No Secret To Oregon's Success
Dixon and Stewart driving Ducks to top of Pac-10, polls
Nov. 2, 2007
By Adam Caparell
Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
Mike Bellotti knew a little something everyone in the country apparently didn't.
When the media released its preseason poll predicting the order of finish in the Pac-10 this summer, Bellotti could only laugh when he saw his Ducks were picked to finish sixth in the conference.
"I sort of smiled inwardly," the
Bellotti's preseason premonitions could not have been more on point. His Ducks are 7-1, are ranked fourth in the country and are considered by many to be the cream of the crop in the Pac-10. The Ducks aren't just better than the sixth team in the Pac-10 - it's tough to argue that there are six teams in the country better than
But one of those teams in the argument happens to be the sixth-ranked team in the nation and a squad that was picked to finish ahead of the Ducks in the Pac-10.
That team, of course, is Arizona State, a surprise in its own right, having emerged from the depths of the unranked all the way to No. 6 in the polls.
And in this wild, wacky and unbelievably unpredictable season, who would have ever thought that the biggest game on the first weekend of November would be played in
But that's college football for you in 2007. The two teams in the Pac-10 playing at the highest level aren't USC and Cal, the teams picked to finish first and second respectively, but rather the surprise Ducks and Sun Devils. Only the success of the two schools isn't much of a surprise to Bellotti.
"It wasn't like they weren't a good football team," Bellotti said of the 8-0 Sun Devils. "But they're playing at a level that's now maybe unsurpassed in the conference. They're statistically one of the best teams in this conference, if not the best team in this conference."
Sounds an awful lot like the Ducks, doesn't it?
Bellotti's crew owns one of the most potent offenses in not only the Pac-10, but the country. Led by the lethal Dennis Dixon, the Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback is helping drive
But according to their coach, the real success of the Ducks may not lie in the capable hands of
"I think Dennis is directing this offense and done some things and really is the trigger man, but Jonathan is the guy who sort of carries the team and at times is really putting the team on his back," Bellotti said.
Stewart already has 1,043 yards rushing on the year, a career high, and nine touchdowns, one away from last season's total, through the Ducks' first eight games. He's run for 100 yards or more in six games and cranked out a 251 performance against Washington on the road two weeks ago.
But maybe his most impressive outing came last week against USC where Stewart pounded out a tough 103 yards on 25 carries for two scores against one of the best run defenses in the country. It was the first time all season the Trojans had allowed a 100-yard rushing performance and it was a big reason why the Trojans were eliminated from national championship contention before Halloween.
"He's scary, he really is,"
"I think there's some God-given skills that you don't have to coach or can't coach, but [Stewart's] gotten better," Bellotti said. "He's seeing the holes, running with power, he's getting outside running with his agility, making more people miss, maintaining his balance through tackles and he's still punishing people and still moving the pile. It's just a natural maturation. It's really only his third year."
But Bellotti certainly won't sell
"It's been experience," Bellotti said. "Fifth year in the program, third year in the system. I think Chip Kelly has done a great job of helping him understand a few things more about this offense and the corresponding response of the defense. And I think he's been a better student of the game."
While there's a lot to be impressed with, the thing that's caught Bellotti's eye more than anything so far this year is how improved
"He's in the process of finishing this season," Bellotti said.
"They're both great players having great seasons, but I can't envision what we'd be doing not having either one of them," Bellotti said. "They are great athletes making great plays."
And clearly motivated as well.
"A lot of times young men respond to the challenge of disrespect, so to speak," Bellotti said.
And no one is disrespecting the Ducks now. Not at 7-1, among a handful of national championship contenders, and not when teams have to game plan for two headaches in