NCF Nation: LeGarrette Blount

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There is a school of thought, now apparently subscribed to by a handful of desperate NFL teams, that if that uber-suave, hirsute gentleman from those wildly entertaining Dos Equis beer commercials revealed his true identity, he would rip off a bearded mask and reveal Chip Kelly.

Is Kelly the most interesting man in the world?

Pause for a moment before chortling over our potential hyperbole, for Kelly has packed a lot into his 52-game tenure at Oregon, including 45 victories.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Don RyanChip Kelly doesn't often discuss his life with writers, but when he does, his answers are revealing.
He has run with the bulls in Pamplona. He has led the Ducks to three Pac-12 titles and four BCS bowl games. He has done humanitarian work in Africa. He has produced Oregon's first Rose Bowl victory in 95 years. He has visited U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kelly, 49 and single, is also fiercely private. He has never cooperated with any truly in-depth "This is your life, Chip Kelly!" story, which is exceedingly rare for a high-profile coach. Nearly all his close friends are back in New Hampshire, where he's from and where he went to college.

Kelly doesn't like glad-handing boosters, something often viewed as a prerequisite for being a college coach. He particularly dislikes talking to reporters, and he goes to great lengths to make sure they understand.

The Dos Equis guy says, "Stay thirsty, my friends." Kelly would say, "Stay away, annoying hangers-on."

Yet the vast majority of Ducks fans not only love all the winning, they love Kelly for his wiseacre, smirking self. They chant "Big Balls Chip!" inside rocking Autzen Stadium to celebrate Kelly's penchant for going for it on fourth down, going for 2 and launching onside kicks at surprising times.

He tells fans, "Shut up!" for cheering behind him during an ESPN postgame interview, and they love him more. A Twitter page, Chipisms, celebrates not only Kelly's amusing or insightful wisdom -- “I saw the ‘Feel Sorry for Yourself’ train leaving the parking lot & none of our players were on it, so that was a good sign” -- but also for his snark.

Inquiries that Kelly doesn't like might get one-word answers, clichéd responses or snappy rejoinders that belittle his inquisitors. Questions that engage him, however, receive full and thoughtful treatment. Consider this response from an ESPN story on Kelly's trip to Africa, when he worked with adolescent girls who had no idea who he was.

"The real heroes are the little girls in Africa who are trying to better themselves so they can help their families," he said. "When I hear a coach say, 'We're grinding.' I'm like: You're sitting in a room with air conditioning watching videotape. That's not grinding."

There seem to be three facets to Kelly. His standoffish public face, the detail-obsessed coach and the Renaissance man determined to drink life to the lees away from the game. Even the hard-driving, "win the day" side of Kelly can loosen up behind closed doors; those who work with him frequently cite his sense of humor.

"He [jokes around] all the time," said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, a leading candidate to replace Kelly should he bolt for an NFL job. "It's not: 'Aha, he smiled! Isn't that amazing?' It's daily. We have a lot of fun."

Further, while Kelly's offense almost always runs like a finely tuned machine, plenty of, er, interesting things have been interspersed with winning during Kelly's tenure. Drama has not been lacking over the past four seasons.

His first game as Oregon's head coach remains his worst: A 19-8 loss at Boise State. Not only did the Ducks gain an embarrassing 152 total yards, but Kelly's star running back LeGarrette Blount punched a Broncos player afterward, bringing the hot light of controversy to his team's feckless performance.

Some thought Kelly was in over his head. He answered that by becoming the first Pac-10 coach to lead a team to an outright conference championship his first season.

Oh, and in a sign of interesting things to come, when a season-ticket holder wrote Kelly demanding a refund for his expenses incurred after attending that disastrous trip to Boise, Kelly quickly fired off a note with a personal check for $439.

Heading into 2010, starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was suspended after he was involved in the burglary of an Oregon fraternity house. Losing a star quarterback typically would damage a team's chances, but all Kelly's team did was finish undefeated and play for the national championship, losing 22-19 when Auburn kicked a last-second field goal.

The NCAA came calling during the 2011 offseason, wanting to know details of Kelly's and the program's dealings with street agent Willie Lyles. A distraction? Nope. Oregon won the conference a third consecutive year and the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.

Kelly then nearly left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His quarterback, two-year starter Darron Thomas, had already opted to leave the program, which again threw into question the Ducks' prospects. But Kelly returned and so did the winning, with redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors while leading the Ducks to a No. 4 ranking and a Fiesta Bowl berth opposite Kansas State.

Yet he arrives at the Fiesta Bowl amid swirling rumors that he's about to leave for his pick of available NFL jobs. Asked about his NFL ambitions this week, he gave a 235-word answer that essentially said "no comment."

"My heart is to win the day, and that’s it," he concluded. "I know everybody wants to hear a different answer, and I know at times when I don’t give you guys the answer you guys want, then I’m being evasive. I’m not being evasive. My job is to coach the University of Oregon football team, and I love doing it. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

So the question will linger for a coach who at the very least is currently the most interesting man in college football: Will the Fiesta Bowl be his last day to win for Oregon?
Be prepared. Oregon coach Chip Kelly won't talk big picture this week. He won't talk about national perception or the beauty contest that college football is. A reporter will note to him that Oregon has beaten Washington eight consecutive times by at least 17 points, and he'll shrug.

(I bet inside he'll go, "Sweeeeet!" but outside, he'll shrug).

