...a team known
more for throwing the ball, rushed for more yards against the Ducks than
either of Oregon's previous two opponents. Idaho possessed the football for
over 17 minutes longer than Oregon. Idaho doubled Oregon's third down
conversion rate. Idaho had more plays, more offensive production, more
yards. Now, that was surprising.
"I do think we are capable of playing better," said Oregon Head Coach Mike
Bellotti. "I need to stay on this group of kids, they have a chance of being
something special, but we're not where we need to be yet."
Miscues and turnovers were extremely costly for Idaho. The Vandals fumbled
five times and lost the ball twice on fumbles. Idaho turned the ball over
twice as the result of poor snaps from the center to the punter. The Vandals
gave the ball up to the Ducks on the Idaho 3-yard line in the first quarter
that led to Onterrio Smith's first rushing touchdown of the day. Bad luck
struck Idaho again in the fourth quarter when the long snap sailed over
Idaho punter Ryan Downes' head and Oregon took over the ball on Idaho's own
9-yard line. The Ducks managed to convert the mistake into a field goal by
Jarred Siegel. Oregon's sophomore defensive lineman Igor Olshansky
intercepted a pass in the second quarter and rumbled to the end zone only to
have the touchdown called off due to an illegal block in the back by Oregon
on the interception return. Instead of the defensive lineman's dream of an
interception-for-a-touchdown, Oregon took over on the Idaho 27-yard line and
then eventually scored on a Siegel field goal. The Vandals' Cedric Thompson
muffed a kickoff return in the fourth quarter and gave the ball to the Ducks
on the Idaho 37-yard line. The turnover led to a touchdown by Oregon
sophomore running back Kenny Washington. Oregon's final score was keyed by a
fumble recovery by redshirt freshman Ian Reynoso on Idaho's 15-yard line. In
all there were five Idaho turnovers that led to 33 points for Oregon. Oregon
was able to play with the advantage of tremendous field position and
considering the difference in talent level between the two squads, that was
"We were the beneficiary of a lot of turnovers and short field position and
as such you don't run all your offense," said Bellotti. "We played
spectacularly at times but not as consistently as I would like."
Between the Idaho mistakes, Oregon did manage to look like the team that
finished number two in the country last season on some plays. Oregon's
junior quarterback Jason Fife hit junior wide receiver Samie Parker on an
80-yard bomb in the second quarter. Fife also hooked up with junior fullback
Matt Floberg for a 23-yard screen pass and run for a touchdown in the third
quarter. Fife finished the day completing ten of 22 passes for 232 yards and
two touchdowns. Parker finished the day with two catches for 84 yards.
Senior wide receiver Keenan Howry had three catches for 62 yards and senior
Jason Willis had two catches for 42 yards. Howry's longest catch was for 32
yards and Willis' longest was 37 yards. Yet there were a number of passes
that were dropped, and Bellotti noticed.
"Jason Fife was victimized by at least six dropped passes that hit ht people
right in the chest," said Bellotti. "That was very frustrating."
Between the spectacular plays, the Ducks at times simply looked like they
ran out of gas. They were never able to dominate the game on the ground
working the clock to their advantage. In fact, time of possession was in
Idaho's favor 38:10 to 21:10. Oregon's Smith did finish with 104 yards
rushing with three touchdowns on 18 carries. And, although this represented
his lowest total in net yards rushing this year he did improve his yards per
carry statistic to 5.8 from 3.5 gained against Fresno State and 4.4 gained
against Mississippi State. The Idaho game also marked Smith's third straight
100-yard game. Oregon senior running back Alan Amundson ran the ball 10
times for 61 yards and one touchdown. Washington carried the ball just three
times for 10 yards and one touchdown. Statistically, Oregon was only able to
gain 165 total net yards rushing against Idaho in a game the Ducks should
have been able to run the ball at will.
"I would love to average at least 100 (yards per game) throughout the
season," said Smith. "It's going to take good play from the offensive line,
the fullback and from us (the tailbacks) to keep on hitting those home runs
(the big pass plays) through the air."
Defensively, the Ducks showed some glimpses of the team that could dominate
an offense, yet the Vandals managed to rush for 124 yards. The Vandals had
more passing yardage than the Ducks. Oregon had a total of 238 yards passing
while Idaho had 280 yards passing. Idaho was also able to convert 6-of-16
third down conversions compared to Oregon's 3-of-12 third down conversions.
Idaho had 28 first downs and Oregon had 16. The most embarrassing moment for
the Ducks' defense came in the second quarter when Idaho's Malfred Shaw
broke loose for a 51-yard touchdown run. The longest run by any Oregon back
was for 19 yards.
"Stats and time of possession obviously don't mean a lot," said Bellotti.
"It's points and victories."
The Ducks were able to play all eligible players on their roster in the
Idaho game. Defensively that meant the Ducks rotated nine players onto the
defensive line. Redshirt freshman defensive end Roderkus Wright saw his
first playing action and recorded two tackles including a sack. Freshman
defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was given credit for seven tackles, four solo
and three assists. Junior Siavii was at times paired with Ngata on the
defensive line had one memorable tackle when he stuck out his arm and
grabbed Idaho's Zach Gerstner by the shoulder pad and unceremoniously dumped
the running back to the turf. Sophomore Robby Valenzuela also recorded a
"Everybody had to play throughout the game," remarked Olshansky about the
rotation of the defensive line. "We're real happy about that."
Bellotti was pleased with the special teams' play. Place kicker Siegel
kicked three field goals. Senior punter Jose Arroyo had six punts averaging
45.5 yards per punt.
"We created field position," said Bellotti of the special teams. "Jarred
Siegel and Jose Arroyo kicked the ball very well, we covered well, we
created some turnovers."
One area that Bellotti was not happy with was penalties. The Ducks had nine
penalties for 109 yards. One penalty cost Olshansky his touchdown. When
Bellotti was asked if Olshansky, 6-6, 304, spoke to junior safety Keith
Lewis, 6-1, 200, about a push in the back penalty that negated the big
defensive lineman's touchdown run, Belloti didn't think so.
"He (Olshansky) didn't," said Bellotti, "but I did."
Oregon' record improved to 3-0 while Idaho dropped to 0-3 for the season.
Next week the Ducks take on Portland State, a Division 1-AA team from the
Big Sky Conference. Bellotti will face the same challenge this week as he
did last week in practice to keep his team motivated and on track. It would
appear that much work is still to be done by this team before going into the
Pac-10 season if there is any hope of winning the Pac-10 crown for the third
"It is essential that the players recognize the need to improve," said
Yes, Oregon probably does need to continue to improve, or Ducks fans may be
in for a bigger surprise than they bargained for come the meat grinder of
the Pac-10 Conference schedule beginning in October.
Kickoff for the Portland State game is at 12:30 p.m. at Autzen Stadium.
Grant Gibson contributed to this story