Monday, September 24, 2012

Oregon offense keeps nation talking

   The University of Oregon has been a staple of the Associated Press national rankings for most of the past three years, and is a regular part of the Top 5 among national voters.
   Oregon's offense played a solid, although not spectacular, role in Saturday's 49-0 trouncing of Arizona at Autzen Stadium. The team's defense returning two interceptions for scores did plenty to help voters move the Ducks up from No. 3 past LSU and it's lame 12-10 victory over unranked Auburn.
   Oregon is doing its part rather routinely to stay on track to the Pac-12 title game. That game, though, is a week after ... the Civil War, which hasn't been much of a game for some time. Oregon State hasn't been much of a threat to the Ducks recently, but that seems to have changed in the past month because of OSU's defense. OSU has played well enough that it is a threat entering Week 5 to win the Pac-12 North.
   Oregon State?
   With a 27-20 victory over UCLA at the Rose Bowl and on ABC, the Beavers showed off they can beat a nationally-ranked team for the second time this season, and with a dominating defense that gave up only a few big plays - not consistent drives.
   Both Oregon and OSU earned rankings Sunday, Oregon up one spot to No. 2 and the Beavers moving from a few votes to No. 18 showing that much of the nation paid attention to not only the final score, but how the final score of Saturday's game came about.
   OSU's got a defense and a savvy offense that can put together consistent drives.
   Put the two Oregon schools together, and you can start to look at their schedules and ponder thatNov. 24 game - Oregon at Oregon State. The Civil War. Will that be the game that sends an Oregon school to the Pac-12 title game for the second-straight year?
   Stanford appears as the main test having moved to No. 8 after its win over No. 3 USC two weeks ago.
   USC dropped to No. 13, but looks like the team that will win the Pac-12 South and be the opponent in the title game.
   UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State all received votes in the poll Sunday.
Stanford gives the Pac-12 North a trio of ranked teams and a pair of exciting contests: OSU at Stanford, Nov. 10, and Nov. 17, Stanford at Oregon.
   The Pac-12 Title game will be played Dec. 1.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

It's not the win, it's the health Saturday

   For the first time this season the Ducks will be without veterans John Boyett and Carson York when they battle Tennessee Tech Saturday afternoon at Autzen Stadium.   
   Boyett, senior safety, will undergo season ending surgery on both patellar tendons and York, Oregon’s most experienced offensive lineman, will undergo season ending surgery to repair his broken knee cap. 
   Both players bring impressive leadership to their respective positions with a combined 72 career starts between them. With this major blow to Oregon’s offensive line it is assumed that Tennessee Tech will be bringing a few more men in the box to create a high pressure situation for red shirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota. 
   After York was injured against Fresno State the Bulldogs blitzed heavily which disrupted the Ducks offensive consistency and you can bet the Golden Eagles will adopt that strategy.
    Junior corner, Avery Patterson, will start in place of Boyett. 
   Last season Patterson recorded 55 tackles and appeared in all 14 games but replacing such a hard hitting leader like John Boyett will be no easy task; Patterson will have his work cut out for him come Saturday. 
   With the loss of Boyett don’t expect to see Tennessee Tech take to the air more than they originally planned, although depth is running thin, Oregon’s secondary is a disciplined unit that demands respect from opposing QB’s.
   With Oregon heavily favored in this game they should walk away with the win, but in order to consider this victory a success, the Ducks will need to accomplish the following: consistency has been a problem for Oregon in this previous two games, having outscored opponents 85-16 in the first half but then being outscored 43 -14 in the second half. 
   Heading into Pac-12 play, the Ducks need to stay vigilant after halftime and maintain their focus even if the starters are on the bench. 
   After suffering injuries last week, Oregon is still in prime shape with talented backups but any other mishaps to their secondary or offensive line could be costly. Avoiding injury and protecting their starters should be a high priority for the Ducks. 
   The last thing Oregon needs is inexperienced players on the field when they take on a much improved Wildcat team on Sept. 22. With that being said Oregon needs a fast start, even faster than normal allowing them to sit their stars and let players lower on the depth chart get some in-game experience. 
   The Ducks should be less concerned with winning this game, which is inevitable, and more concerned with escaping unharmed.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A worthy outcome regardless of price

