falls, Mont., Leaf is the younger brother of Ryan Leaf, a former Washington State standout and second overall selection in the 1998 NFL draft. Brady Leaf made his Oregon debut in the home-opener against Montana, throwing for 25 yards on 2-of-5 passing. In relief duties against the Wildcats on Saturday, Leaf was 5 of 10 for 53 yards and an interception, but completed two key first downs to lead the Ducks to victory. Though Bellotti has named Dixon the starter, he expects both to share time under center. “We’re the same football team,” Bellotti said. “We have some weapons at quarterback, and we have some weapons on offense that are not going to be denied. So I think our attitude is pretty good.” While the circumstances causing their jump to the first team are disappointing, both Dixon and Leaf are eager to accept the challenge of continuing Oregon’s drive to a major bowl game. “It’s unfortunate that it had to happen like that,” Dixon said of Clemens’ injury. “But I’m going to have to go out there and show what I do best. I’m really confident and I’ve got teammates that are going to help me through this.”

Ngata enters record books

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, a likely future NFL draft pick, has become the unofficial leader in blocked kicks after blocking a punt attempt by Arizona in the third quarter, his seventh career blocked kick. Though records are incomplete, Ngata surpassed the previously recorded high of six held by Keith Lewis. “It’s mostly about effort. It’s cool, but it’s just what I do,” Ngata said of the unofficial record. “(Blocking kicks) changes the momentum a lot.” Ngata also recorded six tackles against the Wildcats, giving the junior from Salt Lake City 38 total tackles on the season. He also broke up two passes in the game against Arizona.

Injury update

Dixon, following Clemens’ injury, was sidelined with a mild concussion after a collision with Wildcat Darrell Brooks. Dixon, however, passed all tests following the game and is cleared to play in two weeks against California. He practiced both Monday and Tuesday this week.

Linebacker A.J. Tuitele was expected to, but did not make a return to the Oregon lineup against Arizona after a knee injury kept him out of action for consecutive weeks. Tuitele will practice during the two weeks of preparation and Bellotti expects him to play against the Bears. “He has been progressing each week, and he will start practice for real on Monday,” Bellotti said of Tuitele.

Clemens’ surgery on Monday to repair his fractured left ankle was considered a success, according to Dr. Bob Crist, the Ducks’ Team Physician.

Clemens underwent a 90-minute operation that “consisted of inserting a screw toward the top of the ankle to pull the fibula and tibia together, as well as attaching a metal plate to aid the healing process of a spiral fracture in the fibula.” Clemens’ rehabilitation is estimated to extend a minimum of three months and a maximum of six months. A full recovery is expected.

SF Chronicle: Lynch finds time for more yards


Bruce Adams, Chronicle Staff Writer

Coach Jeff Tedford says Marshawn Lynch is still learning how to handle the burden of being an every-down running back.  At the beginning of the season, coaches said Lynch's biggest challenge would be making the transition to starting tailback after an excellent freshman year backing up J.J. Arrington.  "He's still in that process," Tedford said.  Lynch is second on the team in rushing, averaging 5.9 yards a carry for 653 yards. His backup, Justin Forsett, leads the team, averaging 8.2 yards a carry with 867 yards.  In Saturday's 42-38 win over Washington State, Lynch led the Bears with 160 rushing yards (his season best), including a 39-yard touchdown run.  "He hasn't been on the field that much," Tedford said. Lynch broke the little finger on his left hand in the second quarter of Cal's win at Washington. He missed the next two games. He sat out the first quarter in the loss at UCLA in a disciplinary measure for missing a running backs' meeting.  Then, in the loss to Oregon State, Tedford sat Lynch on the bench in the second half after he fumbled twice in the first half.  "It wasn't that we were trying to teach him a lesson," Tedford said. "We can't put the team at risk."  Lynch is back full-time now, finally able to carry the ball in either hand and apparently is the healthiest he's been all year.

