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Ducks want to pump up schedule.

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard

As Oregon prepares for the opening home game of this football season, UO administrators are casting a wary glance at a future schedule, knowing it needs some work to keep fans happy, and buying tickets.

In the fall of 2006, the teams currently slated to play the Ducks in Autzen Stadium are Utah State, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State. There's a non-league game to be scheduled for that season, preferably at home.

`We're looking to try to attract a very recognizable opponent,' said Dave Heeke, the UO associate director of athletics who does football scheduling. `It's going to be difficult, but we're working on it.'

Because of a quirk in the Pac-10 scheduling, the Ducks play host to both Washington and Oregon State in 2005, though their desire has been to have those teams on an alternating basis, the Huskies in even-numbered years and the Beavers in odd-numbered years such as this one.

With neither of those rivals on the Oregon home schedule in '06, where's the featured opponent? The Cougars? Uh, probably not, as good as that rivalry has become, so the Ducks will look outside the league.

`We need to have an intriguing opponent that will stand out and make that schedule appealing to our fans,' UO director of athletics Bill Moos said.

To continue selling out Autzen Stadium, Moos sees two keys for his office: provide the support that allows the program to remain stable, `so that 7-5 is considered an off year,' and second, `be creative in our scheduling.'

The Ducks would hope that having either the Beavers or Huskies each year would provide a base for the schedule, and then the other conference opponents coming to Autzen would be augmented by a quality nonleague game, which in past seasons has often been a Big Ten foe. That continues this year with Michigan, though Indiana next year isn't quite the equal of Michigan State or Wisconsin in recent years.

There's not a Big Ten foe on Oregon's '05 home schedule, but who's going to be complaining about a home schedule that has not only the Beavers and Huskies but also USC and California, plus UNLV and Fresno State.

The Ducks do have some interesting possibilities for future seasons. There is a verbal agreement with Colorado, but probably no games until the end of this decade.

`One team we're really pursuing heavily is Army,' Heeke said. The Cadets are pulling out of Conference USA and should have some dates available in the coming seasons.

Moos said he's had preliminary talks with Texas and Virginia Tech. All the Ducks need to do is say yes, and there will be a home-and-home series with Texas A&M, where the director of athletics is Bill Byrne, who once held that same job at Oregon.

What's up in '04?

Next year's Oregon home schedule has Indiana, Idaho, ASU, Arizona, Washington and UCLA, but there could be some adjustments to that.

First, the opener next season is slated to be the Hoosiers on Sept. 11, which would be the latest start to an Oregon season since the 1987 schedule began Sept. 12 at Colorado. Next season's schedule also currently has Oregon playing on 11 consecutive Saturdays.

Might the Ducks want to move a game into that Sept. 4 weekend, to work in a bye later?

`If we could do something from a television standpoint, it might happen,' Heeke said.

One other possibility involves a continuation of the 12-game schedule.

That matter will be considered by the NCAA after this season ends, and if, as it seems likely, the schedule does go to 12 games after this two-season experiment, Moos said the Pac-10 athletic directors recently held a straw vote that went 8-2 in favor of adding a ninth league game to the schedules, so that teams would never miss each other.

UO's leading scorer

If that seemed a rarity to see the UO fullback scoring two touchdowns in the opener, it was. Prior to Matt Floberg's two touchdown receptions against Mississippi State, the last UO fullback to score twice in a game was Latin Berry, who reached the end zone on a run and a reception in a 49-0 win over Long Beach State in 1988.

`It was nice, but it just wasn't covered,' Floberg said of his two scoring receptions. `We run similar plays to that, and I'll be covered and the tight end won't. I was just lucky that I was the one not covered.'

UO coaches had said there was the possibility of an increased role for Floberg, but there have been other seasons when that thought was voiced, but the fullback seldom heard his number called once the snaps became live.

`The plays have always been in, so I guess it just depends on the situation,' Floberg said. `If the situation calls for it, then it does. If it doesn't ... I accept my role whatever it is.'

In other words, throw a block for the tailback. Help protect the quarterback. Take on that linebacker.

`Exactly,' Floberg said.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 4, 2003
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