And he'll be right. Oregon has done a pretty good job under Kelly -- to the tune of 39-6 over three-plus seasons -- focusing on the present moment rather than looking ahead or back.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Kirby Lee/US PresswireA convincing win over Washington could go a long way in helping Chip Kelly and Oregon earn a spot in the BCS title game.
While it's perfectly reasonable for civilians to wring their hands over how a victory looked, as Oregon fans have over the first-half sloppiness against Washington State, Kelly's Ducks have a pretty simple formula ahead of them. If they win all of their games -- pretty or not -- the odds are extremely high they will play for the national championship. Again.

So, let's note in advance that the Ducks don't really need style points against Washington on Saturday in Autzen Stadium. They don't need to ring up a ninth consecutive blowout over that team in purple whom Ducks fans regard with such loving warmth. They don't need to match the domination of LSU's 41-3 beatdown of the Huskies a couple of weeks ago in Baton Rouge.

But it certainly wouldn't hurt.

A dominant win would further cement the national perception of the Ducks as the nation's No. 2 team behind Alabama. Perception, as you know in this, our penultimate year yoked by the BCS system, matters. A tight game going into the fourth quarter might cause some voters to reconsider Florida State, LSU, Georgia or a Big 12 front-runner.

In the event of there being three or more unbeaten teams at season's end, then perception takes over. And don't forget those fickle computers.

The Ducks are 24-point favorites. So the expectation has been set high for an impressive win. Falling short of expectations could have short-term consequences that, potentially, could resonate negatively throughout the regular season.

Of course, the Huskies aren't looking to be a doormat that Oregon can decorate with footprints. They're nationally ranked and feeling pretty rejuvenated after beating then-No. 8 Stanford, a game for which few -- yes, both of your humble Pac-12 bloggers -- expected them to be terribly competitive.

You might recall Oregon's worst offensive performance under Kelly was his first game as the Ducks' head coach, in 2009 at Boise State. In a 19-8 defeat best remembered for LeGarrette Blount's meltdown, the Ducks gained just 152 total yards and six first downs and were 1-for-10 on third-down plays. Suffice it to say, it provided no hints of the offensive pyrotechnics that were ahead for the program.

The Broncos' defensive coordinator on Sept. 3, 2009? That would be Justin Wilcox, who is now running the Huskies' defense.

That has Washington fans crossing their fingers that they can slow the Ducks' offense enough to give QB Keith Price and company a puncher's chance.

Kelly will shrug about Wilcox, too. He'll graciously praise him as a defensive coach. He'll claim the Boise State game holds no sway over his present thinking. He'll talk only about what he and the Ducks can control: their preparation, their attitude and their effort. Hey, it's not personal -- it's business.

But here's a little secret: Kelly is not a robot. He hasn't completely cleansed himself of the emotions -- personalized emotions -- that attach themselves to competitive people. Just as he's well aware that his fans relish the recent domination of Washington probably as much as three consecutive Pac-12 titles, he's also well aware that scoring 50 on Saturday against Wilcox would feel pretty good.

I suspect he'd like to score 50 more than he typically would. (Editor's note: As some of you have noted, he did get 48 against Wilcox when the Ducks visited Tennessee in 2010).

At the very least, doing so would eliminate an annoying angle a reporter can ask him about or write about.
The system of checks and balances is working in Los Angeles. Just consider new UCLA coach Jim Mora's recent hiring of a new new strength and conditioning coach.

The media in Los Angeles is calling attention to a horrible — and infamous — mistake Sal Alosi made when he worked for the New York Jets. It is opining on the riskiness of Mora's hire.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
Nick Ut/AP PhotoUCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, left, poses with new head football coach Jim Mora on Dec. 13, 2011.
That is good. That is the media doing its job, holding public figures accountable for their actions.

And Mora and Alosi are talking about the hiring. They are not hiding.

"I understand the criticism, I expect the criticism, it's completely warranted," Mora told LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke. "But I know the fiber of this man."

That is good: Public figures stepping forward to explain themselves in a controversial situation.

And, by the way, well said, Jim.

I love Mora's hire here all the more, even without knowing a whole lot about Alosi as a strength coach, other than that he seems highly respected by a number of NFL players.

As you long-time readers know, I am a big second-chance guy. I believed LeGarrette Blount deserved a second chance. I believed Rick Neuheisel deserved a second chance. I think the ranting and raving of absolutists who act like everything is black-and-white is a pose, one that my life experience has often found to be situational and hypocritical.

But this isn't about praising Mora for giving a guy a second chance. It's about Mora doing what he wants to do with his team and not fretting the PR angles. This is a revealing moment that Bruins fans should feel good about.

Here's a secret of all good head coaches: They insist on autonomy. They hire who they want to hire. They don't allow administrators to dictate whom they hire. Sure, there are obvious parameters -- felonies and NCAA violations tend to disqualify assistant coaching candidates. But the quickest and surest path to failure is a new head coach taking a job and then being steered to hire assistants he doesn't know.

Perhaps the most important quality for a head coach is being a good CEO, and the first thing a good CEO does is hire the right people. He needs to build a cohesive unit that functions on efficiency. To do that, he needs to know whom he's hiring. How he works. How he takes suggestions and criticism. How he teaches and motivates. His work ethic, both on the field and in recruiting.

Further, it's also about loyalty. An assistant who isn't connected to a head coach often feels little reason not to undermine him "off-the-record" if things get tough.

The worst case I can think of was Terry Bowden at Auburn back in the 1990s. His fatal mistake was retaining assistants who worked for Pat Dye. That became a train wreck of epic proportions.

UCLA fans are well-aware of another: Neuheisel's second chance was a dream — coaching his alma mater — that turned into a nightmare, in large part because he agreed to hire Norm Chow as his offensive coordinator and retain DeWayne Walker as his defensive coordinator. Chow and Walker are outstanding coaches, no doubt. But they weren't Neuheisel's guys. A major part of the problem in Westwood the past four years was a lack of cohesion on the Bruins coaching staff.