"It's been slow for him because of his injuries," Tedford said, acknowledging that in addition to the broken finger Lynch had "a couple other things earlier in the season that were hindering him a little bit."  Time for healing: It's no secret what the Bears are emphasizing in the current bye week -- playing next at Oregon on Nov. 5.  "The key is to get them healthy," Tedford said, referring to his latest missing regulars.  As of Tuesday, he was optimistic that offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan (concussion), defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (ankle) and receivers Robert Jordan (collarbone) and DeSean Jackson (shoulder) all will be ready to return for the Oregon game.  The four were injured in the loss to Oregon State, resulting in some uncertainties in last week's preparations for Washington State.  "That's the hard part, not knowing if you're going to have them back or not," Tedford said.  Receiver Noah Smith, lost after the season-opening win over Sacramento State with a broken ankle, is rejoining the team at practice. Tedford said he was "not sure" if he'd be available at Oregon.  Offensive lineman Mike Tepper, who was the victim of a criminal assault in the offseason -- incurring a broken leg when a car ran over him, is making significant progress in his rehab. Tepper has said he's likely to return this season, but Tedford said, "I don't think that's possible." Plus, the team plans on asking the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility for Tepper. "If that case doesn't work, I don't know what does," Tedford said.  Quarterback Nate Longshore, lost in the opener with a severe ankle injury that included a broken fibula, is ready to start jogging. Tedford was uncertain if Longshore might be available later in the season.  Ayoob keeps learning: Tedford repeatedly has said that quarterback Joe Ayoob needed to throw the ball with "more authority."  The coach finally was pleased Saturday, with Ayoob throwing for four touchdowns, including two at the end of dramatic drives in the final six minutes in the come-from-behind win.  "He was cutting it loose," Tedford said.  Ayoob completed 19 passes in 35 attempts for 274 yards. He was intercepted twice, both times on tipped balls.  Tedford didn't go simply by the numbers, saying he was even impressed with the passes that were off-target.  "They looked like they had some intentions on them," he said.


Oakland Tribune: Comeback victory brightens outlook for Tedford, Cal

By Dave Newhouse, STAFF WRITER 

BERKELEY — What a difference five minutes can make in a coach's life. Jeff Tedford was relaxed, smiling and exuding a positive outlook during an hourlong interview Tuesday.  Had Cal not scored twice in the last five minutes Saturday night to defeat Washington State 42-38 and end a two-game losing streak, this bye week would have left a noticeable strain on Tedford and Cal's season.  But now Cal (6-2, 3-2 Pac-10) seems poised for a stronger finish against two ranked teams, Oregon and USC, and surging Stanford.  "I was extremely happy in that game," Tedford said of Washington State, "because of all we were up against. All the reasons the kids could have found not to be successful, they didn't. They found a way to make plays in all three phases.  "It would have been very easy — given that we're as young as we've ever been, and we're the most beat up we've ever been — not to find a way to get it done."  Another reason for optimism: Tedford expects to have four starters back at full health for Oregon: wide receivers Robert Jordan (collarbone) and DeSean Jackson (shoulder separation), offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan (concussion), and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (sprained ankle).

Plus wideout Noah Smith (broken leg), who hasn't played since the Sacramento State opener, could return for the Nov.5 game in Eugene. And quarterback Nate Longshore (broken leg) could be healthy by the time the bowl season rolls around.  The future of junior offensive tackle Andrew Cameron (ACL knee injury), though, remains uncertain. O'Callaghan predicted recently that Cameron, who has had two shoulder surgeries, will graduate in May and be done with Cal football. Tedford is taking a wait-and-see approach.  The Cal coach covered a variety of subjects Tuesday, beginning with his defense of cornerbacks Daymeion Hughes and Tim Mixon, the prime targets of the Cougars' Alex Brink, who passed for 423 yards Saturday.  "I'm not disappointed," Tedford said. "Do we like big plays? No. But the effort was there. Tim Mixon was going to intercept

a pass, but (Jason) Hill pushed him in the back and caught it for a touchdown. Corner can be a lonely position from time to time."

