Two-QB system has worked well for Ducks

  • Tuesday, October 28, 2003 9:00pm
  • Sports

SEATTLE – Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has been criticized for his two-headed quarterback system, but most of the time, it’s worked.

Senior Jason Fife and sophomore Kellen Clemens have roughly split play-calling duties for the 5-3 Ducks, with Clemens having started each game. Although they’ve experienced highs and lows, Bellotti has stubbornly stuck to the formula.

“I feel very strongly that the two-quarterback system, for us right now, is the very best thing we can do,” Bellotti said. “They provide a complement to each other. They bring certain strengths to the field. When it works, it works very well, as it has in five of the eight games. In the other three, we didn’t play very well and neither separated from the other via their performance.”

The duo hit a high in Saturday’s 35-0 victory over Stanford. Clemens was 15-for-17 passing for 149 yards, while Fife was 8-for-10 for 116 yards. Clemens’ 88.2 percent completion rate broke a school record.

In the season opener, a 42-34 victory at Mississippi State, Clemens was 14-for-21 for 247 yards and three touchdowns, while Fife completed all eight of his attempts for 111 yards and a TD.

It goes against what most coaches want, a No. 1 guy they can count on, but Bellotti is no stranger to the two-quarterback system.

In 1997, Akili Smith and Jason Maas split time in nine of the Ducks’ 12 games. In 1999, A.J. Feeley started the first eight games before Joey Harrington started the last four. In those seasons, Oregon was 22-13.

Perhaps it is Oregon’s history of winning with the dual-QB system that makes it easier for everyone. Bellotti says neither Clemens nor Fife has shown jealousy of the other.

“I think they have handled it very well, whether it has gone good or bad,” Bellotti said. “They are very supportive of each other. As such, we hope to keep the same thing going.”

Although they have diffuse skills (Fife is the better runner and is tied for the team lead in rushing TDs with five), UW coach Keith Gilbertson says the Huskies’ defensive philosophy won’t change, whoever is the quarterback.

“I think you defend Mike’s system,” Gilbertson said. “I think you defend his schemes. His systems are interchangeable. I think they are capable of doing the same things. Both are talented guys and they have such a prolific history offensively since Mike has been at Oregon. You really defend the system as best you can.”

It helps when a team has receivers such as Samie Parker and Demetrius Williams.

Parker, who finished fifth in the NCAA 100-meter finals (10.41 seconds), has 41 catches for 677 yards and three TDs. Williams has 35 receptions and averages 19.3 yards a catch, tops among Pacific-10 Conference receiving leaders.

Both can motor.

“Hopefully, you get a good look from your scout team and you have to step up your game,” UW free safety Jimmy Newell said. “We played probably the fastest team (USC) I’ve seen since I’ve been here last weekend. Hopefully, that will prepare us for another fast team this weekend.”

General hospital: Wideout Charles Frederick, who suffered a bruised chest and shoulder against USC in the first quarter and sat out the rest of the game, could play against the Ducks. Gilbertson said he’ll decide Thursday whether Frederick will play.

“He’ll have to be pretty pain-free,” Gilbertson said.

Cornerback Roc Alexander (shoulder) might not play against the Ducks. Gilbertson said Alexander, a senior, would have to show quick improvement or his first-string repetitions would have to go to a backup.

Tailback Rich Alexis likely will start against Oregon. He did not play against USC because of a severe thigh bruise.

Guard Tusi Sa’au’s sore back isn’t getting any better, prompting Gilbertson to wonder whether he should shut him down the rest of the season. Each week, Sa’au has said he could play, but his recovery time is longer each week.

“I’m more in tune to him having a great life rather than I am getting a few snaps from him,” Gilbertson said.

Also, Owen Biddle will compete with Evan Benjamin for the strong safety spot. Benjamin went out Saturday with a neck stinger, replaced by Biddle.

“I was really impressed with the way Owen played Saturday,” Gilbertson said, “not only is he a really good special-teams player but I thought he played very well at safety. He got around the ball, made some tackles, made some big hits. I think we’ve got to give him a chance to compete.”

Tackling awful: The Huskies will work on tackling this week, a direct result of a lackluster tackling performance against USC.

One problem was a lack of wrapping up a ball-carrier. Instead, too many defenders tried to knock them off-balance, which doesn’t work, especially with the caliber of athletes USC has.

“Ya gotta grab cloth,” linebacker Tim Galloway said.

Gilbertson agreed.

“I thought our people’s tackling was dreadful,” he said. “We got in poor position instead of wrapping up and doing the fundamental things you have to do. I was very, very disappointed in a lot of our tackling.”

Oregon injuries: While not as banged up as Washington, Oregon does have some injury issues.

Cornerback Stevens Moore is questionable because of a sprained ankle. Offensive tackle Michael DeLaGrange, who sat out the first half against Stanford because of back spasms, is questionable against the Huskies.

Short bursts: Saturday’s 7 p.m. game will be the first November night game at Washington and just the seventh night game in Husky Stadium history. Washington is 4-2 in home night games … Washington went into last week last in both red zone offense and defense. Yet, against USC, the Huskies were 4-for-5 in the red zone with three TDs and a field goal. USC had a touchdown and a field goal in its five trips inside the UW 20-yard line … UW reserve safety Owen Biddle has 19 tackles this season, all on special teams … Oregon defensive back J.D. Nelson is the son of former Stanford All-America running back Darrin Nelson. The elder Nelson is Stanford senior associate athletic director … Oregon center Dan Weaver is the brother of San Francisco 49ers tight end Jed Weaver. Both Weavers started at Oregon as walk-ons … Ducks defensive end Devan Long is the brother of former Washington State Outland Trophy winner Rien Long.

Talk to us

More in Sports

Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III celebrates after scoring against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of Sunday’s game in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
Grading the Seahawks in their 37-27 win over the Panthers

Seattle turns in a solid all-around performance in front of the 2013 Super Bowl winners.

Arlington’s defense stuffs Ferndale running back Talan Bungard on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Arlington steamrolls Ferndale in 3A Wesco North showdown

The Eagles light up offense in the first half, finish business to earn a 46-14 win.

Lake Stevens High School head football coach Tom Tri hoists his team’s championship trophy during a community parade and celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2022-23 Man of the Year in Sports: Tom Tri

The Lake Stevens coach guided the Vikings to Snohomish County’s first large classification football state title in more than 30 years.

West Linn’s Ryan Vandenbrink (23) runs with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and West Linn at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. West Linn won, 49-30. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Turnovers cost Lake Stevens in loss to Oregon power West Linn

The Vikings’ run of 35 straight home wins in the regular season ends in an interstate showdown of big-school state champions.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lynnwood teammates mob senior Abbie Orr (4) after her impressive dig led to a point against Jackson during a volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood volleyball team continues rise to prominence

After ending a 20-year state drought last season, the Royals are surging again and have vaulted to No. 3 in Class 3A in the new WSVCA poll.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) scrambles up field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Seahawks set to host Panthers, honor past while focused on present

Seattle will honor the 10-year anniversary of its only Super Bowl championship during Sunday’s game.

Jackson High’s Ben Lee lunges to get to the ball against Kamiak on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022, at the Kamiak Tennis Courts in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep boys tennis season preview: Players and teams to watch

A look at the area’s top athletes and teams on the tennis court this fall.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep roundup for Saturday, Sept. 23

Also, Friday’s non-football prep results.

Most Read