Friday, September 28, 2007

Salem News: No. 11 Oregon and No. 6 Cal Ready for Epic Pac-10 Battle

EUGENE, Ore. - Saturday’s kickoff between No. 11 Oregon and No. 6 California at Autzen Stadium is set for 12:30 p.m. PDT. The game will be televised by ESPN on ABC.  Oregon leads the Pac-10 in rushing offense at 299.8 yards per game, more than 50 yards per game better than runnerup USC (244.7).   TB Jonathan Stewart is the Pac-10 individual leader at 125.8 yards per game.  Stewart rushed for 160 yards in win at Stanford last week and added 150 yards on four kickoff returns to account for 310 all-purpose yards.  In addition to leading the league in rushing, Stewart also leads in kickoff returns with a 31.9-yard average.  California coach Jeff Tedford served four years (1998-2001) as Oregon's offensive coordinator before taking over the helm at Berkeley. Golden Bears' six-game winning streak is longest among Pac-10 teams.

WR Lavelle Hawkins is tied for second in Pac-10 in receptions and fellow WR Robert Jordan has caught at least one pass in 34 consecutive games.   TB Justin Forsett is second in the Pac-10 in rushing at 121.0 yards per game and has topped the 100-yard mark in three of four games. He has scored touchdowns in five straight games.  Cal has scored 40 or more points in nine of its last 16 games, and are averaging 41.5 points per game this year.  The Bears have lost only four turnovers in four games, fewest in the Pac-10.

Cal's 28 first-quarter points in a 45-27 win against Arizona last week tied the school record for most points in a quarter against a Pac-10 team.  In Arizona game, QB Nate Longshore surpassed 4,000 career passing yards. He now stands a 4,004.


California leads the all-time series, 37-30-2, but the Ducks have had the edge in recent years, taking eight of the last 10 meetings dating to 1994.  Oregon has a seven-game winning streak against Cal at Autzen Stadium, where the Bears last tasted victory (20-6) in 1987.  Last season, California capitalized on four UO turnovers and won 45-24 in Berkeley.


• ESPN College GameDay makes its second ever visit to Autzen Stadium, having last traveled to Eugene in 2000.

• Oregon ranks fourth nationally in rushing at 299.75 yards per game.

• JR RB Jonathan Stewart is seventh in the country in all-purpose yards (205.75 ypg) and 11th in rushing (125.75).

• Stewart’s first-half touchdown at Stanford was the 20th rushing TD of his career.

• The Ducks are 4-0 for the second consecutive season and sixth time in Mike Bellotti’s 13 seasons as head coach.

• Oregon has had at least one scoring play of 70 yards or more in all four games this season.

• SR QB Dennis Dixon has at least one passing AND rushing touchdown in every game in 2007.

• The Ducks have scored 11 or more points in the 1st quarter of every game this season.

• Oregon (48.5 ppg) and Cal (41.5 ppg) are the No. 1 and No. 3 scoring teams in the Pac-10, respectively.


For the second time this season, SR QB Dennis Dixon has been named the Pac-10’s offensive Player of the Week.  Dixon accounted for career-highs of five touchdowns (4 pass, 1 rush), 367 passing yards and 27 completions in leading Oregon to a 55-31 road win against Stanford on Sept. 22.  The senior from San Leandro, Calif., also took home the award in Week 2, following his four-touchdown performance in the Ducks’ 39-7 victory at Michigan.  Dixon is the first Duck to earn multiple offensive POTW awards in the same season since quarterback Joey Harrington in 2001 (Oct. 6 & Nov. 3).


ESPN College GameDay will produce its weekly college football preview show from the University of Oregon on Saturday morning preceding the Ducks’ home game vs. California.

