Earlier in the week, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti said that the keys to winning the Michigan game were controlling the line of scrimmage and turnovers.
"I'm very proud and pleased with the performance of the players and coaches," said Bellotti immediately after the game.
The Ducks controlled Michigan's line surge and enjoyed the benefits of great field position stemming from turnovers and special teams play.
Oregon's offense seemed to be in complete control when it opened the game and drove the field for 64 yards in 17 plays only to have a Jared Siegel field goal attempt blocked and returned 78 yards for a touchdown. A missed field goal attempt gave the Wolverines a 6-0 lead, but was the highlight of the quarter for the Maize and Blue. The Oregon offense came back onto the field on the next series and mounted their own drive for seven plays and 60 yards and took the lead early in the second quarter 7-6.
The Ducks were able to control the time of possession in the first quarter for a whopping 14:04 minutes to the Wolverines 56 seconds. The Ducks went on to control the game clock for 35 minutes to Michigan's 24 minutes. Mixing the run with a potent passing game, Oregon moved at ease on the highly regarded Michigan defense. The Ducks finished the day rushing the ball for a net of 127 yards and passing for 253 yards. Michigan did open up their passing attack in the fourth quarter and Wolverine quarterback John Navarre was 28-of-55, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Meanwhile Oregon's two-headed quarterback monster tandem of Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife were 20-for-31, 253 yards and no interceptions.
"We felt we could not be one dimensional against a defense like Michigan that has so much team speed and athleticism."
Oregon scored 21 points in the second quarter. Terrence Whitehead scampered 24 yards for Oregon's first score. Fife rushed 15 yards on a quarterback option for the second Oregon touchdown, and Steven Moore made a big special teams play by returning a punt 61 yards for the third score in the quarter. At halftime, a frenzied Autzen Stadium crowd was feasting on a 21-6 lead.
"I felt the corner come off on me a little bit," said Fife of his touchdown run. "I had too much green grass, I tucked my head and kept going."
Oregon's halftime defensive statistics were impressive as the Ducks held Michigan to a net 42 yards of passing and two yards of rushing. Coming back out in the third quarter, the Ducks picked up where they left off and by taking away any positive game rushing yardage and giving up 45 yards passing. The Ducks did allow a touchdown and answered with a field goal of their own to build their lead to 24-13 at the end of three-quarters. Things tightened up dramatically in the fourth quarter though. Passing was the name of the game of the storied team from Ann Arbor. Navarre found receiver Steve Breaston twice for scores,
"The pass rush on the defense lagged a little at the end because we don't have as much depth there right now," explained Bellotti regarding Michigan's passing attack in the fourth quarter. "Hopefully we'll get Quinn Doresy back soon and that will help us."
The Ducks seemed to find plays from many sources. Defensive tackle Igor Olshansky blocked a point after attempt. Keith Lews blocked a punt and freshman Jordan Carey recovered the blocked punt for a touchdown that finished all the scoring.
"I came close all day," said a smiling Lewis of his blocked punt. "I finally got directly in front of him (the punter)."
As the final few minutes drug on for the Autzen faithful, Michigan was able to cut the score to 31-27, but the noise never seem to abate and when Michigan was forced to turn the ball over on downs the stadium erupted.
"The fans helped us a great deal," said Bellotti. "The atmosphere out there was so electric."
Stopping the run was a principal goal for Oregon, and Bellotti indicated that there is very little secret in what Oregon wants to do. Stop the run and force the opposition into passing situations.
"We don't stray very far from our principles; people don't understand that, we are not going to change that," remarked the Oregon head coach. "We needed to stop the run, and if we could stop the run we could try to do some things against the pass."
While Bellotti characterized the win as big he emphasized that it was not a bowl game and that there was plenty more work to do in the season. Next week, the Ducks are back into Pac-10 action against Washington State at Autzen. Bellotti is not taking anything for granted and felt the Michigan win was good for only about an evening of celebration.
"We'll celebrate for maybe 24 hours, maybe not," said Belloti. "Then we're going to look ahead and see what it is we need to do better for the next game."
The Ducks are now 4-0 on the season and 1-0 in Pac-10 competition. No doubt Oregon will jump in rankings but for Bellotti, that isn't particularly important and he'd rather be rated at the end of the season.
The only injury reported at the end of the game was to JD Nelson with a shoulder sprain. Nelson will be checked out Monday.
The memories of last season may not be completely erased, but on this warm, sunny September afternoon one thing was clear to Bellotti about his team.
"These kids believed," Bellotti said emotionally of his team's victory over Michigan. "They do believe."
So do about 60,000 fans and countless others in the state and around the world, coach. Now, the Ducks have another step to take next week against the Cougars. Kickoff next week is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.