Pac-12: Ducks-Huskies 102409

Oregon can start thinking about USC

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
9:40
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
 
 Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
 Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli returned to the lineup to throw for one touchdown and rush for two.

SEATTLE -- Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is thinking about food. First, a big meal on the short plane ride home after the Ducks 43-19 win over Washington on Saturday. Then some vanilla ice cream when he gets home. On Sunday, he'll eat some breakfast with a grin on his face.

Only after that will he start thinking about USC.

"My mind is not on 'SC right now," he said. "I'm going to enjoy this win."

He added, "It will be tomorrow."

Oregon, like many teams, has a 24 hour rule, when coaches and players are allowed to celebrate a victory or mourn a defeat for only one day before moving on and focusing exclusively on the next foe.

Coach Chip Kelly might be more obsessive than most about not looking back or forward but living only in the moment. He's repeatedly harped on how each Saturday is a one-game season and each game should be treated like a national championship.

That allowed for him to say this, which is great fun when taken out of context, "We're playing USC for a national championship."

Ha! But get this: the Ducks-Trojans showdown on Halloween night in Autzen Stadium will showcase two Pac-10 teams with the potential to play themselves into the national championship picture, assuming, of course, that USC keeps up its end of the bargain and beats Oregon State on Saturday evening.

The Ducks, who've won six in a row since an opening night loss at Boise State, presently look like they could play with anybody. Aliotti's defense and Kelly's offense are both humming.

The offense got a huge boost from the return of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who hurt his knee on Oct. 3 and sat out the Ducks win at UCLA. After a slow start, he completed 14 of 22 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown and ran 11 times for 54 yards with two touchdowns.

He seemed to get bolder on each run, as if his knee was successfully passing a series of tests.

"I definitely gained confidence in my knee, cutting and whatnot," he said. "It was just one of those things where I take it safe at first."

While Masoli said he only felt "70-75 percent," it's clear that his presence stressed the Huskies defense.

"It's a big lift because they can't key on me because Jeremiah is incredible with the ball in his hands, so they have to pay attention to him, too," Ducks running back LaMichael James said.

James, a redshirt freshman, also gets a defense's attention. He seems to get better every week. His 154 yards rushing on 15 carries, which included a 56-yard touchdown run, was a school freshman record. It also was his fourth 100 yard game since replacing LeGarrette Blount in the starting lineup.

Oregon's special teams also are fairly sharp. The Ducks scored their first touchdown on a blocked punt. A fake field goal set up their second.

"(Oregon) just destroyed us on special teams," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said.

Then there's Aliotti's defense. It gave up some yards -- 395, which is 115 more than the season average entering the game -- and it allowed its first offensive touchdown in 15 quarters, but it has become a swarming, no-name unit that seems a step faster than the opposing offense.

The Ducks had four sacks and forced three turnvoers, one of which concluded a first-half goal line stand.

"When this group gets flying, it kind of gets into a frenzy mode," Kelly said.

Injuries, particularly in the secondary, are a bit of a worry, though. The Ducks have already lost cornerbacks Walter Thurmond, perhaps the Ducks best player, and Willie Glasper. While safety T.J. Ward played for the first time since spraining his ankle at Boise State and made five tackles, cornerback Talmadge Jackson hurt his back, forcing Aliotti to play true freshman Cliff Harris and junior Chad Peppars.

It's not a good thing to face USC with a banged up secondary.

But Kelly and his players don't seem like the worrying sorts. Or the sorts who will allow USC, the seven-time Pac-10 champions, to get into their heads.

"They haven't had success too much in Oregon the past few years, so they'll definitely bring their A-game," said linebacker Casey Matthews, whose brother, Clay, starred for the Trojans last year.

Kelly said USC didn't come up when he talked to his players after beating Washington.

"This group is as focused a bunch of young men as I've ever been around," Kelly said. "They buy into everything we're talking about. And all we talk about is the next game."

And what about that next game?

Despite the blinders, Kelly knows it's going to be a circus.

"We've got a real, real big game coming up," Kelly said.

Video: Oregon rolls past Washington with ease

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
9:28
PM ET

Final: Oregon 43, Washington 19

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
6:54
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Just because Washington is better doesn't mean Oregon is ready to yield control of its rivalry with the Huskies.

The Ducks beat Washington 43-19 on Saturday in front of a disappointed Husky Stadium crowd of 67,809, their sixth consecutive win in the series, all of which were by 20 or more points.

Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, playing for the first time since he hurt his knee against Washington State on Oct. 3, was up to his old tricks as both a runner and passer. He rushed for 65 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns, and completed 14 of 22 passes for 168 yards and one TD.

The 11th-ranked Ducks (6-1, 4-0) didn't play like they were looking ahead to an Oct. 31 home date with USC.

Now they can start eyeballing the Trojans in earnest.

Washington (3-5, 2-3), its bowl hopes dimming, are off this week. The Huskies visit UCLA on Nov. 7.

Masoli's knee doesn't seem to be an issue

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
5:57
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- That touchdown drive was a thing of beauty.

It wasn't just that Oregon went 96 yards in 13 plays for a 29-6 lead.

It was that the Ducks overcame block in the back and holding penalties to do it. So it was a 116-yard drive.

It started after the first career interception for Oregon's touted freshman cornerback Cliff Harris.

