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Inside the Pac--a look at the Oregon Ducks for 2002
Watch out for the "Autzen Factor"
By: Malamute, 22 June 2002


Quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo tests the Autzen Factor, circa 2000
Some pollsters are predicting a top-ten finish for the Oregon Ducks this season, even though they lose eleven starters from last season. Call that the "Autzen Factor." 

The Ducks play eight games at home in 2002, and have lost just one game at Autzen Stadium in their last twenty-six outings. The schedule is in their favor, and the prognosticators are betting on it. 

Using noisemakers and the loudest voices in America, Oregon fans turn Autzen Stadium (pictured above) into a din of inequity on Saturday afternoons. Worse yet for visiting firemen, the stadium's nearly completed expansion will make it even more vocal. Adding to the noise level, the 12,000 new seats could be the difference in decibels between conventional and atom bombs. In future years, you'll go into Autzen with a noisemaker and exit with a hearing aid.  

However, the "Autzen Factor" will need some help this season, and it will have to come from Junior quarterback Jason Fife, heir apparent to Joey Harrington, who finished third-runner up in the Heisman balloting last year. 

Fife has the potential of being a good quarterback--but he’s no Joey Harrington at this point in his career, neither in name recognition nor in experience. Ask anybody about the name “Fife” and they’ll tell you tell you that Fife is a small town located in the state of Washington—or maybe it’s in Virginia or whatever. A quarterback whose last name is comprised of one syllable, coupled with a lack of euphoniousness--a la Brett Favre, has got to work just a bit harder than others to gain national name recognition. Experience comes with playing time.

With Fife at the helm, the Ducks will suffer a big drop off in experience, so crucial for a team’s success in the Pac-10 derby. In nine of the last ten years, a senior quarterback has led his team to either the Pac-10 title or to the Rose Bowl game.

Table 1. The following helmsmen, all but one being a senior at the time (Leaf), led their teams to either the Rose Bowl game or to the conference championship game (Harrington, Fiesta Bowl 2002).

Quarterback Year Where he's at now
Joey Harrington, UO 2002 Detroit
Marques Tuiasosopo, UW 2001 Oakland
Todd Husak, Tree 2000 Denver
Cade McNown, UCLA 1999 Miami
Ryan Leaf, WSU 1998 Seattle
Jake Plummer, ASU 1997 Arizona
Brad Otton, USC 1996 ?
Danny O'Neil, UO 1995 Arena Football
Wayne Cook, UCLA 1994 ?
Mark Brunell, UW 1993 Jacksonville

Last season, Fife played in two games, throwing just 9 passes. He completed 6 of them for 67 yards. During the spring game, a contest held between the Greens and Whites, the 6-4 Junior from Lake Elsinore, California was 12 of 15 for 217 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s the good news. The bad news is that during a span of nine month’s time, he’s thrown just 24 passes in three games, albeit one of them was in one of the more important intra-squad scrimmages.

Experience-wise, Oregon returns Junior Onterrio Smith, who garnered 1007 yards rushing and finished second in the conference in all-purpose yards last season. WR Keenen Howry (Sr.) is back (649 yards; 59 yards per game in 2001), as is Sammy Parker who finished with 7 receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Smith and Fife could suffer the indignity of playing behind some inexperience in the offensive line, the left side having departed. The Ducks do return the right side of the offensive line, with right guard Joey Forster (Jr.) and right tackle Cory Chambers (Sr.) reporting back for duty. Also, center Dan Weaver (Jr.) returns. 

Defensively, the Ducks lose arguably the best pair of cornerbacks in the Pac-10 last season: Rashaud Bowman and Steve Smith. Their loss could cripple a defensive team that finished next to last in total defense in the Pac-10. And this season, the Ducks' defense will not have as productive an offense to carry most of the load. 

The easiest way to beat the Ducks on their home turf is to run the ball against them, effectively and often. A series of first downs on the ground can calm the most frenetic of hostile fans. Oregon was second in the conference in rushing defense last season, and needs to keep that stat alive to promote the Autzen Factor. 

In that regard, two defensive ends return (Seniors Scott McEwen and Darrell Wright) and defensive tackle Igor Olshanksy is on the rise. Incoming freshman Haloti Ngata could help out immediately at defensive tackle. Kevin Mitchell who returns at linebacker was fourth in tackles in the Pac-10 last season.  Defensively, the Ducks appear solid up the middle; cornerback is the real concern. 

We summarize some of the ups and downs that could affect the Ducks for next season. 