Obviously, this isn't the same thing. We're talking about a strength coach, not a coordinator. But I am choosing to freight the hiring of Alosi with meaning, meaning that speaks well of Mora and the early — early! — trajectory of his tenure.

Mora wanted to hire Alosi. He knew there would be some negative blowback, and not without justification. But he met that blowback head-on, and now he's got a the strength coach he wanted.

And he's got a strength coach who probably feels pretty darn obligated to bust his rear end and repay Mora's faith in him with a finely conditioned football team.

No James? No problem for Oregon

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
2:21
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The facetious question was met with a laugh from Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson.

So, with Oregon running back LaMichael James almost certainly out with a dislocated elbow for Saturday's game against the Sun Devils, the Ducks' offense is likely hamstrung and lacking weapons, correct?

Hardy-har-har. Replied Erickson, "You name them, they've got them."

Oregon coach Chip Kelly was asked who would replace James and what would change with his offense. He listed his depth chart: Kenjon Barner and a pair of true freshmen, De'Anthony Thomas and Tra Carson.

[+] EnlargeKenjon Barner
AP Photo/Wily LowKenjon Barner will look to fill the void with LaMichael James out of the lineup.
As for changes, Kelly was his typical, expansive self: "Nothing changes."

Well, he could have just said, "Nothing."

He's mostly right. Sure, James is the nation's best game-breaking back. Sure, he's had more 20-yard runs in his career than any other back in college football. Sure, he is an outstanding return guy and has dramatically improved in the passing game.

But Barner, James' best buddy on the team, is a pretty good backup plan. He'd be the starter for, oh, about 110 teams in the nation.

"Very similar," Kelly said of Barner and James. "I've always felt they were 1 and 1A here. They are both explosive. They both can go the distance."

And, according to Oregon's top-of-the-line stopwatches, Barner and James, who both tip the scales at 195 pounds, are a push in terms of speed and quickness. Barner's electronically timed 40-yard dash is the equal of James', but Barner beat James in the shuttle run and vertical jump.

Barner had 228 all-purpose yards at Tennessee last season, including an 80-yard punt return for a TD. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing twice last season on his way to 551 yards, despite missing two games with a concussion.

So, he's good.

And Thomas looks like a budding star. The multipurpose threat is the Ducks' leading receiver and has accounted for six TDs, four receiving. He averages 7.6 yards per rush and 16.8 yards per reception.

Carson, meanwhile, is the 227-pounder who offers the power element, a la former Duck RB LeGarrette Blount.

"They have got so much depth," Erickson said. "You take Barner, you take De’Anthony Thomas -- who we tried to recruit -- and they’re something special. They’re solid in all areas. They’re not going to try to change anything. They do what they do and they’ve got depth to do it, so you don’t treat it any different whether he plays or whether he doesn’t."

Still, it's hard not to turn more focus to Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas. He's been fairly efficient this season -- 15 TD passes, just two interceptions -- but his 208 yards passing per game ranks 10th in the Pac-12, and he's been far less of a running threat than last season (see: just 18 carries for 100 yards).

"Darron has done a really good job for us, managing the game, taking what the defense gives him," Kelly said. "He's been very efficient with the ball."

Kelly, who's not one to give in to reporters' questions, actually admitted that, yes, Thomas is running less this season due to play calling. (Sure, that's a "duh" admission, but it feels notable for reporters who regularly hear Kelly quibble over every detail: "No, Ted, the sky isn't really blue. That's about Rayleigh scattering -- light waves from the sun passing through our atmosphere.")

Part of that is Thomas taking what the defense gives him. Kelly said Thomas has been making the proper reads in the Ducks' diverse option game. But Kelly also said that he's called fewer zone-read plays this season.

Still, Thomas has shown in the past that he can run the ball well, and that forces a defense to account for him. The Sun Devils' defensive coaches surely asked themselves whether Thomas might be more of a factor in the running game with James out.

"For us to be successful, he has to be a viable running threat," Kelly said. "When defenses have forced him to run, he's done a good job with it."

Of course, the Sun Devils will focus first on containing the Ducks' running game, which they mostly stymied last season. That means Thomas, the passer, likely will need to make plays, and that receivers Lavasier Tuinei and Josh Huff, as well as De'Anthony Thomas, will need to step up.

Might this be a coming out party for the Ducks' passing game, which has been prolific just once this season, when Thomas passed for 295 yards and six TDs (although on just 19 attempts) against Nevada?

That's the thing about the Ducks: You don't know. Their offense can beat you a lot of ways, even without the nation's best running back.

"You try to make them earn it and keep the big plays down," Erickson said. "You run to the football and tackle."

In other words, nothing changes.
Nobody likes sounding relentlessly redundant, but if the story doesn't change the story doesn't change.

For all that Oregon has accomplished in two years under Chip Kelly, it has flopped against highly rated nonconference foes who have had extra time to prepare for the Ducks high-tempo, spread-option attack.

  • In 2009, the Ducks opened at Boise State. While that game is most remembered for LaGarrette Blount's post-game meltdown in Kelly's debut, Boise State fans will be glad to remind you the Broncos held the Ducks to 31 yards rushing in a 19-8 victory.
  • The Ducks righted themselves dramatically in 2009 and earned a berth opposite Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. But the Buckeyes held the Ducks to 260 yards in a 26-17 victory
  • And, finally, in the national title game against Auburn, the Ducks only scored 19 points. They gained 449 yards but only 75 on the ground.
[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireOregon coach Chip Kelly and the Ducks would score a big win for the Pac-12 with a defeat of LSU on Saturday.
Those three games, against which there is little counter argument, other than the Ducks Pac-10 success, have inspired this sort of analysis: Oregon needs to get more physical.

