The sixth-ranked University of Oregon football team will square off with the Oklahoma Sooners for the first time in the post-season, but for the second time in as many years. Oregon traveled to Norman in early 2004, falling to the Sooners, 31-7, for the fifth time in as many tries. Oklahoma finished the 2005 regular season with a 7-4 overall record and a 6-2 Big 12 South mark, which tied for second in the division. Oregon responded to a 45-13 loss to No. 1 USC in week four by winning its last seven games and finishing second behind the Trojans in the Pac-10 Conference.
LOCAL BROADCAST: Oregon Sports Network, Jerry Allen, Mike Jorgensen, Bobby DeBisschop - 4 p.m. (PST)
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5 Aaron Gipson (CB), 6 Demetrius Williams (WR), 11 Kellen Clemens (QB), 31 Justin Phinisee (CB), 85 Tim Day (TE).
Oregon Links Oklahoma Links
The Ducks are looking for their first victory against the Sooners as Oklahoma owns the all-time series advantage, 5-0. All of the previous games have taken place on the Sooners’ home turf, most recently in 2004, as the Sooners defeated the Ducks, 31-7. This is the teams’ first meeting in the post-season. The teams won’t have to wait long for a rematch as Oklahoma will make its first ever trip to Eugene on Sept. 16, 2006. The series has been anything but kind to the Northwest partisans as the Sooners have outscored Oregon, 184-17, in the five-game set which began with a 6-0 Oklahoma win in 1958. The home team has dominated the latest three contests, winning 68-3 (1972), 62-7 (1975) and 31-7 (2004).
• Prior to missing the post-season after last year’s 5-6 finish, Oregon had lost two-straight bowl games (31-30 vs. Minnesota, 2003 Sun Bowl; and 38-17 vs. Wake Forest, 2002 Seattle Bowl). The Ducks are looking for their first postseason victory since their 38-16 win over Colorado in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.
• Oregon is 4-4 in bowl games under head coach Mike Bellotti.
• This is Oregon’s second appearance in the Holiday Bowl. The Ducks won 35-30 over Texas in the 2000 Holiday Bowl. Quarterback Joey Harrington was named the offensive player of the game as he became the third player in Holiday Bowl history to run, pass and be on the receiving end of a touchdown in the same game.
VS. THE BIG 12
Oregon’s meeting with Oklahoma will mark only the fifth time it has officially faced a member of that revised conference that began play in 1996, with the Ducks sporting a 2-2 record. However, they have managed to accumulate a record of only 11-24-1 record against the 12 schools that currently comprise the league. Prior to last season’s meeting vs. Oklahoma, Oregon had not faced any of the members making up the revised edition of the conference since 1992 (Texas Tech).
Prior to 1989, Oregon had made only six post-season appearances in the first 93 years of the program’s history. Since then, the school has accumulated 13 bowl invitations in the last 17 seasons and is one of just 11 programs in the country to play in the post-season at least 13 times during that span.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HOMECOMING
Among the 107 players on Oregon’s post-season roster are 49 who consider the state of California home. Of those players, 34 of them are awaiting a Southern California homecoming for the chance to play near where they went to high school. In fact, the last time the Ducks played in front of a Southern California crowd was when they played at UCLA during the 2003 season.
HEAD COACH MIKE BELLOTTI - 11TH SEASON
Not only does 11th-year Oregon coach Mike Bellotti resume his role as the longest-tenured football mentor in the league, he stands as one of its most successful. Surpassed only by USC (94-39-1) in overall wins in the Pacific-10 Conference during his Oregon tenure (90-41), he has joined an elite collection of former conference coaches who have won 50 or more league games during their illustrious careers in the Pac-10. He is tied for ninth on the Pac-10’s all-time list of league coaching victories (56-32) and 15th on the league’s career winning percentage list in Pac-10 games (.636).
