NCF Nation: Ed Dickson

Building a Pac-10 'House of Pain'

August, 5, 2010
Here's our take on the most painful losses for each Pac-10 team.

Feel free to disagree.


Oregon 44, Arizona 41, 2OT, 2009

With "College GameDay" on campus for the first time, Arizona fans stormed the field in celebration. Prematurely. And that set up a red ring of disappointment around the field at packed Arizona Stadium, when Jeremiah Masoli rallied the Ducks late for a tie in regulation and then a win in double-overtime. As it turned out, if the Wildcats had won, they would have gone to the school's first Rose Bowl. Masoli tied the game at 31-31 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with six seconds left, capping a 15-play, 80-yard drive. Two plays before, he had converted an 8-yard pass on fourth-and-5. Masoli scored the game winner from 1-yard out in the second overtime. It was his sixth touchdown of the night -- three passing and three running. It may have been the best game of 2009.

Arizona State

Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17, Rose Bowl, 1997

So close to a national championship. The Sun Devils' 11-0 regular season included a 19-0 victory over defending national champion Nebraska, and they looked poised to win in Pasadena when Jake Plummer, on third-and-11, scrambled for a touchdown and 17-14 lead with 1:40 to play. But the Buckeyes weren't done. They drove 65 yards for the winning score, with David Boston hauling in a touchdown pass from five yards out with 19 seconds left. That pass was thrown by Ohio State's backup quarterback, Joe Germaine, who came off the bench to earn game MVP honors. Germaine was born and raised in Arizona and grew up rooting for ASU but opted to go to Ohio State because the Sun Devils coaches wanted him to play defensive back.


USC 23, California 17, 2004

Cal dominated the best USC team of the Pete Carroll era -- the Bears outgained the Trojans 424 yards to 205 -- but a comeback attempt fell short at the end. It was the Bears only regular season loss, despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers tying an NCAA record by completing 23 consecutive passes. Rodgers was nearly perfect until three throws missed from the USC 14-yard line in the final minute. Cal was undone by poor special teams play and three turnovers (versus one from USC). Making the defeat even more bitter: After a lobbying effort from Texas coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns eclipsed the Bears in the BCS standings and played in the Rose Bowl, which relegated Cal, which hadn't played in the Rose Bowl since 1959, to the Holiday Bowl, where they played without passion in an upset lost to Texas Tech.


Arizona 34, Oregon 24, 2007

It's hard to decide between the 49-42 loss to Stanford in 2001 -- the Ducks lone defeat that season -- or this one (the 2000 Civil War defeat also deserves note). The Stanford loss -- after leading 42-28 -- ended a 23-game winning streak and was the Ducks first home loss in four years. It also cost the Ducks a shot at the national title against Miami. At Arizona in 2007 on Thursday night on ESPN, the 8-1 Ducks were ranked No. 2 and quarterback Dennis Dixon was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner. They led 8-7 and were driving when Dixon blew out his knee (he'd first hurt it 12 days before versus Arizona State). Things mostly fell apart from there, in the game and over the final two games of the regular season. Here's the distinction: 2001 and its final No. 2 ranking still rate as the best season in program history. If Oregon had beaten Stanford, however, it would have played Miami in the Rose Bowl, the BCS title game, and that Hurricanes team was, well, awesome (in the real sense of the word). If the 2007 Ducks had won out and played LSU or Ohio State for the national title, their chances would have been very good to win the program's first national title. Instead, the season ended in major disappointment -- the Sun Bowl -- and an overwhelming sense of what might have been.

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The NFL draft teaches hard lessons. Two USC players are learning that now: Taylor Mays and Everson Griffen.

Mays would have been a first-round pick last year. I know folks believe his perceived weaknesses would have revealed themselves on film Insider then just as they did this season. But the 2008 USC pass defense was simply extraordinary in large part because of Mays playing an intimidating and impenetrable center field.

So Mays blew it by coming back for his senior season. And he now knows this.

As for you, San Francisco 49ers fans: Didn't you guys do fairly well a few years back with another hard-hitting former USC safety? I got a $5 bill right here that says Mays is going to become an outstanding NFL safety.

Griffen is another story: First-round talent with questions about his attitude and work ethic. (Keep this in mind about Mays: his work ethic couldn't be any better).

Who would have thought that Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim would go before Griffen? Te'o-Nesheim is superior to Griffen in only one way but its a critical one: motor. Griffen's is questionable, Te'o-Nesheim's is not.

The lesson here is that being good isn't enough. The NFL cares about the entire package. And NFL teams don't want players who aren't self-starters, who don't motivate themselves.

Take note incoming five-star recruits.

Here are the Pac-10 picks to this point (11:15 a.m. ET ).

First round
DE Tyson Alualu, California, Jacksonville (10)
RB Jahvid Best, California, Detroit (30)

Second round
DT Brian Price, UCLA, Tampa (35)
S T.J. Ward, Oregon, Cleveland (38)
TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, New England (42)
S Taylor Mays, USC, San Francisco (49)
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford, Minnesota (51)
OT Charles Brown, USC, New Orleans (64)

Third round
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon, Baltimore (70)
WR Damian Williams, USC, Tennessee (77)
LB Donald Butler, Washington, San Diego (79)
DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona, Houston (81)
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, Philadelphia (86)
OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, Cleveland (92)
CB Kevin Thomas, USC, Indianapolis (94)

Fourth round
DE Everson Griffin, USC, Minnesota (100)
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA, Tennessee (104)
CB Walter Thurmond, Oregon, Seattle (111)
RB Joe McKnight, USC, New York Jets (112)

What to watch in the Pac-10 this spring

February, 19, 2010
Taking a look at what to watch for as teams head into spring practices, officially ringing the bell on preparations for the 2010 season.

Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

The new coordinators: The Wildcats lost two outstanding coordinators -- Sonny Dykes on offense and Mark Stoops on defense -- and decided to replace them with four guys. Tim Kish, promoted from linebackers coach, and Greg Brown, hired away from Colorado, will run the defense, while Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrell, both promoted from within, will run the offense, with an assist from new quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo. These guys will need to develop a coaching rhythm this spring that will ensure things go smoothly in the fall.

The JC linebackers: The Wildcats must replace three starting linebackers, and JC transfers Derek Earls and Paul Vassallo weren't brought in to watch. If they step into starting spots, then guys like sophomore Jake Fischer, redshirt freshman Trevor Erno and redshirt freshman Cordarius Golston can fight over the third spot and add depth.

