Ducks look to eliminate mistakes against No. 2 Oklahoma

Friday, September 17th 2004, 6:43 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ More than anything, it was Oregon's own mistakes that knocked the Ducks out of the Top 25 and cost them their season opener.

No. 2 Oklahoma (2-0) isn't counting on the same performance when the Ducks come to town on Saturday.

Oregon (0-1) turned the ball over four times in the first quarter as Indiana zipped out to a 23-0 lead. But the Ducks didn't give up and had the ball three times _ twice in Indiana territory _ while down six points in the fourth quarter. One drive ended with a missed field goal while the others ended with Kellen Clemens throwing interceptions.

In all, the Ducks committed seven turnovers _ four fumbles and three interceptions _ in the 30-24 loss to Indiana. They also lost a touchdown on the opening kickoff when Kenny Washington's return was nullified by a blocking in the back penalty.

``We should have won that game except we had seven turnovers,'' Oregon defensive end Devon Long said. ``I think we have a really good team, it's just that turnovers are a huge swing in the game. Ball security will be very important this week.''

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said the Ducks weren't blaming nerves or anything else for the shaky start.

``I think it was just flat out we didn't play well and turned the ball over seven times,'' Bellotti said. ``If you get 11 to 14 possessions in a game and turn over half of them or don't get the chances _ we had one or two series where we gave the ball right back _ that took us out of a lot of things we wanted to do.''

Bellotti said he figured the Ducks should be feeling ``no pressure'' coming into the game. Long agreed.

``I think a lot of people just look at the score of the game and think we've got to suck,'' Long said. ``So I think that puts us in a good spot as a team because we know how good we are and I don't think Oklahoma thinks we're very good and I don't think the rest of the nation thinks were very good.

``We're the underdogs and it is a lot of fun to be the underdog.''

Oklahoma players said they weren't fooled by the upset and would be preparing for a less error-prone Oregon team.

``That was a big key in their loss,'' Oklahoma quarterback Jason White said. ``Even with all the turnovers, they about came back and won. They're going to improve from last week. They're going to be better and it's going to be a good challenge for us.''

Sooners coach Bob Stoops said he figured Bellotti would make adjustments and correct the turnover problem.

``I don't believe they'll do that every week for sure,'' Stoops said. ``That's just something that, for whatever reason, it'll happen. I know we go into every week trying to cause turnovers and do our best to create them.''

But Stoops said there's a point of diminishing return when a team can become too obsessed with preventing giveaways.

``Sometimes you can harp on it so much that that's all they're thinking about, and that doesn't help you either,'' Stoops said. ``I don't know what the right answer is there.''

Bellotti said Oregon would still take some positives from the game, in which they

``There are no moral victories, so you can talk about 500 yards of offense, but we'd give up 200 or 300 of those for seven more points,'' Bellotti said. ``I do think that the thing we need to take away is that almost all of our mistakes are in our control to correct _ catching the football on a punt, hanging on to the football, throwing a better chosen pass.

``Those things can and will make a difference.''

While the Ducks committed seven turnovers and forced two, the Sooners haven't had their usual proficiency at creating takeaways this season. After forcing 34 turnovers in 14 games last season, the Sooners have only two takeaways this season while turning the ball over three times. On several occasions, Oklahoma defenders have had possible interceptions skip off their hands.

Safety Brodney Pool, who led the Sooners with seven interceptions last season, said the Sooners wouldn't approach the Ducks differently than any other opponent even though they'd shown a tendency to turn the ball over.

``I'm pretty sure that they're going to be focusing on ball security,'' Pool said. ``We just have to go out there and try to get turnovers. That's a big part of the game. If you have a chance to get turnovers, you can get big plays off of it.''