Immediately following the Ducks' thrilling 35-30 victory over
Texas in the Holiday Bowl, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti was
overcome with joy and emotion because he realized that his
program had arrived. "We've been building this thing for some
time," says Bellotti, who is entering his seventh season in
Eugene. "We've proven ourselves in our conference, but beating
Texas sends a message that we can play with anyone."
Since Bellotti took over in 1995, the Ducks have more victories
(49) than any other Pac-10 school and have shown a knack for
surviving close games, going 18-7 in those decided by a touchdown
or less. Given that the team is coming off a school-record 10-2
finish last fall, expectations are naturally at an alltime
high--and for good reason. Nine starters are back from an offense
that averaged 409.8 yards and 29.3 points per game.
It all starts with the crafty and agile senior quarterback Joey
Harrington, who threw for 2,967 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2000,
and ran for seven more scores. Two months ago he was flown
cross-country to get a good look at himself, in the form of a
100-foot billboard bearing his likeness and promoting his
candidacy for the Heisman Trophy. (Oregon boosters paid $250,000
for the advertisement, which is mounted on a building across from
Madison Square Garden in New York City.) When Harrington saw the
billboard he stopped dead in his tracks and stared upward, mouth
"It was overwhelming," he says. "To look at myself on a billboard
that size, sitting in New York City, blows my mind. It's
something special, but you have to keep it in perspective. If we
had gone 7-5 last year, none of this would be happening. If we
don't win this year, it will all go away. All the attention I get
is because of the success of my team, and I have to remember
On defense the Ducks have only one player, senior tackle Zack
Freiter, returning among the front seven, so they will need
senior safeties Keith Lewis and Rasuli Webster to help stop the
run. "We basically play a nine-man front and that will present
many problems for other teams, because our cornerbacks [seniors
Rashad Buman and Steve Smith] can cover most wide receivers
one-on-one," says Bellotti.
If the defense can withstand some early tests against Wisconsin
and USC, Oregon may be undefeated heading into its final two
games, against UCLA and Oregon State. "I really like this team,"
says Bellotti. "It has a togetherness and chemistry that are
awesome. This group is confident it can play with
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Sure-handed Samie Parker is one of the wideouts who will give Harrington's Heisman hopes a boost.
2000 record: 10-2 (7-1, T1 in Pac-10)
Final ranking: No. 7 AP, No. 9 coaches' poll
Consecutive home wins for the Ducks, at Autzen Stadium, nine
short of the Pac-10 record.
An opposing team's coach sizes up the Ducks
"I love their quarterback, Joey Harrington. He's not only a big
talent but also has tremendous heart.... The coaches are
confident in their players, which gives the kids confidence in
themselves, and it shows.... Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti
does a nice job. He's constantly switching coverages, finding
ways to create numbers advantages.... Oregon State might have
greater team speed, but the Oregon kids are tenacious. Everyone
hustles and runs to the ball.... Just a very scary team."
Strength: 25th of 117
Sept. 1 WISCONSIN
29 at Utah State
Oct. 6 at Arizona
13 at California
27 at Washington St.
Nov. 3 ARIZONA STATE
10 at UCLA
Dec. 1 OREGON STATE