Foles 2.0: Quarterback Nick Foles was dynamic when he was on last year, but the shutout loss in the Holiday Bowl served as a reminder that he's not there yet. He's going to be surrounded by a lot of weapons at the skill positions, so he should be able to take another step forward this spring, even with the loss of Dykes.

Arizona State
Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

The QB battle: It's a wide-open battle between Michigan transfer Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler, though the new guy -- Threet -- is perhaps the most intriguing. Samson Szakacsy was supposed to join the battle, but his elbow problem is acting up again, coach Dennis Erickson said Thursday. The competition will be overseen by new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who's been handed an offense that has sputtered the past two seasons.

O-line issues (take 3): The Sun Devils' offensive line has struggled three years running, and it won't matter who starts at QB if the unit continues to get pushed around. First off is health. Will Matt Hustad, Zach Schlink, Garth Gerhart, Mike Marcisz and Adam Tello be ready to battle the entire spring? If so, there should be good competition here, particularly with a couple of JC transfers looking to break through.

The secondary: The Sun Devils were very good against the pass last year, but three starters in the secondary need to be replaced. Both starting corners are gone -- though if Omar Bolden successfully returns from a knee injury he should step in on one side -- as well as strong safety Ryan McFoy. The good news is a number of guys saw action here last fall, so the rebuilt unit won't be completely green.

Spring practice starts: March 6
Spring game: N/A

What to watch:

Embattled Riley: When things go well, the quarterback often gets too much credit. When things go badly... well, you know. Senior Kevin Riley has started 22 games and has played well at times. But there's a reason he's in a quarterback competition for a third consecutive season. Will he be able to hold off a rising Beau Sweeney this spring?

Rebuilding the D: The Bears had questions on defense even before coordinator Bob Gregory unexpectedly bolted for Boise State. Five starters need to be replaced, including mainstays like end Tyson Alualu and cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, both first-team All-Pac-10 performers. And with Gregory gone, a new, likely more aggressive scheme now must be incorporated.

RB depth: Shane Vereen is the obvious starter after the departure of Jahvid Best, but Cal has, during the Tedford years, always used two backs. So who's the No. 2? Sophomore Covaughn DeBoskie was third on the team with 211 yards rushing last year, while promising freshman Dasarte Yarnway redshirted. One or the other will look to create separation.

Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

The D-line: The Ducks lost perennially underrated end Will Tukuafu, tackle Blake Ferras and backup Simi Toeaina up front. Considering the plan is to run an eight-deep rotation, there will be plenty of opportunities for players like ends Terrell Turner and Taylor Hart and tackles Anthony Anderson, Zac Clark, Wade Keliikipi as well as 6-foot-7 JC transfer Isaac Remington to work their way into the rotation.

The passing game: The Ducks' passing game was inconsistent last year, though by season's end receiver Jeff Maehl was playing at a high level. Refining that part of the offense with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli would make the spread-option even more dangerous. The receiving corps is looking for playmakers, which means youngsters, such as redshirt freshman Diante Jackson, might break through.

Who steps in for Ed Dickson? Oregon only loses one starter on offense, but tight end Ed Dickson is a big one. David Paulson was a capable backup last year, and mercurial Malachi Lewis may be ready to step up. Expect JC transfer Brandon Williams to work his way into the mix.

Oregon State
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: May 1

What to watch:

Katz steps in: Sean Canfield is off to the NFL, so the Beavers' biggest question this spring is crowning a new starting quarterback. Most observers feel the job is Ryan Katz's to lose, and the sophomore looks good throwing the rock around. Still, being a quarterback is about more than a good arm. If he falters, Virginia transfer Peter Lalich might offer an alternative.

Better defensive pressure: The Beavers run a high-pressure defensive scheme, so when the stat sheet says they only recorded 17 sacks in 2009, which ranked ninth in the conference and was 22 fewer than in 2008, you know something is wrong. The entire defensive line is back, so the hope is a year of seasoning, particularly for ends Gabe Miller, Matt LaGrone and Kevin Frahm will mean better production this fall.

The O-line grows up: The Beavers' offensive line returns four starters from a unit that got better as the year went on. Still, it yielded 29 sacks and the run game struggled at times -- Jacquizz Rodgers often had to make yards on his own. Talented left tackle Michael Philipp, who did a solid job as a true freshman starter, should be much improved. A second year playing together with underrated senior center Alex Linnenkohl also should help.

Spring practice starts: March 1
Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

Replacing Toby: How do you replace Toby Gerhart and his 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns? You do not. But the hope is sophomores Tyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor and senior Jeremy Stewart will provide a solid answer that keeps the Cardinal's power-running game churning. It helps to have four starters back from a good offensive line.

Rebuilding the D: If you toss in linebacker Clinton Snyder and end Erik Lorig, Stanford must replace six defensive starters from a unit that ranked near the bottom of the conference in 2009. The secondary is a particular concern after giving up 23 touchdown passes and a 63 percent completion rate. The hope is good recruiting from coach Jim Harbaugh will provide better athleticism in the back-half. Another issue: There was huge coaching turnover, particularly on defense during the offseason, so new coordinator Vic Fangio & Co. will be implementing new schemes and learning about what sort of talent they have to work with.

Luck steps up: This was Gerhart's team in 2009. Now it's Luck's. He might be the most talented QB in the conference. Heck, he might become a Heisman Trophy candidate before he's done. But life won't be as easy without defenses crowding the line of scrimmage because they are fretting about Gerhart. Luck will need to step up his game -- and leadership -- to meet the challenge.

Spring practice starts: April 1
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Prince becomes king? The fact that offensive coordinator Norm Chow has been such an advocate for sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince should tell you something: He's got the ability. Prince flashed some skills during an injury-plagued 2009 season, and it's important to remember he was a redshirt freshman playing with a questionable supporting cast, particularly the O-line. Prince needs to improve his decision-making, and the passing game needs to develop a big-play capability that stretches defenses.

Front seven rebuilding: UCLA not only must replace six starters on defense, it must replace six guys everyone in the Pac-10 has heard of. And five of the lost starters come from the front seven, and the guys who were listed as backups on the 2009 depth chart won't necessarily inspire confidence. In other words, the Bruins will try to take a step forward in the conference with what figures to be an extremely green defense, particularly up front.

The running game? Know what would help Prince and a young defense? A better running game. The Bruins were significantly better in 2009 than in 2008, but that merely means one of the worst rushing attacks in the nation moved up to ninth in the conference. There's a logjam of options at running back -- with a couple of dynamic runners in the incoming recruiting class -- and the offensive line welcomes back a wealth of experience. It would mean a lot if the Bruins could boost their rushing total to around 150 yards per game (from 114.6 in 2009).

