18 Oregon

With a strong season from country-boy quarterback Kellen Clemens, the Ducks will make hay in the Pac-10
August 15, 2004

Between starring at quarterback and studying for a business degree, Kellen Clemens drives around the Eugene campus in a white 1997 Ford F-150 pickup. Pictures of his parents and four sisters adorn the visors, and bales of hay and four horseshoes are in the bed. The truck, in all its modesty, is a keepsake from home. “It’s got some character to it,” he says. “I keep the hay and horseshoes in there as constant reminders of who I am and where I’m from.”

Clemens was raised in Burns (pop. 2,900), a speck in the high desert of eastern Oregon, but he could easily hail from the pages of a Larry McMurtry novel. He grew up on the family’s 120-acre ranch, which has 170 head of cattle but no TV. The sixth generation in his family to work the land, Clemens and his sisters each spring would help their parents brand the cattle and then drive the herd 15 miles to a field for feeding. Six months later they’d make the return trip. “I’m a country kid through and through,” he says.

Take the kid out of the country, and the 6'2", 215-pound junior looms as one of college football’s breakout players this fall. Last year Clemens started all 13 games but was platooned with Jason Fife until the Nov. 8 test against Cal. After Clemens directed the Ducks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 21–17 comeback win, he became the full-time quarterback. Over Oregon’s last four games Clemens completed 64.6% of his passes for 788 yards and nine touchdowns as the Ducks went 3–1. A career-best performance in a 31–30 Sun Bowl loss to Minnesota--he was 32 of 42 for 363 yards and three touchdowns--capped the season.

If an inexperienced receiving corps proves capable, Clemens could emerge on the national scene much like former Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington did in 2000. “Kellen’s best games are ahead of him,” Oregon coach Mike Bellotti says. “He got better over the course of last season, and I expect great progress this season.”

He’s looking for his program to make a similar advance. Since winning the Fiesta Bowl and finishing ’01 as the nation’s No. 2 team, Oregon has gone 15–11 and allowed USC to overtake it as the Pac-10’s top program. “The last two years have been disappointing for us,” Bellotti says, “but I believe we’re going in a positive direction.” --G.M.

FAST FACTS

2003 RECORD 8–5 (5–3, T3 in Pac-10)

FINAL AP RANK NR RETURNING STARTERS 13

KEY RETURNEES (2003 stats)

QB Kellen Clemens (Jr.)

18 TDs beat Dan Fouts’s team record for sophs

WR Demetrius Williams (Jr.)

51 receptions, eight TDs, 18.3 yards per catch

RB Terrence Whitehead (Jr.)

990 yards rushing and receiving combined

T Adam Snyder (Sr.)

First team All–Pac-10 following move from LT

DE Devan Long (Jr.)

Conference’s top returning sacker (11 1⁄2)

TELLING NUMBER

8

Points needed by senior kicker Jared Siegel to pass Derek Loville (272 points, 1986 through ’89) as Oregon’s alltime leading scorer.

BREAKOUT PLAYER

Redshirt freshman Garren Strong replaces the departed Samie Parker, the school’s second alltime leading receiver. Strong has the size (6'3", 195) recent Oregon wideouts have lacked, and he dazzled in the spring. “He makes some one-handed catches that make you go, ‘Wow, I hope we got that on film,’” says coach Mike Bellotti.

SCHEDULE

Sept. 11 INDIANA

18 at Oklahoma 25 IDAHO

Oct. 2 ARIZONA STATE 9 at Washington State 16 ARIZONA 23 at Stanford 30 WASHINGTON

Nov. 6 at California

13 UCLA 20 at Oregon State

COLOR PHOTORICK BOWMER/AP ACE HURLER After taking over the starting job in early November, Clemens connected on nearly 65% of his throws.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)