The premier college football pre-game show, which has aired weekly on ESPN since its inception in 1989, features hosts Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, and will air live from 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. (PDT).  The show began producing the telecast from college campuses around the country in 1993. Details surrounding the exact site of the production will be released early this week, with the general public encouraged to be part of the production free of charge.  It will mark the second Eugene appearance for the show, which includes features, predictions and highlights of some of this week’s top games from around the country, and the third time the Ducks have played a role in the network’s award-winning college football preview show.  The production’s last Oregon appearance occurred in 2000 when it made its first-ever appearance in the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 23 prior to the Oregon-UCLA game.


Of Oregon’s 24 total drives resulting in touchdowns this season, six have taken 18 seconds or less, nine have occured in less than one minute and 15 have lasted fewer than 120 seconds.


Oregon’s 41-year old facility has earned the reputation as one of the nation’s toughest college football venues for visiting teams.  The Ducks have produced a 58-16 record (.784) in Autzen Stadium in the 13th season under the direction of Mike Bellotti.  Since encountering an uncharacteristic 3-3 record at home in 2004, Oregon has bounced back to win 12 of its last 14 games on its home turf.  Since California’s last win in Eugene in 1987, the Ducks have prevailed in the last seven Autzen Stadium meetings between the two schools.


Although Mike Bellotti-coached teams have accumulated a 21-22 record against Top 25-ranked opponents, the Ducks are 10-7 in Autzen Stadium since 1995 and 3-1 vs. the Top-10 at home during that same span. The only setback was dealt by then No. 1 ranked USC in 2005, 45-13.


Oregon has hosted an opponent ranked among the nation’s Top-10 on 20 occasions since Autzen Stadium opened in 1967, with the Ducks accumulating an 8-11-1 ledger.  USC’s 2005 win in Eugene snapped a five-game winning streak at home against elite visitors, with their 31-27 victory over Michigan in 2003 marking their last home win over a Top 10-ranked foe.  The Ducks have played 24 games under Bellotti where both Oregon and its opponent were ranked among the nation’s Top 25, with the Ducks accumulating a 14-10 mark on those occasions.


The Ducks have surpassed the 300-yard rushing mark in three of their four games this season, totaling 339 vs. Houston, 331 at Michigan and 307 vs. Fresno State.  That string of three straight marked the first time in the Mike Bellotti era that the Ducks put up more rushing yards than passing yards in three consecutive games.  Oregon has five games of 300-plus since the start of 2006 and the game against the Houston Cougars marked the highest total since setting the school record of 446 yards at Washington State Oct. 27, 2001.


In the first three games of the season the Ducks had a player recover a fumble AND record an interception.  SO CB Jairus Byrd did it in back-to-back games to start the year and SO CB Walter Thurmond III accomplished the feat Sept. 15 vs. Fresno State.  Thurmond returned his fumble recovery 25 yards for his first career touchdown.


Oregon’s 42 first-half points vs. Fresno State were the most in a half by the Ducks since scoring 49 in the opening half of a 72-10 home victory over Nevada on Sept. 18, 1999.


JR RB Jonathan Stewart set an Autzen Stadium record for the longest run in the venue’s history with his 88-yard touchdown vs. Fresno State on Sept. 15.  The carry was also the second longest in school history behind a 92-yard gallop by Bob Smith in 1938.


A year ago, the Ducks turned the football over 32 times (including 25 times in the last nine games) to finish 109th in the country (out of 119 schools) in turnover margin.  Through the first four games this year, the Ducks have benefited from 12 opponents’ turnovers while coughing the ball up themselves only five times to rank tied for sixth in the country in turnover margin (1.75).


Not since 2002 has Oregon climbed out of the bottom half of the Pac-10 rankings in net punting.  Yet the Ducks hope to change that.  Ranking 15th in the country as a team, Oregon is currently tops in the conference (39.0-yard average) while junior newcomer Josh Syria finds himself tied for 30th nationally (42.8-yard avg.) and second in the Pac-10.


The Ducks are 9-0 since the start of 2006 when they have a 100-yard rusher.  JR RB Jonathan Stewart has managed the feat eight times - most recently at Stanford - while SR QB Dennis Dixon accounts for the other. In the eight other games, UO is 2-6.


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