Spring practice starts: TBA
Spring game: TBA

What to watch:

Welcome, Lane Kiffin: The Pete Carroll era is over. Enter Lane Kiffin & Co. In terms of scheme, things will be fairly consistent, seeing that Kiffin was formerly Carroll's offensive coordinator and Monte Kiffin was Carroll's defensive mentor. But there will be a period of adjustment. The guess is the hyper-intense Ed Orgeron might provide a bit of a shock to the D-linemen.

Matt Barkley Year 2: Barkley won't have the president of his fan club -- Carroll -- around anymore. He's a true talent. Everyone knows that, even without Carroll's daily sonnets about his ability. But the numbers show he threw 14 interceptions in 12 games vs. 15 TD passes last year, so he's obviously not arrived. Kiffin runs the offense, so you can expect these two to work closely together. Barkley will have plenty of help on offense, but the talent won't be as good as it was in 2009, with six starters needing to be replaced, including his top two targets (receiver Damian Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy).

Secondary questions: All four starters from the defensive backfield are gone, including center fielder Taylor Mays. It helps that cornerback Shareece Wright, an academic casualty in 2009, will be back. He was a projected starter last fall. There's plenty of talent on hand, but last year's team proved that the Trojans don't always just plug-and-play.

Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:

Unleashing Locker: The return of quarterback Jake Locker was the best news any Pac-10 team received this offseason. Locker's passing improved dramatically in just one year under coach Steve Sarkisian, so it's not unreasonable to expect him to be even better in 2010, particularly with nine starters back on offense and just about every skill player on the depth chart.

Replacing Te'o-Nesheim: Daniel Te'o-Nesheim was a four-year starter who blossomed into an All-Pac-10 performer despite almost no supporting cast. He led the Huskies with 11 sacks in 2009, which was 8.5 more than any other player. Also, opposite end Darrion Jones is gone, and the cast at the position is extremely young. Who's the next pass-rushing threat?

The Butler did it: Linebacker Donald Butler blossomed last year, earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors and leading the Huskies in tackles and tackles for loss (15.5). Toss in E.J. Savannah's failure to earn a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and the Huskies have some questions at linebacker. Mason Foster is a sure thing at one outside position, and Cort Dennison likely will fill a second gap, but there's an opportunity for a young player to fill void No. 3.

Washington State
Spring practice starts: March 25
Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

Tuel time: Coach Paul Wulff decided that freshman Jeff Tuel was the Cougars' quarterback of the future last year, so he opted to start him instead of going with a redshirt season. Tuel showed promise in six games, completing 59 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and five picks. Most of his supporting cast is back on offense, so the expectation is the Cougars' offense could take a significant step forward this fall.

O-line intrigue: Some of the Cougars starting on the offensive line last fall didn't look like Pac-10 players. Injuries and youth made the line a glaring area of weakness, even with veteran Kenny Alfred at center. Alfred is gone, but the expectations are that last year's youth will be saltier after taking their knocks. Plus, a couple of juco additions should be in the mix for starting jobs.

Growing up: There is hope in that 19 starters are back from a team that played a lot of underclassmen in 2009. That youth should mature in 2010. And solid recruiting classes the past two seasons should offer an infusion of young promise.

Pac-10: Biggest shoes to fill in 2010

February, 8, 2010
After every season, starters leave. But not all starters are created equal.

Here are the biggest shoes to fill in the Pac-10 with spring practices just around the corner.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford

How do you replace the best running back in the nation, a guy who scored 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,871 yards? You don't. Those sorts don't come around every season.

The Contenders: Stepfan Taylor and Tyler Gafney will get first crack, as well as Jeremy Stewart, who's coming back from a knee injury. Incoming freshman Anthony Wilkerson could be a dark horse.

Sean Canfield, QB, Oregon State

The first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback became an NFL prospect during a strong senior season. He led the conference with 3,271 yards passing and 21 touchdowns, which tied with Washington's Jake Locker.

The Contenders: This will be a showdown between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich this spring, with Katz starting as the leader.

Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Price could be an NFL first-round draft pick. He led the Pac-10 with 23.5 tackles for a loss in 2009. 'Nuff said.

The Contenders: Good question. The Bruins are perilously thin here, considering both tackles need to be replaced and only senior David Carter has much experience. The answers here might be in the Bruins' recruiting class.

Syd'Quan Thompson, CB, California

The Cal secondary was a huge disappointment this season, but Thompson, a four-year starter and two-time first-team All-Pac-10 performer, was mostly his usually stellar self.

The Contenders: Will Darian Hagan step up in his senior season? Perhaps the answer is sophomore Josh Hill? Or maybe a redshirt guy? The Bears only signed one player listed as a corner in their most recent recruiting class. Expect there to be a lot of competition here this spring.

Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, DE, Washington

Te'o-Nesheim, a high-motor guy who started four years and earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors his final two seasons, ranking third in the conference with 9.5 sacks.

The Contenders: Considering the other end, Darrion Jones, also is gone, the Huskies will trend young here. Andru Pulu was listed behind Te'o-Nesheim on the depth chart, with Talia Crichton and Kalani Aldrich on the other side. There also will be opportunities for younger players here.

Ed Dickson, TE, Oregon

Dickson not only was the Ducks' second-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 551 yards and six touchdowns, the matchup problems he presented forced defenses to scheme specifically for him. That helps an offense in ways that aren't accounted for in statistics.

The Contenders: Junior David Paulson was Dickson's backup last year, and he had some nice moments, but he's no Dickson. JC transfer Brandon Williams and touted incoming freshman Curtis White will be in the mix here.

Kenny Alfred, C, Washington State

Alfred, a four-year starter, was a good player on a bad -- and beaten up -- line. His brain as well as his physical ability will be hard to replace.

The Contenders: Walk-on junior Chris Prummer was listed as Alfred's backup -- largely due to injury -- but Andrew Roxas, who redshirted this year after contracting viral hepatitis, is probably the leader here, though Steven Ayers could move inside to challenge him. Or there could be some reshuffling.

Pac-10 games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
Lots of extraordinary games to choose from, as well as many ways to ascribe greatness: the size of the stage, the competitiveness of the game and the overall strangeness.

And we made the executive decision not to make this a list of USC upset losses -- other than the biggest one of those.

