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Oregon at WSU

by: , Nelson

When, where: 2 p.m. Saturday, Martin Stadium

Radio: KXL (750 AM)

• The door might be open for another Duck to take Jeremiah Johnson's spot as punt returner. Coach Mike Bellotti wasn't pleased that Johnson muffed an attempt late in the UCLA game that he should have just let go. Look for Patrick Chung, Walter Thurmond or Cleveland High grad Andiel Brown to get a shot at the job. 'We want people who will secure the football and then move up the field,' Bellotti says. 'We'll find the person who'll do that.'

• Chris Vincent's collegiate football career probably is over. The senior backup tailback tore a ligament in his right ankle and will need surgery. Vincent, who has lined up on offense and defense during his time at UO, played mostly on special teams this season.

• UO defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti was impressed with the grit his defense showed against UCLA - especially through three quarters, as the Ducks held UCLA to two field goals. The Bruins gained just 216 yards, and both fourth-quarter touchdowns were set up by Oregon turnovers. For a unit wracked with injuries, the defense has really made the grade.

'Right now I'm going to give them a solid B. This is not an excuse, but we're playing with a lot of wounded Ducks - we're thin,' says Aliotti, who oversaw the Ducks' famed Gang Green defense in 1994. 'They just keep continuing to amaze me with their stick-to-itiveness and their attention to detail and the spirit that they have.'

• The Ducks were flagged for pass interference after they'd appeared to stop a Bruin drive on fourth-and-11 late in the third quarter. The penalty led to a UCLA touchdown. Oregon got another interference call with the Bruins in the red zone in the fourth quarter.

Says Aliotti: 'It seems like it's always pass interference anymore - both ways - when a defender touches the offensive player. It's like a felony.'

• Chung said it was 'Autzen magic' that got to UCLA QB Patrick Cowan, who was 16 of 31 for 112 yards, replacing injured starter Ben Olson on Saturday. Senior safety J.D. Nelson had a more detailed answer: 'First-time QBs don't usually have a good time coming here, with the crowd and stuff. When we get a situation like that, we try to disguise a little more, bring a little more pressure.'

• Saturday will be the sixth time in seven years Oregon has played Washington State in Pullman, Wash. The Ducks have fared well, winning four of those five road games.

• If Oregon, California and USC all go 1-1 against each other and finish tied for first in conference with one loss apiece, the tiebreaker would go to the team with the highest ranking in the BCS standings, which is currently the Trojans.

• If it's not one thing it's another for Jonathan Stewart, who netted 121 yards on 20 carries against UCLA.

Stewart said his bum right ankle has healed and is 'ready to go,' but that he tweaked his other ankle against the Bruins.

The often-banged up tailback did stay in the game, though.

• Bellotti says the injury report is his biggest concern. 'There's a point of no return sometimes with injuries - I'm kind of surprised we aren't there yet,' he says.

• There is some evidence the Ducks are on the mend. The secondary could get a boost with the possible return of cornerbacks Terrell Ward (knee) and Jameel Dowling (ankle) this week. Receiver Cameron Colvin (hamstring) should be back, and Garren Strong (groin) had his time limited against UCLA to help him get healthy. Left tackle Geoff Tschirgi, who left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury, should return, too.

• Dennis Dixon says he knows all about the reputation built up by fearsome Washington State defensive end Mkristo Bruce.

'I've met him a couple times, too,' the Duck quarterback says. 'Off the field he's a nice guy, but on the field he's brutal.'

- Joel Fowlks