Approaching the league’s best: Bellotti is now in the top 10 in all-time conference victories, while only four former mentors were able to post more triumphs than Bellotti’s 49 league wins in their first 10 years in the conference. USC’s John Robinson (56, 1976-82, 1993-95), Washington’s Don James (54, 1975-84), UCLA’s Terry Donahue (52, 1976-85) and Larry Smith (51, 1980-89) of Arizona/USC are the only Pac-10 head coaches to ever enjoy more success during their first decade on the job.
Approaching Oregon’s best: While only Hugo Bezdek (.727%—1906, 1913-17) has accumulated a better winning percentage than Mike Bellotti’s .687 percent (90-41) among his peers who have coached the Ducks a minimum of three seasons, he is close to equalling the mark for most victories in the history of the University of Oregon. His 90 overall victories in Eugene trails only Rich Brooks’ 91 wins (1977-94) and has surpassed Len Casanova’s 82 triumphs (1951-66). Furthermore, Oregon’s 11th-year head coach became the school’s first to reach 80 wins in less than 11 seasons.
BROYLES AWARD FINALIST
First-year offensive coordinator Gary Crowton is one of six finalists for the prestigious Broyles Award, which for the 10th year will be presented to the nation's top assistant football coach. Crowton has produced offenses that have ranked among the nation's best during his 17 years as an offensive coordinator or head coach at the collegiate and NFL levels. This year, the Ducks rank seventh nationally and third in the Pacific-10 in passing offense (310.1 yards per game) and ninth nationally and fourth in the conference in scoring offense (36.4 points a game). Five times this season the Ducks have scored 40 or more points in a game, including a 56-14 victory over rival Oregon State, to close out the regular season and put them in position for BCS consideration. Crowton had a daunting task ahead of him when senior quarterback Kellen Clemens was lost for the season with a broken ankle against Arizona. Crowton turned to a two-quarterback system, with sophomores Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf, and they have won four consecutive since Clemens was hurt, including the Arizona game and a 27-20 overtime victory over then-No. 23 California.
While senior cornerback Aaron Gipson leads the nation in interceptions (.64 per game) and is a big reason the Ducks are tied for second in the nation as a team in interceptions (22), two other players could potentially emerge from the Holiday Bowl leading the nation in their respective categories. Placekicker Paul Martinez currently averages 2.37 field goals per game, but has not played in 75 percent of Oregon’s games and thus does not qualify for national statistics. However, after participating in the Holiday Bowl, Martinzed will have played in nine of 12 games (75 percent) and because national leader Alexis Serna (2.09 fgpg) is not playing in a postseason game, Martinez doesn’t even need to make a field goal in the game to still emerge as the nation’s leader as he would average 2.11 field goals per game. He has made 19-of-24 field goals this season. Also, freshman tailback Jonathan Stewart needs two returns for a minimum of nine yards to qualify for national kickoff return statistics. Should he accomplish that, he would surpass the current leader, Felix Jones of Arkansas (31.94 avg.), who is not playing in a bowl game.
MORE NATIONAL STANDINGS
Oregon’s new offesnive system not only helped lead the Ducks to a 10-1 regular season record, but the Ducks currently rank seventh in the nation in passing offense (310.1 ypg), ninth in scoring offense (36.3 ppg) and 15th in total offense (449.0). Yet, it was the defense that stepped up time and time again led by Anthony Trucks, who is tied for sixth in the nation in quarterback sacks (1.00 pg) and Aaron Gipson, who leads the nation in interceptions.
OREGON VS. OKLAHOMA: 2004 VS. 2005
Oregon has 13 players on this season’s squad that started last year at Oklahoma. Offensively, Enoka Lucas (OL), Ian Reynoso(OL), Tim Day (TE), Demetrius Williams (WR), Kellen Clemens (QB), Terrence Whitehead (TB) and Dante Rosario (FB) all started a year ago. With the exception of Reynoso and Clemens, each will likely be making a second start vs. the Sooners. Defensively, Oregon also boasts some experience vs. Oklahoma as Matt Toeaina (DL), Devan Long (DL), Anthony Trucks (LB), Aaron Gipson (CB), Justin Phinisee (CB) and J.D. Nelson (FS) will also likely make a second start vs. the Sooners in the Holiday Bowl.
