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PACIFIC 10 CONFERENCE FOOTBALL / DAN HAFNER : Brooks, Ducks Are Heading Downstream

November 12, 1994|DAN HAFNER

Rich Brooks is in his 18th season as Oregon's football coach, a remarkable feat considering that until this season, his Ducks were never in contention for the Rose Bowl bid in November. They finished second in the Pacific 10 Conference in 1989 and third the next year.

So now Brooks, who just before the season, relinquished his duties as athletic director, needs Oregon to win its last two games to assure a Rose Bowl berth.

Brooks already is sounding like a championship coach. Earlier he talked with confidence of his team's chances. Lately, he has become cautious.

Although Oregon's fine veteran quarterback is coming off his best game of the season and today's opponent will not have its best passer available, Brooks fears Stanford.

"As far as we are concerned, Stanford is No. 1," Brooks said. "Bill Walsh has the best offense we'll see all season."

Stanford quarterback Steve Stenstrom broke the little finger on his throwing hand while scoring a touchdown just before halftime last Saturday and will not play. So Oregon will face Scott Frost, who ran the Cardinal to a stunning 46-28 victory over Washington after Stenstrom was hurt. The sophomore from Wood River, Neb., ran the option and the Husky defense couldn't stop him.

"Frost runs the option well," Brooks said. "When Oregon State ran it last year, we didn't handle it. Frankly, it worries me."

The way the Ducks have rebounded after losing two of their first three games and suffering near crippling injuries, belies the belief they fear anything.

As they launched their conference comeback, they lost quarterback Danny O'Neil, with a staph infection on his throwing hand. Injuries also sidelined the top runner, Ricky Whittle, and leading receiver Cristin McLemore.

The injuries, which also included a couple of defensive stalwarts, helped give reserves experience. And now, with all regulars back, the Ducks have depth to go with their skill.

"We proved we could handle media pressure last week," Brooks said. "Television cameras were all over the place and media wanted to interview everyone. We weathered that storm rather well. Now it's all up to us. We are the ones who decide if we go to the Rose Bowl."

Oregon has Walsh's admiration.

"We're pulling for them to get to the Rose Bowl," Walsh said. "But we have our own agenda at Stanford. We'd like to beat them (by) a point and have them go to the bowl."

Walsh said the Ducks have the conference's best defense.

"But, that doesn't mean we will be timid or cautious on offense," he added. "That isn't the way we do it. Nobody's stopped us yet.

"I think Scott Frost will do fine. The ball was so wet we couldn't pass in the second half (last week). But he's a competitor. Eventually, he will be a very good player."

The Cardinal has won the last three against the Ducks, including a wild, 38-34 decision last year at Eugene. It was strictly an aerial battle. Stenstrom passed for 407 yards and three touchdowns. O'Neil completed 31 of 44 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns.

*

Whereas Oregon's fortunes keep improving, California's don't. In fact, they are getting worse.

The injury-riddled Bears bounced back nicely after their humiliating, 61-0 loss to USC and in the last two weeks have played well and been in position to win.

But two weeks ago, after building a lead against Washington State, Cal ran out of quarterbacks and lost, 26-23.

The Bears played another big game last Saturday night at Tucson. But once again, luck deserted them.

Trailing, 6-0, in the first period, third-string quarterback Pat Barnes, the only uninjured one, drove the Bears deep into Arizona territory. On the next play Barnes appeared to have scored, but officials ruled he was down on the two.

Two plays later, the Bears tried a halfback pass. Defensive back Mike Scurlock intercepted Tyrone Edwards' toss and returned it 97 yards for the game's only touchdown.

It mattered not that a TV replay showed Scurlock stepping out of bounds at the Cal 12 because no official saw it.

"I don't even feel like talking about it," Coach Keith Gilbertson said from Berkeley. "But the film shows Barnes scored and Scurlock stepped out."

Pac-10 Notes

Steve Stenstrom, out for the last two games, will fall two touchdown passes short of the conference record held by John Elway, who had 77. . . . Arizona defensive end Tedy Bruschi is one of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award for outstanding linemen. . . . Napoleon Kaufman needs 141 yards to move into third place on the all-time conference rushing list. He has 4,029. Leader is USC's Charles White, at 6,245 yards.

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