If you have ever played football, you surely understand that when a football player has his physicality doubted, well, that's pretty galling.

Before all you Ducks get bent over this, keep in mind that Kelly has been a stand-up guy about this very point. In all three instances, he admitted the Ducks got beat at the point of attack. Further, during preseason camp, I asked running back LaMichael James about what went wrong against Auburn.

"Their defensive line was overpowering our offensive line," he said. "That was just the way it was."

How do you think this goes over with a Ducks offensive lineman? Department of "Truth Hurts."

Here's the good news: Oregon can end such talk on Saturday. All it has to do is take it to No. 4 LSU, a program as physically talented in terms of future NFL potential as any in the nation.

That's the micro-economic level of the super-cool-awesomeness of this marquee season-0pener in Cowboys Stadium.

Any one else curious to see what Kelly's got up his sleeve to counter LSU's extra prep time to school itself on the Ducks misdirection?

The macro-economic level is this: Pac-12 versus SEC. One game for a regular-season's worth of trash talking.

You might have heard the SEC has experienced some football success of late. On occasion, SEC fans will take a moment to remind you of it. There is a rumor, in fact, that five consecutive seasons have ended with a happy ending in some SEC outpost, the latest against the Pac-12's newest top-dog.

That would be Oregon.

To be honest, last January, I though Oregon was going to pound Auburn. I didn't think a two-player team -- no matter how good those two players were -- could beat the Kelly and the Ducks. The last time I had such a strong hunch about a game and was so completely wrong was when Washington pushed Miami around in 2000. (This is not to say I've had a long run of correct strong hunches about games before January. They just don't come by very often before marquee matchups).

Even if you throw out the stakes specific to Oregon and the Pac-12, this game has huge meaning nationally. The winner could -- should, in my mind -- rise to No. 1 in both major polls. Voters should reward the winner for showing the courage to play this game, which is great for college football at a time college football needs something great to distract fans from a stunning onslaught of scandals. A couple of which, rumor has it, might involve these two teams, territory we're choosing not to explore at this moment.

So if Oregon wins, it could rise to No. 1. If LSU has a successful season in the rugged SEC West, that win will grow in value. But even if LSU falters, the Ducks will be in position to play again for the national title if they keep winning.

Further, the odds aren't terrible that Oregon could arrive at Stanford on Nov. 12 and we find ourselves eyeballing two unbeaten teams. It could be a One-Two matchup even. At the worst, if the Ducks and Cardinal face each other without a blemish on either slate, it will be the biggest Pac-12 game in years (last year's game also matched unbeaten teams but was much earlier -- Oct. 2 -- in the season). If Stanford prevailed, it also could crow about beating the team that beat LSU and likely would play for the national title if it finished 12-0.

If Oregon loses to LSU, the Ducks could still have a great season. They could rally and perhaps get back into the national title hunt. And there's always the Rose Bowl, hardly a terrible destination. One nonconference game can't completely make or break a season.

But an Oregon victory would give the program a level of early-season gravitas it has never had. It would silence any remaining doubters, both of the Ducks and the Pac-12.

So, yes, you have heard correctly: This game is very, very big.
Chip KellyKirby Lee/US PresswireChip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks remain focused on taking care of business on the field.
Wise folks have said and written many things about dealing with the hills and valleys of life. Most of us are well aware that it's a mistake to get too high when things are good or too low when they aren't. We know it's better to focus on things we can control and to avoid allowing our emotions to overcome constructive decision-making and ensuing action.

And if any of that were easy, wise folks would spend more time talking and writing about other things.

So we have Oregon. No college football program in the country has combined stunning successes and swirling controversies over the past two-plus seasons as much as Oregon has under coach Chip Kelly. Perhaps even more amazing than the frenetic tempo and creativity of the Ducks' offense is their ability to make news in positive and negative ways, yet remained focused.

Year 1 started with a humiliating loss at Boise State and a punch from then-Ducks RB LeGarrette Blount and ended with a Pac-10 championship and a Rose Bowl berth. Year 2 started with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli -- a Heisman Trophy candidate -- getting booted from the team and ended with another Pac-10 championship and a berth in the national title game.

Year 3? It's started with an NCAA inquiry into the recruitment of redshirt freshman running back Lache Seastrunk, who decided to transfer last weekend, and a $25,000 payment to his mentor, Willie Lyles, who is a recruiting scout and alleged "street agent."

Where will Year 3 end? Will this be the year that the Ducks do get distracted and upended by off-field issues?

"I think the media around here is the smartest people I've ever been around my entire life," Kelly said with what sources said may have been some sarcastic shadings.

"If they voted us No. 1 in the conference and No. 3 in the country, they must not think it is a distraction. So we shouldn't let it be a distraction, because I don't think anyone would vote us No. 3 in the country if you guys thought it was a distraction."

Zing! The capacious "Book of Quotable Chip" adds another entry.

Kelly then referred to one of his handful of mantras: "We have the same mentality all the time. We have a vision for what this football program is supposed to be about and we prepare against that vision. We compete against that vision every Saturday and that's how we measure ourselves. ... We are not concerned with any outside influences, whether it be praise or blame."

Kelly's ability to impose that philosophy -- all part of his "Win the day" credo -- has been remarkable, the fuel for the Ducks' rapid rise in the college football pecking order. When you talk to his players, they either parrot what he says verbatim or provide their own little twist.

Said redshirt junior running back LaMichael James: "I focus on my team and that's it. I don't really care what outsiders have to say."