By JUSTIN BURR, oregonsports writer
   It's been a long 242 days since the Ducks were last in action but the wait is finally over.
   This Saturday the men in green and yellow will storm out of the tunnel in front of a electrified Autzen stadium in their season opener against Arkansas State.
   Fans might see a few open seats on Saturday evening as Oregon’s 82 home game sellout streak will most likely come to an end due to high ticket prices and an unworthy opponent. Rest assured that the Autzen crowd will be fired up and louder than ever.
   Encased in the stunning new uniforms will be a bounty of new talent. Most notably will be redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota in the starting quarterback role.
   This QB race was so closely fought that it gives the Duck faithful much comfort in the depth at the position. If something were to happen to Mariota it would seem that the Ducks wouldn’t miss a beat with Bennett behind center. Experience will be the biggest limiting factor in the young quarterback's success but luckily he will have a few games to break in his skills.
   Oregon opens the season with a four-game homestand against less-than-intimidating opponents, which is perfect for a quarterback with zero in-game experience. Depending on how teams defend Oregon, Mariota might bring a more dynamic running game to the offense.
   Last season, Darron Thomas saw a significant decrease in rushing having only attempted 56 plays as opposed to the previous season in which he took off running 93 times. Mariota is likely to run more.
   Filling the shoes of David Paulson at tight end  might be the most daunting task that the Oregon offense faced this offseason. Sophomore Colt Lyerla will be getting a majority of the reps but veteran Jennings Stewart could bring some maturity to the position. Being a fifth-year senior and having played on both sides of the ball, Stewart has a great football IQ, which will come in handy while he assists his younger teammates. This mentoring role he will play to the younger tight ends might cost him his starting spot on the roster, but his attitude is geared toward team success not individual glory.
   Defense will stand out on Saturday as this fierce squad is finally getting the recognition they deserve. Head Coach Chip Kelly attributes their BCS three-peat to the defense, and, although he won’t say it’s the best group he’s coached, he will admit they are good.
   Oregon’s defense ranked fifth in the conference in pass defense last season and the young secondary unit looks to improve upon that this season.
   Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu  will be the starting corners and with a year of experience under their belts, opposing quarterbacks better think twice before heaving the rock into coverage. Last year Mitchell broke up 10 passes and took 2 the other way, he’s a threat anytime the ball is near.
   Oregon should put a mark in the win column with ease come Saturday, but this game will provide much needed growth to the young starting squad.
   Chip Kelly and company pride themselves on preparation and one can only assume they have prepared for this game just as they have prepared for every other game which is a recipe for success.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oregon fans ready for 'Hot' season

September 1 is fast approaching and with it comes the most highly-anticipated Duck football season in recent history - at least since last year. 
Chip Kelly enters his fourth season as head coach where he looks to extend his conference dominance and reach a stunning fourth consecutive BCS bowl. 
It was a stressful off-season for Oregon fans when rumors surfaced that their beloved coach would be taking his talents to South Beach, but Kelly stated that he had “unfinished business” in Eugene and would remain with his Ducks. 
It's hard to imagine he feels this way after the magnitude of success he has experienced in his short tenure. 
It is possible he's referring to the hours he has yet to spend in his new personal hot tub recently installed in his office.
The Ducks have built a winning tradition in the past few years and if that is to continue new talent will need to emerge. 
While the departure of LaMichael James to the NFL is a blow to Oregon’s backfield, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are ready to pick up the slack without hesitation. 
Darren Thomas’ decision to leave came as a shock to most and set up a tense quarterback battle that has yet to be resolved. Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota and sophomore Bryan Bennett have been putting their skills to the test in hopes of leading the Fighting Ducks out of the tunnel against Arkansas State in the season opener with the garnished title of ‘starting quarterback.'
Kelly has yet to make a decision, but is confident in both player’s abilities. 
Possibly the biggest shoes to fill are that of tight end David Paulson who not only started every game last season, but averaged 31.3 yards per game with a total of six touchdowns. Colt Lyerla will be stepping into the starting role despite his unexplained absence at the first day of fall camp.
Coaches, players and most of all, fans, have high expectations regarding this season. Anything less than a conference title and at least a Rose Bowl berth would be considered disappointing.   
Kelly attributes his motivation for success to be the opportunity to ‘go last’ at Pac-12 media day ensuring a decreased quantity of reporter questions that the earlier coaches face. Whatever the motivation, the Ducks certainly have it and all questions will be answered on the gridiron in less than a month against Arkansas State.
  - Justin Burr