Struggling Without Dixon

Two weeks ago, Oregon was entertaining thoughts of winning a national championship. Now it just hopes to win another game.

The 18th-ranked Ducks (8-3, 5-3 Pac-10) look to avoid a third straight loss when they host Oregon State (7-4, 5-3) in the 111th edition of the Civil War game Saturday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Oregon State -1 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Oregon +1 (View College Football bet percentages).

Not long ago, Oregon was the No. 2 team in the nation and riding a four-game winning streak thanks to Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon. The quarterback was lost for the season, though, when he re-injured his knee in the Ducks' 34-24 loss at Arizona on Nov. 15.

Though Oregon's national title hopes were gone, its shot at the Pac-10 title was very much alive - until last Saturday's 16-0 loss at UCLA crushed that dream as well.

It was the first time the Ducks were shut out since a 63-0 defeat to Nebraska on Sept. 28, 1985.

The Ducks and Beavers are tied for third along with UCLA in the conference - one game behind No. 13 Arizona State and eighth-ranked USC. Neither Oregon nor Oregon State holds the tiebreaker over the Bruins, who would win the Pac-10 title and secure a spot in the Rose Bowl in the event there is a four-way tie atop the standings. That would happen if UCLA defeats USC and Arizona State loses to Arizona.

The Ducks, who have lost five starters for the year due to injuries and will start a redshirt freshman at quarterback Saturday, are mired in their second straight late-season collapse. Oregon lost its final four games of 2006, including a 38-8 defeat to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.

"We lost Dixon, and a lot of guys got down and we never really got back up,'' Oregon receiver Jaison Williams said.

Though Oregon leads 55-45-10 in the Civil War, the Ducks will be looking to avoid losing two in a row to the Beavers for the first time since 1973-74. Oregon State won 30-28 in Corvallis last Nov. 24 as the home team prevailed for the 10th straight time in the series.

The Ducks will be trying to win their seventh straight over the Beavers in Eugene, but will have Cody Kempt making his first start at quarterback.

Kempt replaced backup Brady Leaf, who suffered a right ankle injury in the first quarter versus UCLA, and went 6-for-23 with two interceptions. Fellow redshirt freshman Justin Roper, who was 1-for-5 for 8 yards with an interception against the Bruins, could also see time Saturday if Kempt struggles.

Though the Oregon quarterbacks struggled against UCLA, they weren't only reason for the team gaining 148 total yards - the fewest since it recorded 183 in a 16-9 win over Arizona on Sept. 4, 1997.

Jonathan Stewart, who's rushed for 1,306 yards, was held to a season-low 33 on 13 carries for the Ducks, who average 37.2 points per game.

"Our offense failed to show up today, unfortunately," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "We dropped about six passes, and you can't do that. We didn't make enough plays, we had too many three-and-outs. I don't know if I've ever seen our defense play better, and I've been here for 19 years.

"The shutout does not bother me. The loss bothers me very much.''

Though Stewart has been bothered by a sore right big toe, he is expected to play Saturday. He rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in last season's loss to Oregon State and will need to be at his best against a Beavers rush defense that's No. 1 in the nation, allowing 64.0 yards per game.

The Beavers look to win their third straight game and sixth in their last seven since starting 2-3. Oregon State, though, hasn't played since a 52-17 win at Washington State on Nov. 17.

The Beavers forced a season-high eight turnovers - including seven interceptions - against the Cougars and could be in for another big day against Oregon's struggling offense.

Oregon State hopes to have senior running back Yvenson Bernard in the lineup Saturday after he had surgery to clean up his right knee Nov. 20. Bernard rushed for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in limited action against Washington State.

"It's questionable at best for his return in time for the Civil War,'' Oregon State coach Mike Riley said of Bernard, whose 3,685 career yards are the second most in school history. "We feel better about his chances to play in our bowl game. But, we're talking about Yvenson Bernard, so I won't rule out anything.''

Bernard has rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 55 carries in two games versus Oregon, but had only 68 yards on 22 carries against the Ducks last season.

Sophomore quarterback Lyle Moevao will make his third start since replacing injured starter Sean Canfield. The versatile Moevao was 15-for-28 for a season-high 202 yards and a touchdown against Washington State.

Oregon State won 15-12 over Oregon on Nov. 20, 1993 for its last win in Eugene.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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