Oregon offense has its opponents on the run.
Give the ball to Jonathan Stewart.
You figure Oregon's new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly heard that advice, perhaps a few times, earlier this year after coming to Eugene from New Hampshire.
Well, Kelly has given the ball to Jonathan Stewart. And to Jeremiah Johnson. And now to Andre Crenshaw. And, on running plays, to his quarterback, Dennis Dixon.
"It's because they're so talented," Kelly said Saturday, after the Ducks rushed for more than 300 yards for the third straight game this season in a 52-21 win over Fresno State.
"It's not that I'm calling plays and they work because I'm calling plays. You're trying to put the ball in the playmakers' hands, and we have a lot of them, and that's the encouraging thing."
As Stewart put it, after rushing for 165 yards and two touchdowns, the second on an 88-yard scamper up the middle: "Everyone's running well, and the offensive line is blocking very well.
"When you have sometimes three running backs to worry about at the same time, including Dennis and me and Jeremiah back there, you're going to have to respect all the dudes in the backfield, and pretty much we're all going a different direction most of the time.
"It pretty much opens up the whole running game, and also the passing game being so vibrant right now, you pretty much have to respect that."
That the Ducks are intent on running the ball was evident in this stat: Not only have they rushed for 300-plus yards for three straight games, but they've had more rushing yards than passing yards for three straight games, and that's a first in Mike Bellotti's 12-plus seasons as head coach.
Saturday, Kelly found a way to get the ball to both Stewart and Johnson, sometimes lining up the latter as a wide receiver. Oregon's first possession featured a 10-yard run by Johnson out of the wideout position, and later Johnson, lined up as a running back, slipped out of the backfield for a 35-yard touchdown reception.
"He's such a versatile kid, you can expand his role and that's done on a weekly basis," Kelly said.
Oregon's strategy against the Bulldogs was to attack the perimeter.
"They're not the the fastest team, and the way they align their D-ends, it was easy for us to get outside," Oregon tackle Geoff Schwartz said. "That's what our game plan was going into this week, and I think we did a good job of it."
That was Schwartz leading the way on Stewart's first touchdown, a nine-yard run on student-body-right.
"I was just following my dudes, following my big guys," Stewart said. "Schwartz is doing a very good job of getting out there and (center) Max Unger as well. They're both very big and athletic offensive linemen, and when you're running behind people like that, there's no excuse for you not to get yards."
Stewart got 88 of them on one play. It was the second-longest touchdown run in UO history, behind the 92-yard run by Bob Smith vs. Idaho in 1938, and the longest touchdown run at Autzen Stadium, eclipsing the 85-yard run by Don Reynolds vs. Stanford on Oct. 21, 1972.
"Pretty much just set them up," Stewart said. "We were running outside the whole time and all of a sudden we ran up the gut. No one was there. Well, there were a couple of guys there, but they weren't really there."
Well, not for long.
"People forget, because he's such a big and strong running back, that he can go," Kelly said. "He's as good as there is in the country, and he has another gear. If you give him a seam, he can crack it."
And in the spread offense, Kelly said, there are seams there to be created by the offensive line. "Basically, spread 'em and shred 'em," Kelly said.
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|Title Annotation:||Sports; Led by Jonathan Stewart, the Ducks put up their third consecutive 300-yard rushing game this season|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Sep 16, 2007|
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