OKLAHOMA HEAD COACH BOB STOOPS - SEVENTH SEASON - IOWA ‘83
Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops inherited an Oklahoma program five years removed from a winning record - four year from a postseason appearance - and has returned it to national prominence. In Stoops’ seven-year tenure, Oklahoma has won 74 games, spent 71 consecutive weeks in the national rankings, played in six bowl games (four of the BCS variety), including three national championship games, and captured three Big 12 Conference crowns. The son of a coach, Stoops was a four-year starter at Iowa. He began his coaching career in 1983 as a volunteer in the Hawkeye program under Hayden Fry, working through the ranks until he became co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State (1991-95). With the Wildcats, he played a key role in their impressive turnaround. During his final four seasons there, K-State was 35-12 with three bowl appearances. Eventually, he left for Florida (1996-98) and a three-year stint as Steve Spurrier’s defensive coordinator. In 1996, he was part of a national championship team.
The Sooners opened the season 2-3 before winning five of their final six games to end the season with a 7-4 overall record. The combined record of the four teams Oklahoma lost to is 38-5 and all are ranked. Running back Adrian Peterson overcame an injury early in the season and currently leads the team in rushing (102.4 ypg) and finished the season with 1,024 yards. Quarterback Rhett Bomar finished the regular season with 1,789 yards passing and nine touchdowns, and also threw nine interceptions. Defensively, Rufus Alexander paces the squad with 93 total tackles, inclduing 17 for a loss of 51 yards.
OKLAHOMA’S LAST GAME VS. OKLAHOMA STATE
Adrian Peterson ran for a season-high 237 yards, including two long touchdowns in the second half, and Rhett Bomar threw three touchdown passes to lead Oklahoma to a 42-14 victory over Oklahoma State. The Sooners' third straight win in the Bedlam rivalry was lackluster until Peterson, the Heisman Trophy runner-up last season, livened things up with an 84-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. His previous longest run was an 80-yard score against the Cowboys in the Sooners' 38-35 win last year in Stillwater. He had only 27 yards on 11 first-half carries and then set an Oklahoma record for rushing in a half with 210 yards. After Julius Crosslin's second short touchdown run pulled Oklahoma State (4-7, 1-7 Big 12) back within 28-14, Peterson responded on Oklahoma's next offensive play with a 71-yard run down the left side. Bomar added a 55-yard touchdown pass to Manuel Johnson to extend the lead to 42-14. He finished with 206 yards on 13-for-21 passing with one interception. After a three-game span in which he rushed for only four total yards, Peterson missed the first game of his Oklahoma career Oct. 22 against Baylor. He's had two touchdowns in each game since and topped it off with the third-best rushing total of his young career against the Cowboys. Oklahoma grabbed a 21-0 lead on a 27-yard touchdown run by Allen Patrick and Bomar's touchdown passes to Juaquin Iglesias and James Moses, but the offense slowed considerably after that. The Cowboys could never really get their offense going with Al Pena starting at quarterback in place of Bobby Reid. Pena threw for 351 yards -- the fifth-highest total in school history -- after replacing Reid in a 44-34 loss at Baylor last week, but he was largely ineffective against the Sooners.