Tedford said the biggest play that went unnoticed Saturday was Hughes missing a diving tackle on Hill on an 80-yard pass play, then getting up and chasing down Hill at the 6. WSU had to settle for a field goal. If not for Hughes' effort, Cal would have had to win in overtime.  But Tedford then added that safety Harrison Smith will rotate in at corner, his previous position at Cal, from now on.  The coach showered praise on quarterback Joe Ayoob, who progressed leaps and bounds Saturday with his two late touchdown passes that rescued the Bears.  "He was throwing it with authority," Tedford said. "That's what you're looking for. The perception of his having really, really rough days — 0-for-10, fans cussing at him. For that kid to stay as mentally tough as he is, to compete as he does, brings a great amount of admiration."  The coach addressed Marshawn Lynch's development by saying he's "in the process" of making the transition into an every-down back — a process slowed by injuries, a first-quarter suspension against UCLA and a second-half benching against Oregon State after losing two fumbles.  "The process is carrying the ball four, five, six times in a row," Tedford said. "He's just kind of experiencing that now because of all his injuries."  Tedford also noted that Lynch, who now wears a splint, not a cast, on his broken left little finger, has improved at watching game films.  The coached praised defensive ends Nu'u Tafisi and Phillip Mbakogu for the late-game pressure they put on Brink as Cal rallied.


Contra Costa Times: Tedford: Lynch progressing fine

• Coach praises tailback, who has put up solid numbers despite injuries

Cal football notebook

BERKELEY -- Although Cal sophomore tailback Marshawn Lynch didn't develop into a Heisman Trophy candidate as some expected, coach Jeff Tedford said he has made some very positive strides. "He has played very limited," Tedford said. "He only played a quarter against Washington before getting hurt (breaking a bone in his left hand) and he missed two games after that. He just hasn't been on the field all that much."  In the time he has been on the field, Lynch has produced solid numbers. He has gained 653 yards, averaging 5.9 yards a carry. He is averaging 108.8 yards per game and appears headed toward a 1,000-yard season if he remains healthy. Tedford was asked if Lynch has developed into an every down back. "He still is in the process," he said. "That's been slowed down because of the injuries he has had. He not only had the hand (injury), but he had a couple of other things early in the season. He really hasn't had a chance to see what it is like to carry four, five or six plays in a row." Lynch also continues to learn how to be a student of the game. "(Running backs) Coach (Ron) Gould does a nice job of incorporating him into film study," Tedford said. "You can always learn from this play or that play." He might have learned to trust his blockers more on kickoffs after he was trapped inside the 20-yard line twice in Saturday's 42-38 win over Washington State. "Marshawn needs to get a little better feel," Tedford said. "There were a couple of creases there." Tedford said that Lynch went outside the blocking scheme on his first return, which he brought back to the 35-yard line. He tried that strategy twice afterward and was stuffed.

Way to go, Joe

Tedford said quarterback Joe Ayoob might be making mistakes on the field, but that the junior has earned his respect. "It's so amazing about that kid, the learning he has done, the perseverance he has had through some tough games. For that kid to stay as mentally tough as he does brings a great amount of admiration." Ayoob (1,521 yards passing, 15 touchdowns, seven interceptions) threw four touchdown passes against Washington State, including two during the Bears' fourth-quarter rally. "Joe played the whole game with more confidence and more authority," Tedford said. "That was a big difference. He wasn't aiming the ball."

Healing process

Tedford said that he "suspects" that offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan (concussion), defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (ankle) and wide receivers Robert Jordan (collarbone) and DeSean Jackson (shoulder) all will return to full strength physically for the Bears' next game, Nov. 5 at Oregon. "The toughest thing about last week was juggling the lineup and not knowing if we would have them," Tedford said.   Tedford said Jordan went through pregame drills against Washington State even though he was in extreme pain. "You have to admire and love a kid who on Thursday can't lift his arm but on Saturday says, 'I'm here for the team.'"  Sophomore wide receiver Noah Smith (broken fibula) also has returned to practice and could be ready to face the Ducks.  Although Cal junior offensive tackle Andrew Cameron, who is out with a torn ACL in his knee, has said that he might not play his senior season due to recurring injuries, Tedford said he probably needs some time to figure out his future. "These types of things cause you to re-evaluate," Tedford said. "We will support him whatever he decides."