10. Oregon 56, Arizona State 55 (2 OT), 2000: Many of you are drawing a blank, but the ones who saw this one are jumping out of their chairs and going, "Oh man. That one was nuts." Both teams scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. The teams combined for 1,228 yards, 663 of those for the Sun Devils. Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington threw six -- SIX! -- touchdown passes, including three in the fourth quarter, the last of which tied the score with 27 seconds left after the Sun Devils gave away a critical fumble. Arizona State freshman QB Jeff Krohn threw five TD passes, by the way. ASU lost the game when coach Bruce Snyder decided to fake the extra point and go for the two-point conversion in the second overtime. It failed, leaving fans in Tempe stunned.

9. Washington State 30, USC 27 (OT), 2002: Any of you Cougars fans able to muster the memory of kicker Drew Dunning's slide on his knees at Martin Stadium? Dunning sent the game into overtime with a 35-yard field goal and then made the game-winner from the same distance in a victory that was critical to the Cougars' run to the Rose Bowl. The game featured a brilliant quarterback duel between Carson Palmer and Jason Gesser -- Gesser passed for 315 yards, Palmer for 381 -- and a dominant performance from Cougars defensive tackle Rien Long, who went on to win the Outland Trophy. Between this game and the 2006 Rose Bowl, USC lost just once.

8. Oregon 44, Arizona 41 (2 OT), 2009: If Arizona had won this game, we now know the Wildcats would have played in their first Rose Bowl. The Wildcats led 24-14 early in the fourth quarter, but then the game went crazy. With red-clad Arizona fans encircling the field, Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli tied the game in regulation with six seconds left with a touchdown pass to Ed Dickson. Masoli then won it in the second overtime with a 1-yard run. Masoli ran for three TDs and passed for three more.

7. Stanford 24, USC 23, 2007: Greatest upset in Pac-10 history? Maybe. Stanford was a 41-point underdog playing its backup quarterback at No. 2 USC, which had won 35 in a row at home. But Trojans quarterback John David Booty, who foolishly played -- and was allowed to play -- with an injured throwing hand, threw four interceptions, while Stanford's Tavita Pritchard led a clutch, game-winning drive, throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal with 49 seconds remaining.

6. Oregon 37, Oregon State 33, 2009: It was the Civil War for the Roses, with the Ducks earning a berth in the Rose Bowl. While the return of Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount was significant -- he scored a critical touchdown -- the game belonged to redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James, who scored three touchdowns and rushed for 166 yards, and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who ran over Beavers safety Lance Mitchell to convert a fourth-and-3 play from the Beavers' 33 with 3:41 left, as Oregon ran out the final six minutes with its final drive.

5. California 31, Oregon 24, 2007: Sixth-ranked California, featuring a stellar performance from receiver DeSean Jackson, outlasted No. 11 Oregon in a game between two teams that would at one point rise to No. 2 during the season, though both ultimately crumbled. The game turned on a strange play as the Ducks were on the cusp of tying the score. With 22 seconds to go, Dennis Dixon found Cameron Colvin near the goal line, but Colvin fumbled trying to reach the ball into the end zone when he was hit by Marcus Ezeff. The loose ball went through the end zone and was ruled a touchback and possession for Cal.

4. Washington 33, Oregon State 30, 2000: It was the greatest game no one saw because of the late, West Coast kickoff at Husky Stadium. And at the time, its magnitude wasn't clear. The critical play of the back-and-forth affair happened when Washington defensive tackle Larry Tripplett caught Ken Simonton for a three-yard loss on second-and-1 from the Huskies 26-yard line with 42 seconds left. The Beavers panicked and mistakenly spiked the ball -- they had a timeout left -- and then Ryan Cesca missed a 46-yard field goal to tie. It was the Beavers' only loss of the season; they crushed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. They would have played Oklahoma for the national title if they had prevailed. And the win helped the Huskies win the Rose Bowl tiebreaker.

3. USC 23, California 17, 2004: No. 7 California had a first-and-goal on top-ranked USC's 9-yard line with under two minutes left. At that point, Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers had completed 29 of 31 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. But the Bears couldn't punch it in, with USC registering a sack and forcing three incompletions. It was the closest call of the season for the best team of the USC dynasty.

2. USC 34, Notre Dame 31, 2005: The infamous "Bush Push" game. No. 9 Notre Dame was about to knock off top-ranked rival USC and make Irish coach Charlie Weis a national sensation, but Matt Leinart led a drive for the ages in the waning moments as the Trojans prevailed, scoring the winning points when Leinart got a little extra help from Bush on his second effort on a quarterback sneak.

1. Texas 41, USC 38, 2006 Rose Bowl: Perhaps the great game in college football history, particularly considering that the stakes were a national title for two unbeaten teams and the field was packed with talent and future high draft choices. Vince Young almost single-handedly willed his team to the victory -- he ran for 200 yards and passed for 267 more -- and denied the Trojans a third consecutive national title. USC walked away with a laundry list of "what ifs," but the ultimate result was a 34-game winning streak coming to an end.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon's season was encompassed by two bookends of disaster. While what lay in the middle was mostly outstanding -- historically good, even -- the boundaries were made by two terrible incidents, though of much different gravity.

[+] EnlargeNathan Williams
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireA fumbled exchange between Jeremiah Masoli and LeGarrette Blount ended up a touchback for OSU.
Both featured running back LeGarrette Blount.

When Blount punched a Boise State player after the Ducks' humiliating season-opening defeat at Boise State, it became a launching point for a surprising run to the Pac-10 championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

And Blount's fumble with just over five minutes left in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl was the critical, transformational play in the Ducks' 26-17 defeat to Ohio State.

"That was kind of game-changing," said Blount, who spoke to reporters for the first time since the night he melted down at Boise State and was suspended for eight games.

Blount fumbled on a second-and-2 on the Buckeyes' 18-yard line. At that point the Ducks were down 19-17, but their offense had driven for a touchdown on its previous possession and appeared to be finding its rhythm.

After that play, little else went well.

"That one turnover probably was the turning point," tight end Ed Dickson said. "That was probably the game right there. We had the momentum, but once we had that fumble, you could feel the momentum switch."

With his mother in the stands sitting behind the Ducks' bench, Blount scored a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10. He mostly played well, rushing for 36 yards on five carries, looking like the 240-pound, physical runner who was expected to be one of the nation's top running backs during the preseason.

Then the fumble.

It wasn't the stuff of fairy tales. But life is often messy like that.

The fumble, to be fair, wasn't completely Blount's fault. "It was just a miscommunication between me and [quarterback Jeremiah Masoli]," he said.

