Time to find some healing in Salt Lake City

Bellotti (eDuck File)

Normally a short week of preparation for a football game is not something Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti likes. However, after the roller coaster ride of the last two weeks Bellotti is just fine with the prospects of playing Utah in Salt Lake City on Friday night. It gives No. 19 ranked Oregon a chance to get back on the field and atone for one of the worst losses in school history. Will the stunning loss last Saturday to Washington State have any lingering effects on the Ducks?

Probably not according to Bellotti. The Washington State game was such an aberration, and was out of control so quickly that it is simply easier to forget and move on. A blowout, according to Bellotti, doesn't have a long-term effect on a team. A loss in a tightly contested game sometimes effects a team more dramatically because had a few things been done differently the outcome of a game could have changed. With a big loss like the Ducks suffered Saturday, there were so many things that went wrong that it is difficult to single out any one play or player.

"Closer, hard fought games stay with you longer," said Bellotti.

Bellotti's assessment of his team is good. The team is back in the mode of preparing for their next opponent and if the team is a reflection of their coach, then they are anxious to resume playing football. What is in store for them in Salt Lake City is by no means an easy game. Utah, 4-1, runs a very unique, non-traditional offense that Bellotti likens in a sense to an option offense. Utah Head Coach Urban Meyer is in his first year at Utah. He spent the 2000 and 2001 season as the head coach at Bowling Green where he compiled a 17-6 record. Meyer having coaching roots in places such as Ohio State, Colorado State and Notre Dame is considered one of the nation's up-and-coming coaches and was the MAC Coach of the Year in 2001.

The Ute's offensive formations are designed to allow either a run or pass play on each down. The Utah offense is like no other in the nation. Like the option, each of the skill players must be accounted for by the Oregon defense. The Utah offense will spread out the field and will frequently use the shotgun set for the quarterback.

The most explosive player for the Utah in Bellotti's opinion is junior running back Brandon Warfield, 5-10, 210. Warfield is averaging 130.5 yards rushing per game, with an impressive 4.4 yards per carry and eight touchdowns. He has a total of 526 yards on 119 carries. His longest carry fom the line of scrimmage this season is 30 yards. The top receiver is former Oregon player Paris Warren who has 24 catches for 245 yards or an 81.7 ypg average and has one touchdown. Warren can line up in several different positions. Former Lake Oswego High School quarterback Brett Elliott had been the starter until he broke his wrist on the final play in the Utah 28-26 loss to Texas A&M. Elliott's replacement, sophomore Alex Smith, 6-4, 205 has played in a total of three games this season, starting the last two, and is 40-of-55 for an impressive 72.7 percent completion average and has thrown two touchdowns and has not yet been intercepted. Elliott began working out this week but is listed as questionable for the Friday night game.

Defensively, the Utes run a 4-3 defense and Bellotti believes that while the offense is unconventional the defense is very physical and Oregon may have problems running the ball. Defensive back senior Dave Revill, 5-11, 205 is a very good football player according to Bellotti. Revill leads Utah in tackles with 33. Bellotti also mention the other cornerback, senior Arnold Parker, 6-2, 210 as having great speed. Oregon wants to run the ball and be able to pass when they want, not when the defense puts the Ducks into passing situations.

"They (Utah) are a very physical defense," said Bellotti. "I have concerns about running the football."

At the end of his weekly telephone conference on Tuesday, Bellotti announced that Oregon wide receiver Samie Parker left for Los Angeles on Tuesday morning due to a death in his family. Bellotti did not know if Parker would be available against Utah on Friday night. Running back Chris Vincent is doubtful for the Utah game. Vincent has a sprained ankle and a determination of his availability will be made later this week. All of the other running backs, Terrence Whitehead, Ryan Shaw and Kenny Washington are healthy and available. Cornerback Rodney Woods may start against Utah. Woods has been in a very strong competition for the starting cornerback position with Justin Phinisee all season long. The Ducks will have senior defensive end Quinn Dorsey available for action. Dorsey had been unavailable in the first five games this season due to a rules infraction. Dorsey will add depth to the Oregon defensive line. Bellotti expects to use Dorsey against Utah and will get significant playing time.

"I think he is very hungry," commented Bellotti about Dorsey. "I think he's in the best shape of his life."

The game will match two teams with speed. Both coaching staffs emphasis speed in recruiting and while one team is smarting from a major disaster, the other is enjoying a very competitive season with three wins, the last being the first conference win over a tough Colorado State team last week, 28-21. The Oregon game marks the second Pac-10 conference for Utah. On September 5th, the Utes knocked off California 31-24. Perhaps the final thought for Bellotti about the Washington State game is that he always believed the Cougars to be a good team. Bellotti cited the fact that nine starters from the defending Pac-10 champion defense returned and that the transition of quarterback Matt Kegal was a smooth one for the Cougars.

Kickoff for the Utah game on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. (Pacific Time) and will be carried live on ESPN2.

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