Passing the test

Tedford said he was so emotional after the victory over Washington State because of everything that the Bears faced. "This is the youngest we've been and this was the most beaten up we've been," he said. "Our players faced all the reasons they could have found not to be successful. But we found ways to make plays in all three phases of the game. "It's something when you are up 28-10 at halftime and the momentum is totally a landslide going the other way, and you still have the belief that you can make plays. Everyone kept doing their job as they always do. It was good for our young players to see that if you keep playing hard, good things will happen."

End run

Tedford noticed that some of Cal's fans were leaving early in the fourth quarter before the Bears rallied for two touchdowns to beat Washington State. "I appreciate the fans who stayed and helped us," he said. ... Cal's game at Oregon will begin at 12:30 p.m. and be televised by ABC.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Eugene Register Guard: Ducks get in BCS range

By Bob Clark

The Register-Guard

Computers tend to be cold, heartless raters of college football teams. Just the facts, please. Things like who beat whom. How difficult is the schedule. And who knows what else, based on some of the discrepancies from those rankings done by machines.  So the fact Oregon lost its starting quarterback over the weekend apparently didn't weigh in with the computers, most of which think even more of the Ducks this week than last. That was evident Monday in the release of the latest Bowl Championship Series poll, which has Oregon up to 11th in the nation, boosted by the Ducks having an average rank of ninth from the six computers used in the BCS formula.  Two of the computers used by the BCS listed the Ducks seventh in the nation, with another putting Oregon ninth and two others 10th. Oregon was only 25th in the figuring of the sixth computer, but the best and worst of the computer rankings are eliminated before the other four are averaged out for a number that becomes one-third of the BCS rating. The other two-thirds comes evenly between the USA Today poll of coaches and the Harris poll, which each have Oregon ranked 14th nationally, as does The Associated Press. The significance of Oregon's overall ranking is that to be considered for an at-large berth in a BCS bowl, a team must win nine games and be ranked in the top 12 of the BCS poll. Being both of those wouldn't assure Oregon of anything, but it would be possible for the Ducks to dream of a Fiesta Bowl berth.  There are all sorts of ifs, of course, for Oregon to be considered for a BCS berth. USC probably must win out and reach the Rose Bowl, where the top two teams in the BCS poll meet Jan. 4 for the national title. It's also mandatory that the Ducks pass unbeaten UCLA, No. 6 this week in the BCS, since only two teams from one league can be in BCS bowls. A loss to USC in the Dec. 3 finale probably won't hurt the Bruins significantly, so the Ducks better be pulling for Stanford, Arizona or Arizona State to knock off UCLA in the coming three weeks.

Now, the most difficult part, if the one thing Oregon can control. The Ducks probably will need to finish 10-1 to remain in the top 12 and even be considered for a BCS berth, which means after a bye this week Oregon must sweep November, a month made up of home games against California (6-2) and Oregon State (4-3) and a visit to Washington State (3-4).  "We need to win these next three games one at a time," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said in previewing Oregon's stretch run. "Every game is winnable, but we will have to play well."   The hitch there is that the Ducks will be doing it with a relatively inexperienced quarterback after the loss of Kellen Clemens to a broken leg. Clemens underwent surgery Monday, and the Ducks returned to the practice field without him as the starter for the first time since the end of the 2002 season.  Though there is no game Saturday and Oregon will practice only through Thursday, Bellotti said the Ducks will "probably do a little more than we had planned" during workouts this week to increase the preparation for backup quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf, both sophomores.  Could a bye have come at a better time for the Ducks?  "It's nice to have two weeks, to regather ourselves and get quality (practice) time for the quarterbacks," Bellotti said.  Bellotti initially said the offense won't be changed because of the loss of Clemens, but he also acknowledged it might have to be "scaled back somewhat."  "Kellen was a three-year starter, Dennis will be a first-game starter," Bellotti said, though offsetting that is the fact "Dennis has been in the program for two years. He's done a nice job when he's gotten into games and been very effective."  A hint that the Ducks won't go too far away from what they've done so far this season but with a bent toward the abilities of the quarterbacks may have come in the Arizona game. Dixon was in running options, with the intent of using his speed against the Arizona defense, UO coordinator Gary Crowton said after the game.


