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PACIFIC 10 / ROBYN NORWOOD

Michigan Ready for Oregon Noise

September 19, 2003|ROBYN NORWOOD

It's not the Big House, not even close.

Call Oregon's Autzen Stadium the Greenhouse instead.

It holds an enthusiastic crowd of about 54,000, roughly half the capacity of Michigan Stadium, where 111,726 watched Michigan's 38-0 victory over Notre Dame last Saturday.

The game between No. 3 Michigan and No. 22 Oregon Saturday in Eugene is a matchup Ron Bellamy of the Eugene Register-Guard compared to old money versus nouveau riche.

"It's the helmets that never change against the team that might change uniforms at halftime," Bellamy wrote.

It's the maize and blue against the team Phil Knight built, complete with a new $3.2-million locker room with plasma TVs, Internet access and personal ventilation systems.

Amusingly -- and yet appropriately, if you ask the rest of the Pacific 10 Conference -- the noise factor at Autzen has caught Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr's attention.

The idea of Michigan working on silent snap counts for the Ducks seems a bit humorous, but small yet raucous Autzen is not the place Carr wants the prospect of a run at the national championship to end.

"For the first time this season, this team will have to show what they can do with thousands of people cheering against them," Carr said.

"The crowd is, from every report I get and every coach I spoke to, a real factor. You have to learn to communicate without talking, because talking doesn't do you any good."

Autzen is indeed a difficult place for opponents.

Oregon hasn't lost a nonconference game at home since 1994, when the Ducks lost to Utah -- a streak of 19 games.

Michigan looks like the team to change that.

It isn't only that the Wolverines have the nation's top-ranked running game, with Chris Perry averaging 183 yards behind an imposing offensive line.

Michigan also has the nation's best scoring defense, giving up 3.3 points a game.

It's a tall order for an Oregon team that collapsed last season, losing six of its last seven games in a defensive meltdown that ended with the Ducks ranked 115th in the nation against the pass.

"Michigan's a great football team," Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti said. "Watching them on film, there's not a lot of weaknesses that you spot.

"They've only given up one touchdown the entire year so far. They're giving up 3.3 [points] a game and only lost 10 yards rushing the entire season ... So there are some amazing things they are doing.

"Something's got to give, though. I think they haven't been scored on in the first, second or fourth quarter. Obviously, we need to try to change that."

Oregon will be trying to do that with an offensive lineup as unorthodox as some of its uniforms.

The Ducks play two quarterbacks -- Kellen Clemens and Jason Fife.

Combined, the two lead the nation in passing efficiency.

They have started three tailbacks -- Terrence Whitehead, Ryan Shaw and Chris Vincent -- and a fourth, Kenny Washington, was the leading rusher against Nevada.

They also have two big-play receivers, Samie Parker and Demetrius Williams. Each has two 100-yard receiving games already, and Williams has scored five touchdowns.

Then there are these statistics to consider.

In three previous games against Michigan, Oregon hasn't scored, losing by a combined 59-0.

And even though it was the Ducks' passing defense that didn't fly last season, the rushing defense was ripped for 256 yards by Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl.

But it's a new season -- and the game's in the Greenhouse.

"Our kids are excited and our town's excited," Bellotti said.

*

Pac Bits

Arizona Coach John Mackovic survived a player-mutiny last season. Now many fans have seen enough after a victory over Texas El Paso was followed by a 46-point loss to Louisiana State and a 38-point loss to Oregon.

After chants of "Fire Mackovic" in the student section Saturday and the appearance of the now-standard fire-the-coach Web site, Athletic Director Jim Livengood backed Mackovic in comments to the Arizona Republic, however faintly.

"I have always said -- and it has been true for the last 19 years as an AD in this conference -- coaches are evaluated at the end of the season, period," said Livengood, whose previous position was at Washington State, former home of the notably unemployed Mike Price.

"Having said that, when you lose and you lose bad, and you have not played particularly well, those are problems. But we are only three games into the season."

Oregon-Michigan isn't the only Pac-10/Big Ten game of the week. Arizona plays at Purdue, California plays at Illinois and Arizona State plays at Iowa.

The Big Ten team is favored in all four games.

Washington State quarterback Matt Kegel's performances against Notre Dame and Colorado have been a mild surprise after he passed for only 108 yards against Idaho.

Kegel passed for 584 yards and five touchdowns in the two games.

"He seems to be more relaxed in the huddle," said Coach Bill Doba, who also praised Kegel's poise against the rush.

Stanford's Luke Powell leads the nation in receptions with 12 a game and receiving yardage at 172 yards a game.

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