Still, there's just a little bit of double-speak. Don't believe for a moment the Ducks are unaware of -- and not following -- both the intrigue (Lyles & the NCAA!) and hype (national title contender!) that surrounds them. Kelly claims he doesn't pay attention to what reporters write, but he is curiously apt to tweak them for their stories -- Hey, Chip! -- most notably when they are wrong.

And the players, though totally bought into the Temple of Chip, are the same way. They claim they never discuss the day's headlines. Balderdash.

"Everybody wants to say all this about Oregon," redshirt junior quarterback Darron Thomas said. "We don't like that. We've just been working hard, getting ready for the season, ready to shut everybody up, ready to come out and play ball and forget about all these other allegations that are eventually going to come out."

No one knows when things are "going to come out." The NCAA hasn't even gotten around to sending Oregon an official letter of inquiry, which would spell out how the organization plans to apply vague rules about the use of scouting services. Those who say they know the endgame are lying. Nonetheless, there's been lots of guessing that Oregon and Kelly are in big trouble, with a couple of columns suggesting Kelly will be fired.

"I hope whoever wrote that, and I didn't read it, isn't our athletic director or our president," Kelly said. "I'm very confident in everything that will happen."

It's sometimes hard to believe that Kelly has been a coach in FBS football for just four seasons. Recall that in 2006, he was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, a guy only a handful of offensive aficionados knew of. His two-plus years of leading Oregon have been more eventful than entire careers for many head coaches.

When asked if Kelly has shown any stress or strain during his tumultuous tenure, James almost seems amused. "He always seems the same to me," James said. "He maybe seems a little more relaxed."

James also called Kelly "a phenomenal coach." While Rich Brooks made Oregon respectable, and Mike Bellotti created a consistent winner, it's fair to say that Kelly's dynamic leadership has pushed the program to heights that no Ducks fans imagined it could reach, even mega-booster Phil Knight. And for that, James said, Kelly deserves predominant credit.

"Coach Kelly changed the whole identity of the program," said James, who redshirted in 2008, Bellotti's final season as head coach. "Everything is 100 percent different from when I was a true freshman."

What did Kelly change? "I literally mean every single thing," James said.

Of course, Brooks and Bellotti were able to avoid any major NCAA issues, too.

What's next for the Ducks? A win over LSU, a third consecutive conference title and another run at a national championship? NCAA sanctions?

Said Kelly, "I don't know what is going to happen next. No one knows what happens in the future."

One thing is likely: With Kelly and the Ducks, it at least figures to be interesting.
1. A Boise State linebacker intercepted quarterback Kellen Moore twice in three plays and returned them both for scores, Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Daily Statesman tweeted Wednesday. The linebacker: Byron Hout. That’s the most attention Hout has earned on a football field since he stopped LeGarrette Blount’s fist with his face. Here’s hoping his play earns him attention all year. And one word to describe Bronco wideout Austin Pettis, who kicked a 45-yard field goal at practice to get the offense out of running: gamer.

2. Charlie Strong, a rookie head coach at Louisville after 24 seasons as an assistant, hired himself as outside linebacker coach. “I asked Clint Hurtt, the defensive line coach, if he minded if I coached them,” Strong said. Hurtt, who likes his job, said he didn’t mind. “In the film session,” Strong said, “whenever an outside backer doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, everybody (his coaching staff) says, ‘That’s your guy! That’s your guy!’ They make me aware of that.”

3. On Tuesday, I wrote that 17 of 19 U.S. Congressmen from Pennsylvania signed the letter to the White House recommending Penn State coach Joe Paterno for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rep. Paul Kanjorski, one of the two non-signees, got back to ESPN.com with a statement calling JoePa “a Pennsylvania hero” but suggesting that Congress should focus on creating jobs “rather than politicizing football.” Yes, Kanjorski is in a tight re-election race in a district with high unemployment.
1. If Nebraska kick-starts a new round of expansion on Friday, I say the guy responsible is coach Bo Pelini. He breathed life into the Huskers program that didn’t win enough under coach Bill Callahan. Pelini has made Nebraska football relevant again, and reminded everyone in the Big Ten what a winning Huskers program can be. Given the Big Ten’s decision late last year to look into expansion, Pelini turned around the Huskers at just the right moment.

2. The Pac-10 Conference has been known for its conservative nature. When other leagues play eight league games, the Pac-10 plays a nine-game, complete round-robin, in part because of the message it sends about a “true” champion. Yet now the Pac-10 presidents have given commissioner Larry Scott authority to move on expansion. The league is conservative no more, and that is a stunning change.

3. Oregon’s dismissal Wednesday of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli sheds new, flattering light on LeGarrette Blount. The former Ducks back gets suspended for throwing a punch at Boise State. He meets requirements set by coach Chip Kelly and gets reinstated for the final two games. Masoli gets suspended for next season for his role in a campus burglary. Kelly sets requirements for Masoli to meet. He didn’t even make it to the summer. Blount grew up. Masoli? Not so much.
1. The Penn State spring game confirmed what the Nittany Lions’ feared as they attempt to patch the hole left by the graduation of quarterback Daryll Clark. Not that anyone puts great stock in spring games, but the fact that freshman Paul Jones outplayed sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin on Saturday is another indication that there’s a lot of work to do. Don’t forget: whoever wins the starting job makes his first FBS start at Alabama.

2. As you tally the list of college football players whose lack of self-discipline cost them big bucks in the NFL draft, don’t forget the first player on the list last season. Oregon back LeGarrette Blount signed a free-agent contract with Tennessee. Like Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, Blount put very little mileage on his body after the first game of the season. You don’t need the results of the NFL draft to know that’s where the similiarity ends.

