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Every Duck knows that what goes up ...

Byline: George Schroeder The Register-Guard

The process is natural, and unavoidable. The hypothalamus releases a hormone, and the pituitary gland releases another, and beta-endorphins kick in, and ...

Ah, who are we kidding?

Basically, a big victory prompts a bunch of chemicals to mix up in your brain. The result: "You are humming," says Dr. Scott Pengelly.

This is what happened to the Oregon Ducks last Saturday. When they brought down the Big House, they were humming. Dancing and singing, too.

The high was inevitable.

But this next part is also natural and unavoidable and inevitable: The chemicals stop percolating. You come down in a hurry.

"The juice is time-limited," Pengelly says. "You get the blahs."

It's like the afternoon crash after your morning coffee. And it's not necessarily a bad thing.

Not unless the letdown lingers through the weekend.

This has been Mike Bellotti's task: Bring the Ducks safely down from the mountaintop. And prevent a crash around 4 p.m. Saturday.

It won't come as a surprise, but after last week, Fresno State is a classic trap game. Last week? Heck, the last few years. How often have the Ducks etched a big win and then fallen flat the next time out?

As an example, we take you back to the last time the Ducks beat Michigan.

"A big, big, big, big win," says senior guard Josh Tschirgi, who was a redshirting freshman in 2003. "A monstrous win."

But this was followed by a monstrous loss, 55-16 to Washington State. At Autzen. Complete with a season's worth of turnovers and blocked punts and dropped passes and lost tempers and just about every other misfortune you could imagine.

"Terrible," Tschirgi says of the experience - which was followed, you might recall, by two more losses, and three in four games (thank goodness for Stanford).

The point is, it's something no one wants to relive. Which is why we consulted a clinical psychologist.

Dr. Pengelly, who practices in Eugene and specializes in sports psychology, started our session with Plato and Aristotle and Freud and Pat Riley and Mike Krzyzewski.

Then he began using those big words like ACTH and beta-endorphins and cortisol and hypothalamuses and pituitary glands.

By the time he was finished, I wondered if some of those chemicals had let loose in my brain. But as it turns out, you don't need to understand the physiology to apply the cure.

The antidote to a letdown is simple, though not necessarily easy. And the good news is, it sounds like the Ducks are following the doctor's orders.

It starts with admitting the letdown is inevitable. This seems elementary, but for some reason, many football coaches insist there's no such phenomenon. No high, either. It's as though they're afraid we'll learn their players are human rather than mindless automatons.

Bellotti, to his credit, isn't playing that game. Perhaps because he's seen enough letdowns. The 2003 Washington State game, he says, "was like we got caught in a vortex of the Bermuda Triangle."

Could have been the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, of course. More likely, it was the crash that occurs when you try to cling to the mountaintop. Which is why UO coaches have tried to keep the Ducks from paying attention to all the atta-boys they've heard all week.

But there's more. If the Ducks don't want to relive history, they'd better revisit it.

This is why 2003 remains pertinent, even though only a handful of Ducks are still around - and none played. More important, according to Pengelly, is connecting players' personal histories to current events. So Bellotti has made sure the Ducks remember how 2006 started, and how it finished.

Also following Pengelly's prescription, Bellotti has tossed in any other tidbit that might help motivate the troops.

Glossing over the fact UO has won five straight over Fresno, coaches have emphasized that the combined margin was 20 points. They've made sure the Ducks know they're Fresno's Michigan.

They've also noted Fresno's recent history: Texas A&M 47, Fresno State 45, triple-overtime. After the near-miss, the Bulldogs shouldn't have any trouble getting motivated, right?

Strange, but Pengelly says they might. Because at least physiologically, the valley turns out to be the mountaintop.

"Having fun or getting your (butt) kicked, it's the same thing," Pengelly says.

How will they react to the chemicals? In the end, maybe it comes down to this: First one to forget last Saturday wins this Saturday.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 14, 2007
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