"He was just getting a feel for the game" when Dixon suffered a concussion on the series after Clemens was injured. That brought out Leaf, but the Ducks didn't suddenly revert to the T-formation with a full-house backfield and run straight at the Wildcats.


advertisement The Ducks did run on their initial two plays with Leaf in the huddle, but Crowton questioned himself after the game for being "a little bit conservative." On third down of that series, Leaf completed his first pass, which set up a failed field goal attempt.


The next Oregon offensive series started with two incompletions by Leaf followed by an interception, and the Ducks threw on third and fourth down of their subsequent series before turning the football over on downs. Even on Oregon's final possession, which began with 4:43 left and Arizona devoid of timeouts, the Ducks had Leaf throw deep on first down and pass on the next two plays.

"Our offense is designed to take what the defense gives us," Bellotti said. "If they're packed in the box, we're going to throw the ball. We wanted first downs and we felt going at it (with passes) was the way to get first downs."  California is likely to dare the Ducks to throw. And the Cougars and Beavers will follow suit, if that works.  But Bellotti remains firm in the belief that Dixon can run the entire offense, and Leaf is a capable backup if called upon again.  "Dennis has something special," Bellotti said. "And as I've said before, we have weapons across the board in this offensive group."  The computers seem to think so, too. Either that, or nobody input the information that Oregon is down a quarterback, with November to go.  


Picked for TV: Oregon's next game, Nov. 5 against California, was selected by ABC for a regional telecast, with the kickoff at Autzen Stadium remaining at 12:30 p.m.

By being chosen for that telecast, Oregon will meet its budgeted estimate of seven appearances on network television this season. The Ducks have already appeared four times on ESPN, FSN, TBS or ABC and their final two games of the season, at Washington State on Nov. 12 and against Oregon State on Nov. 19, have already been selected for telecasts on FSN. The WSU game will kick off at 7:15 p.m. and the Civil War at 3:45 p.m.

Ducks: Oregon's players of the week were receiver Demetrius Williams on offense, linebacker Brent Haberly on defense and the trio of Justin Phinisee, Aaron Gipson and Haloti Ngata on special teams. The Pac-10 players of the week were Stanford's Babatunde Oshinowo for defense and UCLA teammates Drew Olson and kicker Justin Medlock for offense and special teams, respectively

Oregon's scout team players of the week were Ed Dickson, Rory Cavaille and Andiel Brown on offense, Kevin Garrett and Thor Pili for defense and Adam Block and Don Phelps on special teams.



Portland Tribune: Ducks try to ease pain of QB loss


The Oregon Ducks are bowl bound, but where are they going and what shape will they be in?  Their worst fear has come true; quarterback Kellen Clemens is injured and done for the year.  Sophomores Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf cannot bring to the offense what Clemens brought — the complete package of runner, passer, leader and focal point of the spread offense. Both Dixon and Leaf have limitations, and much inexperience.

“Kellen is the highest-rated player on this football team, a national guy, that’s a difficult loss,” says coach Mike Bellotti, who lost his senior in last weekend’s 28-21 win over Arizona. “But our playmakers are across the board. Our team has confidence we can win in different ways — offense, defense and special teams.”  The athletic Dixon will be the starter — “we know Dennis has something special,” Bellotti says — and get about 70 percent of the reps with the No. 1 offense in practice as the 14th-ranked Ducks (7-1, 4-1 Pac-10) prepare to play California on Nov. 5. But Leaf also will figure into the game plan.   Offensive coordinator Gary Crowton says Dixon has moderate command of the system.  “I think he understands the playbook, and every game we’ve been in I feel he has been prepared,” Crowton says. “Plus, he gives you another dimension: When things break down, he can run.”   Crowton expects Cal, Washington State and Oregon State to do what they can to rattle Dixon and Leaf.

