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Bellotti: Ducks have a need for speed.

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard

It's not out with the veterans and in with the youngest Ducks, but Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said Sunday that he does want to utilize more of his freshmen in Saturday's game at Oklahoma.

There are two primary reasons for that: The Ducks expect hot and possibly humid conditions in Norman, Okla., for a midafternoon kickoff, so there will be a need to keep fresh players in the game; and Oregon will also be up against what Bellotti described as an Oklahoma team with `great speed ... across the board.'

`Some of our fastest players are our younger players,' Bellotti said.

Two true freshmen played in Oregon's opener against Indiana. Dennis Dixon, the backup quarterback, took over for one series in the second quarter and ran twice and threw an incomplete pass. Bellotti said receiver Cameron Colvin was also on the field for `two or three plays.'

The participation chart handed out after the game with official statistics also listed true freshman linebacker Kwame Agyeman as having played, but Bellotti questioned that and a UO media services representative said that was in error.

Regardless of who played, that should all change Saturday against the No. 2-ranked Sooners.

`We were actually frustrated we didn't get a couple of those young guys greater looks,' Bellotti said.

In describing Oregon's overall team speed as `good,' Bellotti said that `some of the speed is young and it's not doing us a lot of good on the sideline. We want to get it involved in the game plan.'

That could be Colvin running more routes on pass plays. It could be redshirt freshman Ryan Gilliam or true freshman Jackie Bates fielding punts.

`That position is wide open,' Bellotti said of punt returner.

The Ducks fumbled two punts against the Hoosiers, and averaged less than 4 yards per return, with a long of 8 yards. Contrast that with Oklahoma's Antonio Perkins averaging 16.3 yards per punt return, and Oklahoma (45.2) averaging 14 more yards per punt than Oregon (31.2), and field position alone on those special teams doesn't bode well for the Ducks.

Not that many statistics do offer great reason for Oregon optimism. In beating Bowling Green 40-24 and Houston 63-13, the Sooners have averaged 540 yards of offense behind Heisman Trophy quarterback Jason White and a pair of tailbacks who have totaled 401 yards, with freshman Adrian Peterson averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Not that statistics can't be misleading. Oregon had all the better of it in raw numbers against Indiana, but seven turnovers swung the outcome to the Hoosiers.

`It was just as painful to watch (Sunday),' Bellotti said of his video review. `It's a game we could have won and should have won.'

Bellotti said the Oregon defense `played very well with the exception of two or three plays' though he also noted that `Indiana is not quite of the same caliber of teams we're going to see.'

That will probably be most evident this week, as the Ducks play a second-ranked team on the road for the first time since a 1998 contest against UCLA in the Rose Bowl, in which the 11th-ranked Ducks fell 41-38 in overtime to the second-ranked Bruins.

That Oregon team was one of the most talented in school history, though decimated by injuries as the season wore on. What hope should this Oregon team hold after losing its opener to Indiana?

`Anything can happen,' Bellotti said. `Look what happened the other day' to the Ducks, who were 20-point favorites at home against Indiana.

`The ball didn't bounce our way and we had a lot to do with that,' Bellotti said. `Every week somebody wins that's not supposed to win and somebody loses that's not supposed to lose.

`Right now, in my mind, there's no pressure on us and that's usually the best way to play, with no pressure.'


Injury update: Cornerback Justin Phinisee, who left Saturday's loss to Indiana with a strained hamstring, may miss a day or two of practice but should be ready to play at Oklahoma, UO coach Mike Bellotti said Sunday. That was the most severe injury from the opening game.

Ducks as 'dogs: The early betting line in Las Vegas lists second-ranked Oklahoma as a 24-point favorite over Oregon. According to records kept by The Gold Sheet, a betting publication, Oregon hasn't been that much of an underdog in a game since No. 3-ranked Washington was favored by 31 points in a 1991 game, and won 29-7.

Next game: Saturday at Oklahoma at 12:30 p.m. PDT. Televised live by ABC (KEZI in the Eugene-Springfield area).
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Title Annotation:Sports; Oregon's coach says he is likely to call upon some younger players to keep up with Oklahoma's fast athletes
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 13, 2004
Previous Article:BACKPACK.
Next Article:Oregon Classic heightens its profile.

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