The punch was his fault, Blount said. But he also wanted to deliver a clear message to reporters who encircled him in the back of the locker room.

No, he hasn't changed much as a person since the incident. Why? Because, he said, that terrible mistake wasn't who he is as a person.

"I'm the same person that I was back then," he said. "I made a mistake. That's all I can say about it. Emotions were running high and I just made a mistake. It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life and I take full responsibility for it. I shouldn't have done it. But you can ask my teammates. You can ask my family and friends. That's not the kind of person I am."

It caused a minor stir at Rose Bowl media day when Blount didn't show up to talk to reporters, despite BCS bowl game rules that every player should be available. Oregon coach Chip Kelly and other officials said Blount simply didn't want to talk.

"I didn't want it to be a distraction to my team," he said. "I didn't want to be chased down by ... ESPN. No offense."

Blount's Oregon career ended with the Rose Bowl. Now he wants to move on, and that means the NFL. Once a solid prospect, Blount's stock has fallen. He's obviously aware of that.

"I haven't really put the NFL stock stuff into perspective," he said. "I haven't really been thinking about it. I've heard people say my stock is down to undraftable and all the way up to my stock is fifth, sixth or seventh rounds. It doesn't bother me."

His Oregon career didn't get its redemptive, happy ending. Much like Blount's career, the evening started with promise but then featured a terrible mistake under the national spotlight.

But Blount is looking forward. That is, of course, all he can do. Maybe his happy ending is ahead? Maybe it will be in the NFL.

"I'm just trying to get there," he said. "I just want that shot. If I get that shot, I can definitely prove to people the [person] they think they saw [at Boise State] is definitely not what I am."
LOS ANGELES -- Look up and down Oregon's roster: Jeremiah Masoli, Ed Dickson, LaMichael James, etc. Mike Bellotti recruited every one of those guys.

But Bellotti, 59, stepped aside as head coach last year and his offensive coordinator, Chip Kelly, stepped in. Bellotti became Oregon's athletic director, giving up the work he'd done his entire adult life.

Then those players and first-year coach stepped up and earned a berth in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi.

Bellotti and the Ducks had some great seasons during his 14 years as head coach -- they finished ranked No. 2 in the country in 2001 -- but they didn't play in a Rose Bowl together.

It's obvious, isn't it? Bellotti has to ache a little, right?

"A little bit but I knew what I was getting myself into," he said.

Bellotti seems far more thrilled that the Ducks are here in Pasadena than disappointed that he won't lead them onto the field on New Year's Day.

He said he thought Oregon might be pretty good this year. His stepping aside, though, wasn't about football. It was a personal and family decision.

"I had family and friends tell me -- football people -- that, 'You're not going to walk away. You've got a quarterback coming back. You've got a good team. USC is going to be down. All the stars are aligned,'" he said.

But he did. And he said he's fine with it. He noted that he did coach in a Rose Bowl -- he was the Ducks' offensive coordinator under Rich Brooks in 1994.

"I have that experience indelibly etched in my heart and my brain," he said. "I will really enjoy going in as the AD. It's still going to be the same pride factor."

It should. Those are his guys out there.
What are three keys for Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi?

1. Play loose: Ohio State carries a heavy burden into the Rose Bowl: its recent futility in big games as well as the Big Ten's sagging national image (fair or unfair). Whatever the players -- and coaches -- say, that is part of their pregame mindset. Oregon? It carries unusual uniforms into the scenic stadium. It carries its fancy-pants swagger. At least it should. While the Ducks have been poised in big games all year, this is the biggest stage by far. How will the young players respond to the moment, particularly if things go wrong early? The Buckeyes' defense figures to be the best unit the Ducks have faced this season. Will that stiff resistance cause frustration? Or what if the Buckeyes' running game has its way against an undersized Ducks defense? Oregon must gear up for a 60-minute game. It can't tighten up or panic if things go wrong early.

2. Attack Pryor: Texas' Vince Young had his "hello world" moment in the 2005 Rose Bowl against Michigan, and it's not impossible to imagine Buckeyes' talented but inconsistent quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, posting his versus Oregon. The Ducks can't let Pryor gain early confidence, and they particularly can't let him run without paying a price. Pryor is banged-up -- he's playing with knee and ankle injuries -- so when he breaks contain on scrambles or takes off on designed run plays, the Ducks need to smack the heck out of him. Make him think. Make him want to slide or run out of bounds. And when Pryor and his powerful but often errant arm drop back to pass, the Ducks can't let him feel comfortable and set his feet. A skittish Pryor is the best kind of Pryor for an opposing defense.

3. Spread the wealth: For Oregon, it all starts with the spread option: quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and running back LaMichael James. Ohio State has to stop that first, and don't be surprised if the Buckeyes' rugged front seven is up to the task early. The key is variety and balance. Such as, the spread option becomes a play-action pass and becomes Masoli to tight end Ed Dickson downfield against man coverage. Or, Masoli takes off to the perimeter but then dumps the ball to receiver Jeff Maehl. A little LeGarrette Blount up the middle for some physical play. And, you know, Masoli throws a pretty good deep ball. Oregon can't let a good Ohio State defense get comfortable. The Ducks must use all of their playmakers and force Ohio State to account for all areas of the field.

2009 All-Pac-10 team

December, 8, 2009
We copped out at running back, but it just didn't seem fair to recognize only two.

First-team offense
QB Sean Canfield, Sr., Oregon State
RB Toby Gerhart, Sr., Stanford
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, So., Oregon State
RB LaMichael James, RFr., Oregon
WR James Rodgers, Jr., Oregon State
WR Damian Williams, Jr., USC
TE Ed Dickson, Sr., Oregon
OG Jeff Byers, Sr., USC
OG Gregg Peat, Sr., Oregon State
OT Charles Brown, Sr., USC
OT Chris Marinelli, Sr., Stanford
C Kenny Alfred, Sr., Washington State
K Kai Forbath, Jr., UCLA

First-team defense
DT Brian Price, Jr., UCLA
DT Stephen Paea, Jr., Oregon State
DE Tyson Alualu, Sr., California
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington
LB Keaton Kristick, Sr., Oregon State
LB Mike Mohamed, Jr., California
LB Donald Butler, Sr., Washington
S Rahim Moore, So., UCLA
S Taylor Mays, Sr., USC
CB Trevin Wade, So., Arizona
CB Alterraun Verner, Sr., UCLA
P Trevor Hankins, Jr., Arizona State

Civil War for the Roses

December, 3, 2009
EUGENE, Ore. -- State pride is the fundamental stake in a rivalry game, and that's certainly at issue tonight in the Civil War.