THE LAST TIME - OKLAHOMA 31, OREGON 7 - NORMAN, OKLA. - 9/18/04
Game Recap: Freshman Adrian Peterson ran for 183 yards and scored two touchdowns in his third straight 100-yard rushing performance to lead No. 2 Oklahoma to a 31-7 victory over Oregon. Peterson carried 24 times to become the first Oklahoma freshman to run for at least 100 yards in each of his first three games. Quarterback Jason White was 17-for-23 for 213 yards and a touchdown, and Donta Hickson added a 25-yard touchdown run. White put Oklahoma up 10-0 midway through the second quarter with a 4-yard touchdown pass to James Moses. Hickson made it 17-0, running through a potential tackler on his way to the end zone. Oregon cut it to 17-7 when fullback Dante Rosario made an over-the-shoulder catch of Kellen Clemens' 30-yard pass late in the third quarter. Oregon kicker Jared Siegel tied the Ducks' career scoring mark on the extra point with his 272nd point. He twice had chances to break the record with field goals in the fourth quarter. On the first, a bobbled snap kept him from getting the kick away and on the second, Oklahoma safety Brodney Pool leaped and blocked a low kick. Clemens completed 24 of 35 passes for 179 yards.
MAKING HIS CONTRIBUTION
Backup quarterback Dennis Dixon had to make the most of each opportunity presented to him. Prior to earning the starting nod vs. California, Dixon had an impact in four other appearances. Against Houston, Dixon recorded his first career touchdown — a one-yard run that gave the Ducks the lead in the third quarter. The following week vs. Montana, Dixon showcased his arm, hitting junior Kyle Weatherspoon for a 39-yard TD — his first scoring completion of the season and Weatherspoon’s first career touchdown. Dixon is fifth on the team in rushing (40 carries for 138 yards, 1 TD). Dixon came off the bench vs. USC and completed six of seven passes for 29 yards and in his short appearance, carried the ball five times for 21 yards to finish as the Ducks’ leading rusher in the game. He continued to showcase his efficiency vs. Stanford, completing 7-of-8 passes for 53 yards.
AS THE STARTER
In three appearances in a starting role, sophomore Dennis Dixon has completed 43 of 65 passes (.662) for 540 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. While engineering 24 drives in Oregon’s last three games, he has guided the Ducks to 12 scores (8 TDs, 4 FG, 1 missed FG).
LEAF’S TOUCHDOWN IMPORTANCE
After completing five of 10 passes for 53 yards and one interception in the fourth quarter at Arizona for his first significant collegaite action under center, sophomore Brady Leaf’s first play against California couldn’t have gone better. His handoff to tailback Terrence Whitehead resulted in an 18-yard scoring run. In 21 subsequent snaps vs. California, the Great Falls, Mont., native completed nine of 13 passes for 93 yards. In addition to throwing the winning touchdown pass in overtime, Leaf was at the helm for two scores and completed throws that resulted in five first downs as well as a pair of third-down conversions. Leaf’s second touchdown pass of the season pulled the Ducks within five points of Washington State and on Oregon’s next possession, Leaf drove the Ducks 35 yards in 37 seconds to set up the go-ahead score. His pass completion to Terrence Whitehead for the two point conversion gave Oregon the lead, 24-21.
Since being thrust into the backup role for the final three games, sophomore Brady Leaf has completed 26 of 41 passes for 246 yards, one interception and two touchdowns. While being at the helm for 15 series during that span, he has converted his opportunities into five touchdowns.
The Oregon offense had surpassed 500 yards in total offense in one game each of the previous two seasons. It last accumulated 500 or more offensive yards in a game four times in the same season during the Ducks’ Fiesta Bowl season in 2001 prior to 2005. Yet the offense has never produced three consecutive 500-yard games such as it achieved against Stanford (595), Arizona State (512) and Washington (570) this year. The Ducks earlier put together 554 yards of total offense in this year’s season opener at Houston.
