Ducks plan path to victory
Bellotti wants UO to establish run, stop Grothe in Sun Bowl
Oregon has a game plan to beat South Florida in the Sun Bowl on Monday, end a four-bowl losing streak and put a positive spin on a season that could have been monumental with Dennis Dixon healthy.
Whether the game plan works or not …
On offense, 'we have to run the ball efficiently to stay out of obvious passing situations and take pressure off the quarterback,' says UO coach Mike Bellotti, referring to redshirt freshmen QBs Justin Roper and Cody Kempt. Roper is the likely starter for the Ducks (8-4).
Offensive tackle Geoff Schwartz says South Florida, on game videotape, appears fast and quick. He says Coach Jim Leavitt's Bulls make plays behind the line of scrimmage and close well on screen plays.
'They're not that big, so hopefully we can pound them a little bit,' Schwartz says. 'We have to run the ball every game, especially this game, and Jonathan (Stewart) will be healthy.'
On defense, Bellotti says the plan for Monday 'starts with (South Florida QB) Matt Grothe and ends with Matt Grothe, but they have a talented crew around him.'
USF running back Mike Ford can churn out yardage, and the Bulls' balanced set of receivers has some ability. But the Ducks are worried mostly about Grothe.
'We have to play smart and know when he's going to run or pass,' defensive end Nick Reed says. 'There are a lot of plays where it's built-in, quarterback counter or draw. Other times, he feels the pressure and runs.'
That's it, in a nutshell, for Monday's 11 a.m. PT game at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas.
Of course, games aren't played in a nutshell.
On the other coast, South Florida (9-3) has been preparing to stop Stewart and deal with UO's underrated defense.
'This is a very athletic team, and real strong at the line of scrimmage - their offensive line obviously knows what they're doing,' Leavitt says.
Leavitt adds that Oregon has had plenty of time to prepare Roper and Kempt and find ways to get the ball to the healthy Stewart and other runners.
'It's a challenge for our defense,' Leavitt says, 'because you don't know exactly what they're going to do.'
Leavitt says the Patrick Chung-led Duck defense is 'very athletic, and I'm impressed with their secondary. You have to realize they've seen our (spread) offense - they see it every day in practice. So they know where they need to be, and they understand our schemes.'
The Sun Bowl will be the first meeting between the teams. Beyond the mutual admiration, the neophyte Big East team certainly would like to paste a Pac-10 team, and the wounded Ducks would like nothing better than to beat an East Coast team to cap their season.
Teams both fell from No. 2
Both teams rose to No. 2 in the country -South Florida then dropped three consecutive games, and the Ducks without Dixon have lost their last three.
'When we got to No. 2, we were playing awfully good football,' Leavitt says. 'What I admire is the way our team came back (after the losses). I don't know if we're the hottest (Big East) team, but we've played pretty good football the last three games.'
Bellotti shares his sentiment, saying the Ducks have been in good spirits during bowl preparation.
'I haven't noticed any mood swings,' he says. 'Obviously, they're certainly disappointed about losing football games. There hasn't been a 'woe-is-me' hanging of heads. There's been: 'Let's get back to work, find a way to win, there are other parts of this team that can contribute.' I'm proud of their resilience, resolve, camaraderie.'
The challenge of the Xs and Os for the Ducks against South Florida appears fairly clear.
Offensive coordinator Chip Kelly says UO's game plan always includes establishing the run. Besides not having Dixon, why would the bowl game be any different? 'It has nothing to do with taking pressure off your quarterback,' Kelly says.
South Florida's defense features defensive end George Selvie, linebackers Ben Moffitt and Tyrone McKenzie, and cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. 'Moffitt makes it all go,' Leavitt says.
The All-American Selvie, who plays alongside three seniors, has 14.5 sacks and 31.5 tackles for loss.
'He's fast, quick and relentless,' says UO offensive tackle Fenuki Tupou, who gets to block him. 'He makes a lot of plays from the back side - pursues, has good hands. You've got to try to get into him; you can't give him room to work.'
Kempt says the Oregon QBs notice something about Jenkins, a projected high NFL pick, and Williams.
'They're good on press coverage, but it seems like they give a lot of space, play pretty soft,' Kempt says. 'I think we can attack them underneath. The safeties are big run supporters, so I think we can get them with play-action. If we can hit them on short stuff, we can get them over the top a couple times.'
Bellotti expects the Ducks to make plays on defense.
'Our defense is going to get takeaways. We'll get pressure and tackles for loss,' he says.
Reed says he can't overpursue against Grothe, who has thrown for 2,473 yards with 13 TDs and 12 interceptions, and rushed for 832 yards and 10 scores.
'Maybe (I'll have to)play smarter rather than faster,' Reed says.
Stewart and Andre Crenshaw will have to be major factors.
'If he's healthy, we can run Jonathan wherever we want to run him - he has the power to run inside, the speed to run outside,' Bellotti says.
Mostly, the coach wants the Ducks - with Roper or Kempt at the controls - to avoid negative plays and take advantage of field position.
'If we don't make mistakes, we'll have a chance to win this football game,' Bellotti says. 'More games are lost than won.'
Sun Bowl story
Go to www.localnewsdaily.com after Monday's game for Jason Vondersmith's complete report from El Paso, Texas.