“They’re young quarterbacks, and teams usually blitz young guys,” he says. “Dennis will be good against the blitz because he’s fast, and Brady is very intelligent.”  Clemens, who will be out three months with his fractured left ankle, says more practice for Dixon and Leaf will help their timing with the receivers. “We have a lot of faith in both of those guys,” Crowton says.  But there are issues to consider.   Is the slight Dixon, 6-4 and 190 pounds, tough enough to take hits all game? He also tends to lock on receivers and not survey the entire field.  Bellotti calls Leaf “a rhythmic player, and I have no doubt he can run this offense,” but can he move in the pocket well enough to hit receivers on the mark and run the option effectively? “I run option plays in practice; I don’t see why we can’t run it in the game,” the 6-5, 225-pound Leaf says.  Bellotti says the offense will not change, and the Ducks will not rely more on the run.   “We have to hand-tailor game plans to their strengths,” he says of the two remaining QBs. “I think they’re both capable of winning football games.”

Oregon Ducks

Next: California, 12:30 p.m. Nov. 5, Autzen Stadium … Oregon (7-1 overall, 4-1 in the Pac-10) has a bye this week.

Clemens done: Quarterback Kellen Clemens was scheduled to have surgery Monday, with doctors putting a pin in his left ankle to stabilize bones during healing. Clemens also suffered ligament damage in last week’s 28-21 win at Arizona.   He hopes to hobble on crutches to classes by Wednesday and attend team meetings and practices.   “I’d like to make a run at the professional level,” he says. “I want to play football again, I want to keep the dream alive.”   Clemens came up two touchdown passes and 51 yards in total offense shy of Oregon’s all-time records. He threw for 61 TDs and had 8,090 total yards.   He also finished third in all-time passing yardage with 7,555 yards, and his 61 percent completion percentage ranks first.

Fantastic Phinisee: Coach Mike Bellotti has called Justin Phinisee “a great punt returner … one of the best in the nation.”   Phinisee showed sprinter’s speed in returning a punt 69 yards for a score against Arizona. Standout Arizona punter Danny Baugher outkicked the coverage, and Phinisee used good blocks and cut through the teeth of the Wildcat coverage.   “He’s a very courageous player to take it right up the middle,” Bellotti says of Phinisee, who is third in the Pac-10 in punt-return average (13.1). “We’re primarily a middle return team … and you have to be fearless. ‘Blind faith’ is what coach (Jim) Radcliffe would say.”

What running game?: The Ducks ran for only 67 yards on 32 attempts against Arizona, the Pac-10’s second-worst defensive team against the rush. With Clemens out, the Ducks might have to lean more on Terrence Whitehead and the other backs, although Bellotti says screen plays and shovel passes effectively work as runs in the spread offense. “We may spread it out even more than we have,” Bellotti says.

Kicking situation: Matt Evensen missed three field-goal attempts against Arizona. Paul Martinez has sat out two games with a quadriceps injury in his kicking leg. Bellotti expects him to take back the job this week. Sounds like an order.

What a player: Bellotti marveled at how Haloti Ngata blocked an Arizona punt and then pursued Baugher, after the punter recovered the ball and tried to rush for a first down. Ngata made the tackle.   That’s seven blocked kicks and counting for Ngata.   “He gets a head start and he’s a powerful human being,” Bellotti says.

Notes: Linebacker Anthony Trucks is tied for the Pac-10 lead in sacks with eight and ranks second in tackles for loss with 11. … Receiver Demetrius Williams is third in yardage per game (111.9) and tied for third in catches (46). “Gigantic playmaker for us,” Bellotti says. Williams needs 265 yards to tie Samie Parker (2,761) as the Ducks’ all-time receiving yardage leader. … No catches vs. Arizona: James Finley, Tim Day and Dante Rosario. … Devan Long needs 4.5 sacks to tie Ernest Jones (29.5) and 1.5 tackles for loss to tie Kevin Mitchell and Saul Patu (44) atop UO’s all-time list. … Either David Douglas grad Kyle Bennett or receiver Garren Strong might be tabbed the No. 3 quarterback. “In this offense, we can put a running back back there or a wide receiver back there,” Bellotti says.