Oregon 101: O is for Offense

KENNY ALFRED

THE PRESSURE IS ON for the Cougs. They'll need to beat the high powered Ducks this week if they're to start to right the ship. But a win over Oregon will be a tall task. UO is ranked No. 8 in the country and can rely on the confines of usually raucous Autzen Stadium. While Washington State made strides in last week's narrow loss to ASU, Oregon presents a number of altogether different challenges.

Cougars (2-4) vs Ducks (4-1)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
12:30 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Autzen Stadium (54,000)

TELEVISION:
None

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Oregon by 18

LAST MEETING:
2006 WSU Won 34-23

THE SERIES:
Oregon leads 39-38-7

CF.C PREDICTION:
Oregon 38, WSU 30

THE DUCKS ON OFFENSE
Players to Know
Dennis Dixon, QB: The 2007 season has become the Dennis Dixon showcase in Eugene. He has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,238 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he has run for another 308 yards and five scores. He has done a great job avoiding the costly interceptions he used to make and as a result, no longer splits time with Brady Leaf.

Jonathan Stewart, RB: Stewart is finally enjoying a healthy season in his junior campaign and is displaying the talent that made him such a highly sought after recruit. He is averaging 125 rushing yards per game and has 5 touchdowns.

Overview
Oregon features the nations No. 4 rushing offense and has a strong passing game backing it up. The offensive line is large and a solid bunch. The entire two-deep is almost exclusively upper classmen and their experience shows. Though the Duck offense is run based, Dixon's running and passing ability make it a dynamic one.

Strategy
Washington State might want to consider adding an extra linebacker to the mix in certain situations to track down running backs and take away some of the pass routes. The top priority with Oregon is always shutting down the run game to try and set up third and long situations. But it isn't a simple proposition with a mobile quarterback and how the Ducks operate in spread formations. Jonathan Stewart is a strong runner and so is Jeremiah Johnson. WSU will need to contain both and try to shift the pressure to Dixon and the Sucks throwing the football. The Cougs will benefit substantially if they can force Dixon into some mistakes, and the earlier the better.

THE DUCKS ON DEFENSE
Players to Know
Patrick Chung, S: The junior has been starting since he was a freshman and is always among the team's leading tacklers. He does an excellent job of preventing the big play.

Overview
The Ducks run a base 4-3 defense that values size up front and speed in the linebackers and secondary. They use a bend but don't break system that tightens up as they approach the red zone. Their run defense is very stingy, but they can be thrown upon.

Strategy
The Duck offense is a juggernaut, but the defense is beatable. To keep pace with the Ducks, the Cougs need to re-establish their ground attack, which has become lethargic in Pac-10 play. Dwight Tardy and Chris Ivory, although Ivory appears questionable following a slight concussion, and the offensive line, all need to mount a tremendous effort to keep the Cougs in control of the ball. And taking control of the clock wouldn't hurt either.

THE DUCKS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
Kicker Matt Evensen and punter Josh Syria are both solid. The Ducks have successfully incorporated Jonathan Stewart as a dangerous kickoff returner.

FINAL THOUGHTS
On paper, Oregon has an edge in most all categories this week. Then again, that was pretty much the case last year, too. Still stinging from the close defeat against Cal, the Ducks have had two weeks to brood and prepare for WSU, the game is in their house and it's Homecoming. But the Cougs have plenty of motivation of their own. They need a Pac-10 win in the worst way, Alex Brink will be making his first start in Eugene and the defense has some confidence coming out of ASU. Whereas last week the Cougar defense suddenly sprang to life, the Cougars are in considerable need of the Wazzu offense to likewise bust out on Saturday in Eugene.

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