Table 2. On the upside

Upside Item Comment
Eight of Oregon's 12 games are at home The Ducks start the season at home with four-straight games (Mississippi State, Fresno State, Idaho, and Portland State).
The Ducks have a significant home-field advantage Over the last 5 years, Oregon is 17-3 at home (Pac-10 games only). Of their last 26 games at home, the Ducks have lost just one.
Head coach Mike Bellotti is a proven, successful Pac-10 coach. He's won 60 games and lost just 23 as head coach at Oregon.
RB Onterrio Smith is the real deal. Gained 1007 yards rushing last season and finished second in all-purpose yards in the Pac-10.
Three starters return on the offensive line Although the Ducks return only 5 starters on offense, 3 of them are on the offensive line.
The expansion of Autzen Stadium will add to Saturday's bedlam in Eugene. If you can't hear the signals, you can't run the plays.
The Ducks return two specialists In PK Jared Siegel and Punter Jose Arroyo, who should be comfortable kicking in Arroyo Seco Canyon, when the Ducks play the Bruins. 
In the Fall, the Ducks have some help on the way. These include two huge defensive tackles, Haloti Ngata and Junior Siavii, along with end/tackle Chris Solomona. Also, 340-pound, incoming freshman Albert Toeaina could help out on the offensive line.

Table 3. On the downside

 

Downside Item Comments
Only 11 offensive/defensive players return Inside the Pac-10, only Stanford (9) has a lower number of returnees. 
The Ducks lose quarterback Joey Harrington Heir apparent Jason Fife has little or no experience at quarterback.
The Ducks lose outstanding cornerbacks Rashad Bauman and Steve Smith That's got to hurt in the pass-happy Pac-10. Smith was second in interceptions (6) in the Pac-10 last season.
The Ducks lose OLB Wesly Mallard  Besides being a great name for a Duck, Mallard finished in a tie for second in the Pac-10 in tackles last season (98).
Three road "killas" could tarnish their season. Oregon plays UCLA, OSU and WSU on the road.
Needs to improve field-goal percentage Finishing last in field-goal percentage in the Pac-10, Jared Siegal made just 55% of his kicks.
The Ducks finished 9th in the Pac-10 in pass defense last season. The loss of the two starting cornerbacks hurt even more, considering this statistic.
The Ducks finished 9th in Total Defense in the Pac-10 last season. They need to turn this statistic around, considering that the offense will be less effective this season.
TB Maurice Morris is gone Like Harrington, he will not be easy to replace. He finished third in Pac-10 rushing last season.

Table 4. Returnees on offense
Player Pos. Yr. Ht. Wt.
Jason Willis WR SR. 6-1 196
Dan Weaver C Jr. 6-5 278
Joey Forster RG Jr. 6-4 292
Corey Chambers RT Sr. 6-4 296
Keenan Howry WR Sr. 5-10 163
 

Table 5. Returnees on defense

Player Pos. Yr. Ht. Wt.
Seth McEwen DE Sr. 6-5 266
Darrell Wright DE Sr. 6-4 258
David Moretti MLB Sr. 6-1 235
Kevin Mitchell ILB Jr. 5-10 210
Rasuli Webster SS Sr. 6-0 214
Keith Lewis FS Jr. 6-1 198


Table 6. How key returnees did in the Pac-10 in 2001

Player Category Pac Stat
Onterrio Smith Rushing/game 6th 91.5 yds.
Keenan Howry Receptions/game 6th 4.45
Keenan Howry Receive yds/g 10th 59.0
Onterrio Smith All Purpose yds 2nd 128/g
Keenan Howry Punt Return Avg 3rd 14.5
Allan Amundson Kick Return Avg 4th 27.2
Onterrio Smith Kick Return Avg 3rd 28.2
Jose Arroyo Punting 8th 38.5
Keenan Howry Scoring Td's 4th 6.0 pts/g
Jared Siegal Scoring Kicks 8th 5.8 pts/g
Jared Siegal Field Goals 10th .55/g
Jared Siegal Field Goal Pct. 10th 54.5%
Jared Siegal PAT TD Pct. 6th 95.8%
Kevin Mitchell Tackles 4th 8.5/g
David Morretti Tackles 9th 8.1/g
Keith Lewis Tackles 10th 8.0
Rasuli Webster Tackles 48th 4.5
Kevin Mitchell Tackles for loss 4th 1.45/g

Table 7. Oregon's Offensive Statistics in Pac-10, 2001

Category Finish
Scoring Offense 3rd
Pass Offense 8th
Turnover Margin 2nd
Rushing Offense 2nd
Total Offense 3rd
Pass Efficiency 2nd
First Downs 2nd
Fourth-down conversions 4th
Red Zone Offense 1st
Third-down conversions 6th
Sacks Against 1st
Time of Possession 6th
Average Finish 3.3


Table 8. Oregon's Defensive Statistics in Pac-10, 2001

Statistic Finish
Scoring Defense 3rd
Pass Defense 9th
Rushing Defense 2nd
Total Defense 9th
Pass Efficiency Defense 5th
Opponent first downs 6th
Sacks By 10th
Opponent 4th down conversions 6th
Red Zone Defense 6th
Opponent 3rd down conversions 7th
Sacks Against 1st
Average Finish 5.8


Table 9. Oregon's 2002 Schedule

Date Opponent
August 31 Mississippi State
September 7 Fresno State
September 14 Idaho
September 21 Portland State
October 5 at Arizona
October 12 at UCLA
October 19 Arizona State
October 26 USC
November 2 Stanford
November 9 at WSU
November 16 Washington
November 23 at OSU

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