But so is the Rose Bowl.

[+] EnlargeJeremiah Masoli
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesJeremiah Masoli threw for 274 yards and three scores in last year's Civil War.
The winner goes. The loser knows it operated as a travel agent to Pasadena.

That's never been the case in 112 previous Civil Wars between Oregon and Oregon State, which means the joy and misery on opposite sidelines figure to touch unprecedented extremes when the clock strikes zero in Autzen Stadium.

The simplicity is elegant.

But there's more.

The winning coach? He's almost certainly the Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

The winning quarterback? He's likely the first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback.

The winning fan base? Well, let's just say bragging rights might extend a little bit longer than a year on this one.

The game's national ramifications and the 12 days of hype-accumulation -- both teams were off last weekend -- has created an electric and contentious atmosphere that has consumed the state.

"You just mention the Civil War and you get goose bumps," Oregon tight end Ed Dickson said.

Both coaches have been preaching about "living in the moment" and focusing on the task at hand -- the game itself, not what it means. If either program knows the pratfalls of looking ahead, it's Oregon State. It needed only to win last year's Civil War to advance to the Rose Bowl but suffered a historic 65-38 faceplant -- the most points the program has surrendered -- in front of Beavers fans whose roses brought along for an expected celebration ended up cast down among the detritus of the Reser Stadium stands.

"We really did fall into the trap of being consumed by the thought of going to the Rose Bowl," Oregon State linebacker Keaton Kristick said.

The last of Oregon's four Rose Bowl trips followed the 1994 season. The Ducks would have gone to the Granddaddy after the 2001 season, but it was the BCS title game that year and the computers saw fit to send Nebraska to face Miami instead of the No. 2 Ducks, who stomped Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. (The Buffaloes had crushed Nebraska in the regular-season finale. Ask any Oregon fan about how it went down -- the skulduggery! -- if you have an extra hour or two).

Oregon State has been to the Rose Bowl three times, the last time in 1965. In 1971, the Beavers began a streak of 28 consecutive losing seasons. Ah, but they are 6-5 in the Civil War since 1998, a year that is typically cited as the program's turning point.

The last time either team won a Rose Bowl was 1942, but that's the story for next week.

Both teams didn't exactly explode out of the gate. Oregon looked terrible in a 19-8 loss at Boise State to open the season, and looked worse afterward when running back LeGarrette Blount melted down. The Beavers, typically slow starters, were 2-2 after four games and mostly off the national radar.

The seventh-ranked Ducks (9-2 overall, 7-1 Pac-10) roared back with seven consecutive wins, including beatdowns of California and USC. The No. 16 Beavers (8-3, 6-2) climbed back quietly, re-entering the BCS standings on Week 10 and the AP rankings the following week (in all likelihood a number of poll voters responded to the computers recognizing the Beavers first).

[+] EnlargeJacquizz Rodgers
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireThe Ducks will have their hands full with running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who has scored 20 touchdowns.
Beavers coach Mike Riley seemed comfortable embracing the underdog role.

"I think a lot of people didn't notice us until all of the sudden -- poof -- you look up at the last game and we're playing for the conference championship," he said. "I kind of think that's a neat thing. I do think it surprised some people."

While every year and every team is different, and it's often misleading to bring up last year's game for reference, it's hard to ignore what happened in Corvallis, and both teams were asked about it repeatedly this week. Oregon rolled up 694 yards against one of the nation's best defenses. A few weeks later, that defense pitched a shutout in a Sun Bowl victory over Pittsburgh.

The big question: What will the Beavers do differently to stop the Ducks high-powered spread-option offense, which again has quarterback Jeremiah Masoli at the controls? It seems like Oregon coach Chip Kelly is as curious as anyone.

"We've got to use the first quarter or the first couple of drives to confirm if they are staying with what they've normally done or have they changed to face us," he said.

One of the best things the Beavers can do? Play keep-away, with quarterback Sean Canfield and running back Jacquizz Rodgers churning out first downs as they have done much of the season.

While Riley, who grew up in Corvallis, has played along with reporters looking for colorful quotes about the grandeur of this year's Civil War, Kelly has stuck with his "every game is a Super Bowl for us" line.

Make no mistake, though, everybody on both sides knows what's at stake.

"We are one game away and everybody knows it," Masoli said. "There's one team standing in the way. One more stone to step on before we get to our goal. And Oregon State is it."

And likewise for the Beavers.

What to watch in the Pac-10

December, 3, 2009
Three games will consume your attention, starting with the big Thursday night throwdown for the Rose Bowl.

1. Oregon State needs to play sound run defense: Oregon’s spread-option running game does three things to stress a defense. It tries to fool you. Then it tries to block you. Then it tries to make you miss. It will be first things first for the Beavers defenders: Do your job. That means play within the scheme. Defend your gap. Don’t freelance. The rest is just a physical question. Defeat the block. Don’t miss the tackle. Expect your teammate to do the same.

2. The poised team is going to the Rose Bowl: In last year’s Civil War, Oregon swaggered into Reser Stadium and played fast and loose. And dominated. The Beavers were tight, knowing that a win earned them their first Rose Bowl invitation since the 1964 season. For the Ducks, the Civil War was the thing. For the Beavers, the focus was the Rose Bowl. That's a mistake that coach Mike Riley and his players talked about repeatedly this week. While it could sound counterintuitive, it might help the Beavers to be on the road. Autzen Stadium won’t intimidate the Beavers, and it may help them focus. The Ducks, meanwhile, could tighten up at home -- like the Beavers did -- if things don’t start well.

3. Arizona needs to rediscover its running game to beat USC: What has made the Wildcats' offense so tough the past two seasons is balance. Sure, they spread out a defense, but Arizona has been perfectly comfortable going mano-a-mano with the power running game. But with injury issues at tailback -- starter Nic Grigsby won’t play against the Trojans -- the running game has been inconsistent, at best. Quarterback Nick Foles will need some help against the Trojans defense, which probably will be perfectly comfortable if Foles throws 40 times. Moreover, Foles is nursing a broken bone in his non-throwing hand. Being able to hand the ball off and gain 4 yards will be a big boon to him.