3. The more I think about the SEC, the more I’m convinced that the power has shifted from the East Division to the West. It’s not just that Alabama is the defending national champion. As we pointed out last week, Florida is a rebuilding favorite and every other East team has big questions. In the West, meanwhile, Arkansas, LSU and Auburn all should be stronger next season.
George Schroeder has a thoughtful column here on Jeremiah Masoli's first practice Tuesday as Oregon's newly suspended quarterback.

He touches a lot of bases.

[+] EnlargeJeremiah Masoli
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireFans should be careful not to compare Jeremiah Masoli's situation to LeGarrette Blount's.
First, he divides folks into three camps: 1. Masoli still rocks, can't wait until 2011! 2. Masoli is a criminal who should be in jail, not in college, much less practicing with the Ducks; 3. Masoli? Mixed feelings about him still being around.

Schroeder doesn't write to the first two camps. He says that the third shouldn't apologize for wanting there to be -- eventually -- a happy ending on the horizon. "If you’re among those undecideds, it’s time to root for Masoli’s redemption."

He then considers two interesting issues: 1. What will 2011 be like with Masoli returning and will it be a positive thing? 2. And, really, how likely is it that Masoli will stick around?

Writes Schroeder: "It wouldn’t be surprising if, as time goes on, Masoli runs through his options and decides it makes sense to leave Oregon. I wouldn’t blame him. Even if he stays and does everything right from now on, there will be some who won’t ever forgive, and others who will always doubt."

Bracket off for a second your emotions on this. Try to look at it like a novel or a movie. Or as if you are a sportswriter.

It's certainly an unusual situation. Dare I say, it's interesting?

If Masoli, who isn't talking to reporters and might not for some time (more on that in a moment), opts to stick around, he could earn his college degree and -- who knows? -- he could re-earn the starting job and perhaps play his way into an NFL opportunity (which was far from certain even before the offfield issues).

But he is going to take tons of abuse for the next two years, first as a bystander, then as a quarterback for a visiting team. He will be pointed at and whispered about in public places. His story will be endlessly regurgitated. He will never -- ever -- leave it completely behind.

Feel ridiculous quoting myself, but Masoli's situation is not unlike what I wrote about LeGarrette Blount back in September:

    No matter what happens the rest of Blount's life, that film will be a part of who he is. He could win the Nobel Prize and cure cancer and that clip would pop up again.

    One day his children will see it.

    From this day forward, every time he meets someone, reaches out to shake their hand and says, "Hi, I'm LeGarrette Blount," odds are that person will go, "That's the guy who punched someone after a football game."

    So know that Blount will suffer greatly for what he did. The least of his worries is a season-long suspension.

Masoli, of course, should feel fortunate that his thievery wasn't caught on film, though that might have stopped him from lying about it to police and coach Chip Kelly for so long.

(And, by the way, no -- one thousand times no -- Kelly will not reduce Masoli's suspension and reinstate him as he did with Blount. Just trust me on that).

Masoli's situation, for one, is quite different from Blount's.

How many of you out there have ever punched someone? Or at least come very close to it. No need to raise your hand. Hopefully, it's not a particularly proud memory.

And, as bad as Blount's actions were, how many of you at least understood why being taunted by Boise State's Byron Hout -- and subsequently the crowd -- sent Blount into a meltdown after an emotional and embarrassing loss on national TV?

Not a good reaction, but everyone immediately knew Blount's motive.

Now, premeditated burglary? Not the same thing. Going to venture a guess that the vast -- VAST -- majority of you reading this never even considered breaking into a house and stealing stuff.

What the heck was Masoli thinking?

I, for one, am eager to hear from Masoli an honest answer to that question -- something more than, "I wasn't."

There's a lot of "stay tuned" to this story.

The first chapter was Masoli deciding -- at least at this point -- to stick around. The next might be him being brave enough to face the fans he let down and explain himself.
It was announced on March 13, 2009, that Chip Kelly would replace Mike Bellotti as Oregon's football coach. So, Saturday morning will be Kelly's one-year anniversary.

Happy anniversary coach.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Kyle Terada/US PresswireOn the field, Oregon coach Chip Kelly led his team to the Rose Bowl, but a string of off-the-field incidents tainted his first season.
It's certainly been an eventful year. The LeGarrette Blount meltdown after the dismal performance at Boise State. The Pac-10 championship, conference Coach of the Year honors and the Rose Bowl berth.

Then, since late January, Kelly's Ducks decided to dominate the police blotter and become a national sensation as a team supposedly full of out-of-control delinquents.

And, now, on his 364th day as Oregon's coach, Kelly announced that his star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli -- a potential Heisman Trophy candidate -- has been suspended for the entire 2010 season after he pleaded guilty to a second-degree burglary charge stemming from the theft of two laptops and a guitar from a campus fraternity house in late January.

And that his star running back LaMichael James -- the Pac-10 offensive Freshman of the Year -- has been suspended for the 2010 opener vs. New Mexico after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor harassment charge and was sentenced to 24 months on probation and 10 days in jail.

And that his kicker Rob Beard also was suspended for the opener after he pleaded guilty to a harassment charge for his part in a Jan. 24 brawl.

Kelly refused to answer any questions Friday. He spoke only for a few minutes and said, "I want to eliminate any uncertainly that our level of expectations are the same for all our student-athletes regardless of the role they play on this team.”

You can review the entire rap sheet here. In summary, Masoli is the biggest name atop a list of incidents involving nine players, three of whom were kicked off the team and two others were suspended for the 2010 season.

