Ducks' D rising to the challenge

The big secret to Oregon's success this year? Defense. In the four games since surrendering 45 points to USC -- nearly five below the Trojans' average -- the Ducks haven't given up more than 21, which is impressive in the Pac-10, where offenses dare to rise above Pop Warner sophistication. They rank third in scoring defense (24.5 points per game) and total defense (360 yards per game). Coach Mike Bellotti attributed the success to a variety of reasons, including the high level of play of tackle Haloti Ngata and end Devan Long.

• But the two secret weapons are senior linebacker Anthony Trucks and freshman strong safety Patrick Chung. Trucks, a converted safety, is tied for the Pac-10 lead with eight sacks. He also leads the Ducks with 7.6 tackles per game and has forced three fumbles. Chung is second on the team with 7.2 tackles per game. "I think he's going to become one of the better DBs in this conference by the end of this season," Bellotti said.

• Despite the season-ending ankle injury to starting quarterback Kellen Clemens, Bellotti said his team is the healthiest it's been all season. That includes super-frosh tailback Jonathan Stewart, who has been nursing nagging injuries most of the season. While senior Terrence Whitehead remains the starter, it makes sense that Stewart will get more touches because the Ducks will run more with green sophomore Dennis Dixon taking over at quarterback. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound Stewart, as physically impressive as any back in the country, has scored six touchdowns on just 38 touches this season. "The more carries those guys get, that certainly will help Dennis," Bellotti said.