4. Is California or Washington more focused and hungry? Surging Cal is coming off a bye week. It should be rested, but sometimes bye weeks hurt teams that are playing well. Washington is coming off the emotions of a big Apple Cup win, but for the Huskies, this should feel like their bowl game, only in front of their home fans. It’s possible one or both teams will be flat. It’s also possible this will be a spirited battle, with Jake Locker trying to keep the Bears from improving their standing in the Pac-10 bowl pecking order.

5. Ducks stars vs. Beavers stars -- or someone else? Either Oregon’s Jeremiah Masoli or Oregon State’s Sean Canfield is going to be the first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback. It’s also possible that either LaMichael James or Jacquizz Rodgers will be first-team tailback (though both seem like locks for a tripartite backfield with Stanford's Toby Gerhart). Toss in Canfield’s favorite target, James Rodgers, and Masoli’s top man, tight end Ed Dickson, and you have a crew of impact offensive stars hoping for their close-up. On the other hand, big games often produce unlikely heroes. Who might that be? Two names to think about: For the Beavers, tight end Joe Halahuni. For the Ducks, receiver Jamere Holland.
Posted by's Ted Miller

STANFORD, Calif. -- A week after being nearly perfect, Oregon crashed back to earth at Stanford.
 Kyle Terada/US Presswire
 Ducks coach Chip Kelly will have to rally his team after a tough loss.

At least the Ducks already know they can bounce back. Their 51-42 loss to the Cardinal probably won't feel nearly as stunning as the season-opening defeat at Boise State did, particularly without any notable post-game complications.

"The guys' reaction in the locker room is we've been here before," tight end Ed Dickson said. "It all starts with practice on Monday. We've got to win the day. And we didn't win today."

That's for sure. Stanford led by 17 points at halftime and pushed its lead to 20 points in the fourth quarter before the Ducks made a last, desperate and abortive rally.

While a team loses as a team, Dickson and all the other Ducks know what went wrong against the Cardinal.

"We can't allow them to score on every single drive," he said.

The Oregon offense wasn't nearly its finely tuned self for much of the game, at least not the version that piled up 613 yards and looked unstoppable against USC. But it did end up scoring 42 points and rolling up 570 yards.

The problem was Stanford had 505 of its own, and it was evenly spread throughout the game, as well as between running back Toby Gerhart (223 yards rushing, three touchdowns) and quarterback Andrew Luck (251 yards, two TDs).

"We had a real hard time stopping them," Ducks coach Chip Kelly said.

The Ducks entered the game ranked 20th in the nation in total defense (301 yards per game) and 19th in scoring defense (17.13). They had surrendered just 58 points in their first five Pac-10 games.

Gerhart and Luck didn't seem impressed. If the Ducks ganged up to stop Gerhart, Luck beat them downfield. If they dropped into coverage, Gerhart bowled them over.

Stanford also seemed to consistently get the upper hand at the line of scrimmage, and defensive tackle Brandon Bair said the Cardinal confused them with formations that gave them extra blockers at the point of attack.

"It was something we needed to adjust to and it took us too long to do it," he said. "We didn't give it the attention we should have."

As for why the Ducks failed to pressure Luck?

"We needed to keep guys back in coverage and we didn't have a chance to get as much blitzes as we normally wanted," Bair said.

The Ducks were sloppy at times on both sides of the ball, despite not committing any turnovers. They were flagged for nine penalties for 89 yards -- a number of which came at inconvenient times -- and dropped a handful of passes.

Kelly took note of those, but he wouldn't blame them on a hangover from the USC victory.

"We got beat by a better team," he said. "If you say we were looking behind or ahead, it takes away from Stanford. Stanford is a heck of a football team."

Oregon (7-2, 5-1) and Arizona (6-2, 4-1) are the only Pac-10 teams that control their own destiny. They play in Tucson on Nov. 21.

Thus Kelly's message in his locker room after the game

"The same thing I told them after the Boise game: One game doesn't define you," he said.

The Ducks will start their second push for redemption Saturday at home against Arizona
Posted by's Ted Miller

USC's defense ranks 16th in the nation in scoring and total defense. That's pretty good. But two weeks ago, it ranked fourth in scoring and sixth in total defense and hadn't surrendered a touchdown pass.

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Defensive coordinator Rocky Seto said mental lapses were to blame for the big plays the Trojans have given up recently.
Over the past two weeks, in wins over Notre Dame and Oregon State, the Trojans have surrendered five touchdown passes. And 849 yards and 63 points.

That's not so good.

The No. 5 Trojans visit No. 10 Oregon on Saturday in the Pac-10 game of the year. The Ducks' offense ranks 16th in the nation with 34 points a game, despite scoring just eight in their season-opening loss at Boise State.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with Trojans first-year defensive coordinator Rocky Seto.

So give me your general impression of how the defense has played so far?

Rocky Seto: Pretty well, considering all the new faces we've got in there. But we need to continue to get better. But I've been pleased and I just thank God for the type of coaches and players we have. The coaches have done an awesome job of teaching and the players have done an awesome job of learning. There have been a lot of new experiences for a lot of players, so it's been really neat to see.

You guys have given up some yards the past two weeks, particularly in the passing game. Is that a concern and what's going wrong?

RS: Certainly, we'd like to improve in that way. We've really examined it. We've played two really good quarterbacks in [Jimmy] Clausen, a really experienced guy, and [Sean] Canfield, with two excellent coaching staffs. The big thing about it is usually when the breakdowns have happened, we've made a few mental errors. We've talked to them about focusing on not giving those things up. It's been a big emphasis for us.

Who's playing particularly well right now?

RS: You know who's doing a really good job is the defensive line. It's putting pressure on the quarterback. In the linebacking corps, Mike Morgan is doing a really good job. It's been neat to see. Taylor [Mays] has done a really nice job of staying on top and taking care of the deep ball. Kevin Thomas, our left cornerback, has really come around the last couple of weeks.

Has anything surprised you about the defense, or your personnel this season?

RS: I don't know if it's a surprise or shock because we base our performance on how we practice, how we play in practice. Our offense is really talented, so we feel if we can practice really well against them we should expect to play well. In spring practice and fall camp, these guys really performed well. So I don't know if it's a surprise or not, but it's been neat to see the young guys, the new starters, perform and fit into their new roles.

How does it work between you and Pete Carroll on game days? What role do you play in terms of calling the defense?

RS: Coach [Carroll] calls the defenses and basically I add as much input as I can when he asks me. We have a conversation that keeps going on. Really, it's been pretty neat. Ever since I've been a graduate assistant with him, eight or nine years ago, he's been a mentor for me and has taken time to have conversations with me. It hasn't changed much really since we've gotten together. It's been such a blessing to me. It's a constant conversation throughout the game and throughout the week.