It surely represents one of the most embarrassing periods for the program in decades. Kelly should have talked to reporters. He'll likely get skewered for not doing so. But he probably just wanted to go lie down in a dark room and listen to soft music. Chopin, perhaps.

Is Kelly to blame for the recent run of incidents? No. And Yes.

He's only been the head coach for one year after serving for two as offensive coordinator. He's participated in creating a team culture, but it's also accurate to say that the program doesn't yet entirely belong to him. These will be Chip Kelly's Ducks when the vast majority of players in the locker room were recruited by him as head coach. That's presently not the case.

But, yes, Kelly deserves blame. He's the head coach. He's paid a lot of money to run a successful program, and that includes fielding a team that doesn't embarrass the university off the field. It's the ole "buck stops here" rule.

Has Kelly handled this run of off-field incidents well? Yes. And no.

Kelly took a measured, case-by-case approach. He sent a message to his locker room that he's not going to bow to outside pressure and quickly hand out harsh punishments just to look like he's a disciplinarian. Meanwhile, he did hand out several harsh punishments.

Did he send a mixed message? Some people felt that way. But I was never confused about his message -- felt like I knew where Kelly stood all along.

Kelly believed Masoli and James both had credible positions in regard to their incidents. Turns out James did. And Masoli did not.

What particularly stands out about the Masoli case is that he lied -- to Kelly and to police -- about his initial involvement. Even though charges against Masoli were reduced to a misdemeanor, the lying is likely a big part of why he won't suit up in 2010.

But Kelly also handled this terribly. Why? Because, for one, it happened, one incident after the other (recall where the buck stops). Second, because it was impossible to handle well.

It was embarrassing that the day after he laid down the law in front of reporters with an, "I'm in charge speech," linebacker Kiko Alonso got a DUI. And that receiver Jamere Holland decided to launch a Facebook tirade about his perception of Kelly's reaction shortly thereafter.

And that just a week ago, as things seemed to get quiet for a few days, linebacker Josh Kaddu was busted for minor in possession of alcohol.

Still, it's hard to believe that, short of putting his players on lock-down, Kelly could have prevented them from acting like knuckleheads. They've had 18-to-22 years -- pre-Kelly -- to develop such traits.

Going forward, however, is where things need to be different.

It's one thing for a first-year head coach to suffer through a run like this. It's a far different thing for it to happen in year three or four.

Kelly's a smart, organized guy, though. While his considerable ego likely will prevent him from publicly admitting mistakes -- probably one of the reasons he decided not to take questions Friday -- know that he most certainly is formulating a plan to ensure the program doesn't suffer through another run like this anytime soon.

Will he go Martin Luther and hang "The Ninety-Five Theses" in the Ducks locker room? That wouldn't shock me.

In fact, the guess here is he'll spend most of his coaching anniversary thinking about that very thing.

So, again, happy anniversary coach.
1. If you haven’t yet, go to sportsradiointerviews.com and listen to Portland columnist and radio host John Canzano’s interview Tuesday of Oregon coach Chip Kelly on the Ducks’ recent disciplinary woes. Canzano believes Kelly has been inconsistent and hasn’t shown he’s in control of the team. Kelly defended himself. Four Ducks have been suspended or dismissed. Kelly hasn’t decided the fate of tailback LaMichael James, charged with domestic violence. Canzano stood his ground well but I scored it in favor of Kelly on points.

2. Kelly made it clear with LeGarrette Blount that he will make his disciplinary calls without regard to public opinion. The drumbeat of Ducks Gone Wild went out faster than Oregon responded to it. Over the last few days, however, Kelly meted out harsh discipline. He’s sensitive to the perception of the Ducks, and not happy about it. “It’s embarrassing that a small number of our players just tarnish the entire program,” he texted me Wednesday.

3. The length of the hearing and the amount of evidence presented against USC in its hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions last week makes it appear as if the NCAA prepared a case to hammer the Trojans. If that happens, it’s another example of coach Lane Kiffin’s ready-fire-aim mentality. He took a big gamble by returning to Troy. Ask former Alabama coach Dennis Franchione what it’s like to take a job and discover you walked right into the NCAA jail.

Pac-10 games of the decade

January, 20, 2010
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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.

Ten top moments of the Pac-10 season

January, 13, 2010
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The Pac-10 moments that stood out.

1. Pete Carroll leaves USC for the Seattle Seahawks: It wasn't just the biggest story in the Pac-10. It was the biggest story of the college football season. Carroll built a dynasty and nearly won three consecutive national titles. His run at USC -- two national championships, seven Pac-10 titles, seven consecutive top-four finishes, three Heisman Trophy winners -- ranks among the best in college football history.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
Joe Robbins/Getty Images After only one season at Tennessee Lane Kiffin is headed to Southern California.
2. Lane Kiffin leaves Tennessee for USC: This one nearly equaled Carroll's departure in shock value: Kiffin, a former USC assistant, bolts his job at Tennessee after just one season to take over the Trojans. Obviously, unless you've been under a rock, you've read plenty about this one of late, including the potential inclusion of Norm Chow, presently UCLA's offensive coordinator, on Kiffin's new staff. That certainly will cool things down between the Bruins and Trojans, eh?

3. A victory in the Civil War for the Roses sends Oregon to the Rose Bowl: The Ducks 37-33 victory over rival Oregon State lived up to the pregame hype. LeGarrette Blount scored a touchdown in his first action since his meltdown at Boise State, but the stars for Oregon were running back LaMichael James (166 yards rushing, three TDs) and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who led a masterful final possession that featured two fourth-down conversions and burned the final 6:09 off the clock.

