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As statements go, that was a mouthful.

Byline: George Schroeder The Register-Guard

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The third-string tailback was dancing through the remains of Michigan's defense, and the starters were dancing on the sidelines, and the fans' chants were echoing through the rapidly emptying bleachers.

`Let's go Ducks!' And `Den-nis Dix-on!' And `It's-all o-ver!' And anything else they could think of.

This was the scene in the final moments of a 39-7 win at the Big House. And such reveling was understandable, considering the Ducks' unexpected dominance on a big stage.

And then, in an unfortunate moment of ecstasy, one guy yelled: `Bring on USC!'

This was a bit much. Or perhaps the fan had a bit too much, or just got overheated. To their credit, no other Ducks took up his cause. A few even looked at him funny.

But here, we must cut through the euphoria.

Saturday's win might rank among the biggest in Oregon history. `Top three!' as UO athletic director Pat Kilkenny told anyone he saw, grouping it with the 1994 win over USC in the Coliseum and the Fiesta Bowl win over Colorado.

In present tense, it's absolutely an emphatic statement. Not so much winning at the Big House - these days, everyone's doing it - but how the Ducks did it, and by how much. The 32-point margin could have been, should have been wider.

Suddenly, the Ducks are back on the nation's radar. And should be. But we need to get a few things out of the way here.

Michigan is bad. Really bad. Just maybe, historically bad. The Lloyd Carr era is all but over. Just a matter of a few more losses - and they're coming soon. Let the Les Miles rumors begin.

So beating the Wolverines ain't what it used to be.

But when it was finally over, when the Michigan band had finished playing `Hail to the Victims' - what? Oh, never mind - this much was evident.

Oregon is better than Appalachian State. OK, that's not fair. The Ducks are a lot better than Appalachian State. But just how good are they?

I'm still not sure. Neither is Mike Bellotti.

`Hopefully, this isn't a statement,' the coach said, `but a paragraph in an essay.'

But he also said: `What I learned, I liked.'

Same here. Two games in, there's a lot to like.

We'll start with the offense, which piled up 624 yards - the most given up by Michigan in seven years. And the offense starts with Dennis Dixon, a suddenly savvy senior (what, exactly, do the Braves teach their rookies?).

Two games in, Dixon barely resembles his erratic former self. He's always been tall, and kind of fast. Now, he's good.

`We're pretty comfortable putting the ball in Dennis' hands,' Bellotti said.

Add a potent running game. Sprinkle in Chip Kelly's wrinkles - the Statue of Liberty, and the fake Statue of Liberty! - and the Ducks seem to have a combination that might take them a long way.

And then there's the defense, which answered some questions Saturday. Early, when it seemed we were in for a track meet, the Ducks gave up lots of yards but found ways to keep the Wolverines from scoring.

An interception. A fumble recovery. Two sacks. Big plays at critical times that stopped Michigan threats.

And Oregon allowed just 58 yards in the second half. But another dose of perspective comes now. The Wolverines were hobbled.

Playing on one leg, Mike Hart ran for 127 yards. When he aggravated an injury, Michigan stopped running. Chad Henne, the senior quarterback, was erratic. But when he injured a leg, too, Michigan stopped passing.

Without those two, the Wolverines were finished.

Still, a defense that had been pushed around pushed back.

While we're at it, there's one other thing we've learned. At least Saturday, the Ducks were tough. Remember this didn't set up well for Oregon, what with the Appalachian State debacle lingering.

And jokes aside, winning at the Big House is a big deal.

So, what are we left with?

Saturday afternoon, the Ducks grabbed the national spotlight. Even if their performance was the sidebar to the Wolverines' continued free fall, it was impressive. Regardless of what anyone thinks about Michigan, they're thinking good things about the Ducks.

What happens from here will determine whether it's a nice statement or an important paragraph.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 9, 2007
Previous Article:Burnin' down the House.
Next Article:Ducks streak toward mark.

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