What's he like during a game: Is he all business or does he joke around and act like the Pete Carroll most of us see on a day-to-day basis?

RS: He's pretty much on business. However, he'll slip in his personality. He's very poised. He doesn't change too much. But he is very serious on game day, but not to the point he doesn't do much. His personality certainly shows up.

He seems to be enjoying himself during games -- a lot of coaches adopt the stone face.

RS: No doubt. He gets fired up when the offense or defense makes a nice play. It's something he demands from our players -- that they have a good time. If you watch our sidelines, our guys are pretty in tune to what's going on and get pretty fired up. It's just how we conduct ourselves -- our meetings, our practices. It's based on coach's personality.

Give me a scouting report on Oregon.

RS: These guys are an excellent running team, a spread-option team. [Quarterback Jeremiah] Masoli has done a really nice job of running the offense. He looks really poised and composed in there. And he's a fiery guy. He's really impressive. He does some really nice play-action passes where he's been able to hit his targets well, particularly the tight end and [receiver Jeff] Maehl. They do a nice job of running the ball really well and throwing the ball, all of it. A bunch of screens. They get you spread out and try the wide-receiver screen, the tight end screen to Ed Dickson. They've mixed all those concepts really well together.

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon's throwback uniforms Saturday were a tribute to the 1994 team that earned a Rose Bowl berth. The performance against No. 6 California, however, was a tribute to the 2008 squad that rolled over its final three opponents like an alien invasion.

Oregon's shocking 42-3 romp over the listless Bears reintroduced college football to the flash-and-dash Ducks and, particularly, to quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
 AP Photo/Don Ryan
 Jeremiah Masoli threw three touchdown passes in Oregon's win over California.

That debacle at Boise State? It's hard to reconcile that team was the same one playing inside Autzen Stadium on Saturday, the one that gained 524 yards against what was widely considered an outstanding defense.

Masoli finished the 2008 season as arguably the nation's best pass-run quarterback. Yet just a week ago, there was chatter he should be benched. He completed just 4 of 16 passes in the Ducks' win over Utah and was the Pac-10's lowest-rated passer.

Against the Bears, he completed 21-of-25 for 253 yards and three touchdowns.

"That's the Jeremiah Masoli I know," coach Chip Kelly said. "That's why I didn't bench Jeremiah Masoli. He's 11-3 as a starter. Our confidence in Jeremiah is based on demonstrated ability."

Did Masoli feel like he answered his critics and prove he's the guy?

"You'd have to talk to the people who don't think I'm the guy," he said.

Meanwhile, the Ducks' maligned defense basically pitched a shutout. Cal's only points came after Oregon fumbled the opening kickoff. The three-play drive before a 47-yard field goal netted minus-8 yards.

Cal entered the game averaging 489 yards and 49 points per contest. It managed just 207 yards against the Ducks. A week after becoming a Heisman Trophy frontrunner with five touchdowns at Minnesota, Jahvid Best rushed for just 55 yards on 16 carries. He was mostly a spectator as the score got out of hand.

The Ducks' performance was a masterpiece. At least, that's how defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti described it.

"When you're painting, or you're artistic, and the picture in your mind that you put out there turns out the way it did today," he said, "it's like a Picasso."

The only thing that went wrong for Oregon was a knee injury to cornerback Walter Thurmond on the opening kickoff. But Kelly said "it doesn't sound like it's a season- [ending] deal."

While Kelley wouldn't disclose his game plan machinations, his players said the offense was simplified over the past week so Masoli and company would play looser.

"We weren't giving too many reads to myself or the receivers or even the linemen," Masoli said. "We just kind of lined up and played football today."

Another key part of the game plan was Ed Dickson, who's now the Pac-10's premier tight with Arizona's Rob Gronkowski done for the season with a back injury. Dickson entered the game with just four receptions for 58 yards and no touchdowns. He hauled in 11 passes for 148 yards and three scores against Cal.

The 19-8 loss at Boise State and all that went with it -- namely LeGarrette Blount's postgame meltdown -- is the Ducks' least favorite topic, but Dickson understood why it might be hard for some to wrap their minds around the vast distance between the team that looked so feckless on the blue turf and the one that just bludgeoned the nation's No. 6 team.

"Miles and miles," Dickson said. "The way we played the first game, we didn't look like a collegiate team. It didn't look like we knew what we were doing."

While Masoli's transformation merits the lead, the entire offense seemed to simultaneously find itself. Gone were the butterfingers receivers and the confused, overmatched offensive line. The play-calling was masterful on both sides of the ball, seeming to anticipate everything Cal wanted to do.

Said linebacker Spencer Paysinger of the Cal offense: "It was like we already knew what you're about to do and you're still doing it."

Oregon had touchdown drives of 80 and 96 yards. A quarter of Cal's offense came on one pass play.

Dickson, however, isn't sure if the wound sustained against Boise State is completely healed. And that's a good thing.

"This softened it up a little bit," he said. "But the only thing that is going to fix that is if we get into the Rose Bowl or a BCS bowl game."

A week ago, such an assertion would seem absurd. As of Saturday evening, it's not ridiculous to now call Oregon the Pac-10's new frontrunner.

USC visits on Oct. 31. Happy Halloween.


Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- Let's see ... how to sum this one up at halftime.

Oregon is beating the pooh out of No. 6 California.

That's about right.

Stat of the half: Oregon has outgained Cal 304 yards to 79. The Bears entered the game averaging 489 yards per game on offense and giving up 273 on defense. So Cal is having a horrible, no good, rotten, very bad day.

Best player in the half: Welcome back Jeremiah Masoli! Masoli, the lowest-rated passer in the Pac-10, completed 14 of 18 for 155 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He also rushed for 22 yards on five carries. He looks to be completely in control and comfortable in the pocket. Last week, you might recall, he completed just 4 of 16 passes and some wanted to see him benched in favor of backup Nate Costa.

Best call: Chip Kelly said, "Hey, don't we have a future first-day NFL draft pick at tight end?" Ed Dickson entered the game with just four receptions for 58 yards. At the break, he has seven catches for 88 yards with a 26-yard touchdown.

What Oregon needs to do, What Cal needs to do: Oregon needs to keep its foot on the gas -- but be careful with the football. Sort of rare that a team losing three first-half fumbles is grinning. As for Cal, the Bears need to take the opening kickoff and score. They need to find space for Jahvid Best, maybe even in the passing game. And quarterback Kevin Riley needs to get in rhythm.