4. The punch: Blount's punch of a Boise State player after the Ducks embarrassing 19-8 season-opening road loss became one of the most replayed highlights of the season. It also became the touchstone for the Ducks' transformation from a national joke into Pac-10 champions. And Chip Kelly from an overmatched neophyte into Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

5. Toby Gerhart is runner-up in closest Heisman race in history: Despite putting up the best numbers against the best competition during the regular season, Gerhart finished second to Alabama's Mark Ingram in the Heisman Trophy voting. Still, Gerhart won the Doak Walker Award -- over Ingram -- as the country's top running back and earned consensus first-team All-America honors.

6. Oregon crushes No. 4 USC 47-20: For anyone who had covered USC during the Carroll era, it was shocking to watch. The Ducks piled up 613 total yards -- 391 rushing -- while handing USC its worst loss since 1997.

7. Stanford runs up the score on USC, 55-21: For anyone who had covered USC during the Carroll era, it was shocking to watch. Perhaps it was possible to write off the Trojans getting blown out on the road at Oregon, but getting physically manhandled at home? The 34-point defeat was USC's worst home loss since 1966. Even more galling: Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh opted to go for a 2-point conversion with a 27-point lead and just 6:47 left, inspiring a spirited post-game handshake with Carroll, who asked Harbaugh, "What's your deal?"

8. Oregon beats Arizona 44-41 in double-overtime: It was as entertaining a game as you could see. Oregon overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit because of a tour de force performance from Masoli, who scored three touchdowns running and three passing, including an 8-yard toss that tied the score with six seconds left and forced overtime, stunning Wildcats fans who already had jumped from the stands for a postgame celebration. The loss kept Arizona from playing in its first Rose Bowl.

9. California goes down by a combined 72-6 on consecutive weekends: Talk about a fall from grace. Cal went to Oregon on Sept. 26 ranked No. 6 in the country with a 3-0 record. The Bears were national title contenders and Jahvid Best was the conference's leading Heisman Trophy candidate. But a 42-3 loss to the Ducks followed by a 30-3 defeat at home against USC the following weekend made the Bears a national punchline.

10. Sarkisian bests Carroll: Fresh off a thrilling 18-15 win at Ohio State, USC carried a No. 3 ranking to Washington, which had just ended a 15-game losing streak the week before against Idaho. Most of the pregame discussion was whether Carroll would take it easy on his former offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian. But with quarterback Aaron Corp starting for an injured Matt Barkley, the Trojans couldn't get anything going on offense. Washington quarterback Jake Locker, meanwhile, engineered a thrilling 68-yard drive that ended on Erik Folk's 22-yard field goal with three seconds remaining for a shocking 16-13 victory.
The Pac-10 went 2-5 during the bowl season, so it wasn't difficult to find many "worsts."

But there were some good things that shouldn't be overlooked.

Best performance, defensive player: Oregon's undersized but quick defensive end Kenny Rowe set a Rose Bowl and Oregon bowl record with three sacks in a losing effort against Ohio State. He finished the season with 11.5 sacks, which led the Pac-10.

Best performance, offensive player: In his final game in a USC uniform, receiver Damian Williams caught 12 passes for a season-high 189 yards in the Trojans' 24-13 win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. It's fair to say that Williams was USC's most consistent player over the entire season.

Worst performance, period: There was nothing good about Arizona's 33-0 loss to Nebraska in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. Nothing. Feel free, though, to look at this box score and try to find something.

Best play: With UCLA trailing Temple 21-20 in the fourth quarter, and the Owls pinned on their 8-yard line, Bruins outside linebacker Akeem Ayers -- after falling down on his initial pass-rush burst -- leaped into the air and intercepted Vaughn Charlton's pass and gamboled 2 yards into the end zone.

Worst play: Trailing 19-17 in the Rose Bowl, Oregon faced a second-and-2 from Ohio State's 18-yard line. A huge hole opened. But running back LeGarrette Blount couldn't handle a high handoff from quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. The Buckeyes recovered the fumble and dominated the rest of the game.

Worst play, II: After BYU tied Oregon State 7-7 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, the Beavers took over at their 40-yard line. On second down, running back Jacquizz Rodgers couldn't handle a backward pass from Sean Canfield, and Matt Bauman returned the loose ball 34 yards for a touchdown. That was the first fumble of Rodgers' career, and the Cougars dominated the game from then on.

Best performance under tough circumstances: Oklahoma knew Stanford had no passing offense without quarterback Andrew Luck. So it ganged up on running back Toby Gerhart. Nonetheless, the Heisman Trophy runner-up rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a rugged effort in the Sun Bowl loss.

Worst pass defense: California made Utah true freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn look like an All-American in the Poinsettia Bowl. Against what was supposed to be one of the nation's best secondaries heading into the season, Wynn completed 26 of 36 passes for 338 yards with three touchdowns. He shook off an early pick-six to run the Bears ragged.

Best second-half defense: UCLA held Temple to 41 yards and zero points in the second half of the EagleBank Bowl.

Worst performance you didn't see coming: Canfield, Oregon State's quarterback, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors this season. He has been invited to the Senior Bowl and is going to have an NFL career. Nonetheless, he had a horrible Las Vegas Bowl and was outplayed by BYU's Max Hall, who threw three touchdown passes. Canfield completed just 19 of 40 passes for 168 yards with an interception and no touchdowns, and he seemed completely befuddled by a strong wind and the Cougars' secondary.

Best unsung performance: USC fullback Stanley Havili always seems to sneak up on folks. In the Trojans' win over Boston College, he caught six passes for 83 yards with two touchdowns, including a 53-yard jaunt on a screen pass. He also had a critical tackle after one of Matt Barkley's two interceptions.

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