Oregon QB has turned it around

Associated Press
Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon is having a Heisman-worthy year and has been the heart of a team that has surpassed expectations.

EUGENE, Ore. --- After Oregon's victory over Arizona State, Dennis Dixon stood in a tunnel beneath Autzen Stadium. A group of students passed by, chanting "Heisman! Heisman!" at the unlikely candidate.

Dixon smiled.

"It's great," he said. "It's an individual award, but then again I can't credit myself. I take 10 other guys with me. They make it happen."

Oregon's senior quarterback, whose ability and dedication were called into question last season, is certainly having a Heisman-worthy year. He's the heart of a team that has surpassed expectations, and suddenly finds itself in the middle of the national championship picture.

"He is doing all the things necessary of a Heisman candidate," Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said. "He's winning football games. He's leading his team."

Drawing comparisons to Vince Young for his ability to run and pass, Dixon has thrown for 2,074 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, with only three interceptions. He's also rushed for 549 yards and eight scores.

Dixon's quarterback rating of 163.1 is fourth in the nation, and he's averaging just over 291 yards per game in total offense.

Who would have thought all this was possible a year ago?

Dixon started 11 games last season, throwing for 2,143 yards and 12 touchdowns -- with an unsightly 14 interceptions.

Dixon then raised eyebrows in the off-season by playing baseball in the Atlanta Braves' organization.

But Dixon seemed to return this season with renewed enthusiasm. He also hit it off with new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, who took over when Gary Crowton departed for LSU.

"Chip Kelly has done a great job of helping him understand a few things more about this offense and the corresponding response of the defense," Bellotti said.

For results of Thursday night's Louisville-West Virginia game, go to: www.augustachronicle.com">style="bold">www.augustachronicle.com.

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