YET THE KEY HAS BEEN DEFENSE
Head coach Mike Bellotti has pointed to the second half of the game at Stanford as keying the Ducks’ surge in play. Prior to Oregon’s game at Arizona, it had allowed opponents only 45 points and 583 yards of total offense in the previous five halves of football. During that same span, Oregon’s offense generated 99 points and 1,350 total yards. Eleven of Oregon’s 27 quarterback sacks had occurred over that same span. Against California, it was two consecutive stops for negative yardage that forced the Bears to attempt a 53-yard field goal at the end of regulation. In overtime, the defense did not allow a first down, stopping the Bears on four consecutive plays from scrimmage. In Oregon’s regular season finale, the Duck defense shut down Oregon State, limiting the Beavers to 297 yards of total offense and shut them out in the first and fourth quarters, allowing just 14 total points. The Ducks also had four interceptions in the game and accumulated three sacks.
A KEY COG IN THE DEFENSE
Defensive end Haloti Ngata has posted 40 tackles in the Ducks’ last six games, including a career-high 11 tackles two weeks ago against California. Ngata earned Pac-10 defensive player of the week honors for the performance. Four of his 11 tackles were unassisted, including one for a loss of seven yards, and he swatted down two passes at the line of scrimmage.
The Ducks are scheduled to have three players represented at the 81st annual East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 21, 2006, in San Antonio, Texas. Tight end Tim Day, defensive end Devan Long and wide receiver Demetrius Williams have indicated they are planning to take part in the all-start game that has previously taken place in the San Francisco area. Prior to his season-ending ankle injury, quarterback Kellen Clemens had been invited to take part in the East-West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl (Jan. 28, Mobile, Ala.) and the Las Vegas All-American Classic (Jan. 14, Las Vegas, Nev.).
Oregon’s starting offensive linemen averages 321.4 pounds per man, with four-fifths of the quintet tipping the scales more than 300 pounds. Leading the way is sophomore tackle Geoff Schwartz, who weighed in prior to fall camp at 366. Center Enoka Lucas is the lightest of the fivesome at a svelte 296 pounds. Last year’s five offensive line starters averaged 309.8 while the 2001 squad which finished second in the country averaged 295.2 and included only one player, OT Corey Chambers, who weighed 300 pounds.
Under head coach Mike Bellotti’s watch, Oregon has tallied a 30-5 record in regular-season outings against non-conference opponents. Not included in that total is a 4-4 record in postseason play against non-Pac-10 opponents. Away from home, that in-season non-conference record is 7-4.
BACK TO HIS OLD WAYS
Oregon has posted nine wins or more on only nine occasions during the 110 seasons the school has sponsored football, and has notched only 10 wins three times in the program’s history. Five of those nine-win seasons have come under the guidance of head coach Mike Bellotti while all three of the 10+ win seasons have during his tenure (10-1 in 2005, 11-1 in 2001, 10-2 in 2000, 9-3 in 1999 and 9-3 in 1995).
Junior defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been named a first team All-American by several outlets (Football Writers Association of America, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, ESPN.com). Ngata becomes Oregon’s first player to be recognized as a consensus All-American since Mel Renfro in 1962. Ngata is fourth on the team in tackles with 59 and is second in the Pacific-10 Conference in tackles by a defensive lineman. The 6-5, 340-pound Salt Lake City, Utah, native posted a single-game high 11 tackles in this season’s win over California. In addition, he ranked third on the team with nine tackles for losses, including three quarterback sacks, and was tied for second on the team in passes broken up with five. Last month, Ngata became the Ducks’ first defensive lineman in 18 years to claim the team’s MVP honor, with nose tackle Rollin Putzier sharing the award in 1987, and the second consecutive junior to receive the acclaim. Tailback Terrence Whitehead was the recipient of last year’s honor following his junior season.
OTHER DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS
Senior Anthony Trucks’ 11 quarterback sacks this season stands tied for fourth on Oregon’s single-season list and he is currently tied for sixth in the nation in sacks per game (1.00). Defensive end Devan Long etched his name atop the Oregon record books and owns the all-time tackles for loss record with 45.5 career tackles for loss. Trucks earned second team all-conference honors for his standout senior season while cornerback Justin Phinisee was a first-team all-conference selection and fellow cornerback Aaron Gipson was a second-team pick.