Ducks fans probably aren't worried about Jeremiah Masoli's knee any more.

He's completed 13 of 21 for 165 yards and a touchdown -- a 17-yard completion to D.J. Davis. And he's run nine time for 27 yards and two scores.

Three touchdowns is a good day, eh?

Fast start for Oregon

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
5:35
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- The idea going in was these rejuvenated Washington Huskies would challenge No. 11 Oregon.

Based on the way the second half started, that idea may be slipping away.

The Huskies went three-and-out on their first possession, and the Ducks needed just three plays to go 53 yards for a touchdown and a 22-6 lead.

Couple of things happened on that drive.

For one, Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's knee looks OK. He ran 23 yards on first down and three yards for the touchdown.

He also looked sharp passing, throwing a strike to tight end David Paulson for 27 yards to the Huskies 3.

Halftime report: Oregon 15, Washington 6

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
5:16
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Oregon leads Washington 15-6 at the half mainly because of one reason.

The Ducks are doing the small things correctly and the Huskies are not.

At least, the Ducks were until the very end up of the half -- the longest one second in the history of sports (unofficially), by the way -- when a defensive tackle Brandon Bair's second personal foul penalty of the game allowed the Huskies to kick a 48-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

By the way, Huskies offense guard Nick Wood returned to the game after getting hurt early.

Turning point: Trailing 3-0 early in the second quarter, Oregon blocked a punt and recovered the deflection in the endzone for a touchdown. The Ducks then caught the Huskies unaware and converted the 2-point conversion.

Best call: Oregon's fake field goal, which set up their second touchdown. On fourth-and-5 from the Washington 15-yard line, the Ducks lined up for a field goal. But holder Nate Costa -- the backup quarterback -- took the snap and ran to his left for what amounted to an option keeper to the Huskies 8. Two plays later, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli ran in from 1 yard out.

What Oregon needs to do; What Washington needs to do: Washington actually has better numbers at the break, but Oregon has made all the big plays. Oregon needs to maintain the pressure on the Huskies on both sides of the ball. The Ducks also might try to run the ball more as the Huskies defense gets tired from facing a no-huddle all afternoon. Washington is piling up yards but can't punch the ball into the endzone. It's going to have to execute in the redzone and maybe take some chances in the downfield passing game, which worked fairly well in the first half.

Oregon starting to assert itself

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
4:46
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Chip Kelly's offense can get you in a lot of ways.

For one, it can convert on a second-and-36.

For another, it can shock a defense with a fake field goal on a fourth-and-5 from the 15-yard line.

Put those plays together and you get the unusual 8o-yard Oregon touchdown drive that has quieted the crowd at Husky Stadium.

This was a close game, but now, at 15-3, it seems like the Ducks have taken control. And they'll get one more possession before the half. The Huskies are on their heels.

Washington mistakes give Oregon lead

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
4:34
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Oregon's offense has been sagging, but there are other ways to score and win games.

Opponent mistakes always help.

For example, a blocked punt, which Rory Cavaille provided. The Ducks recovered in the endzone, then caught the Huskies napping on a 2-point conversion for an 8-3 lead.

The Huskies countered the Ducks with a strong drive the length of the field and earned a first-and-goal on the Ducks 4-yard line.

But on fourth-and-2, Jake Locker threw an interception in the endzone.

It's not just about the wasted scoring opportunity. If Locker had just eaten the ball, the Ducks would have had a first down in the shadow of their endzone.

Instead, they started on their 20 and are driving.

Those are are the sorts of plays that decide games.

Washington D stepping up

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
4:14
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- It is the first time all season Washington has held an opponent scoreless in the first quarter.

The Huskies defense is tackling well and getting good pressure on Jeremiah Masoli. The Ducks may want to run the ball a bit, soften up that UW charge.

Huskies up 3-0; lineman hurt?

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
4:05
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Washington draws first blood with a 33-yard field goal, but all the news isn't good.

For one, the Huskies settled for a short field goal instead of a touchdown after earning a first-and-goal on the Oregon 9-yard line.

Second, guard Nick Wood left the game with an injury. He was replaced by Mykenna Ikehara.

Wood was starting because the Huskies previously lost Greg Christine to a season-ending injury.

Slow start for Ducks offense

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
3:55
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Fair to say the Oregon offense isn't clicking early, even with Jeremiah Masoli back at quarterback.

The Ducks went three-and-out on their first possession and just punted on fourth-and-19 from their 13 on their second.

It might be worth noting this is Oregon's first road trip to a loud venue -- UCLA in the Rose Bowl doesn't count -- since the debacle at Boise State. Crowd noise may be a factor. The Ducks already have been flagged for a false start.

Masoli is the QB for Oregon

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
3:37
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Oregon received the opening kickoff, and Jeremiah Masoli trotted out for the first snap.

Now, let's see if he keeps it on the read-option.

Oregon dons black hats

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
3:08
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Oregon is doing its black helmet, black pants, white jerseys, silver numbers thing. And feathers on the shoulder pads. Word is the colors are a new look.

Washington is in purple and gold.

Who knew reporting on college football could be so GQ?

It's clouding over a bit (drat).

Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is throwing and moving well with a knee brace on. It would seem he's the guy, though the pre-game depth chart lists an "OR" between him and backup Nate Costa.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly and former coach -- and Ducks AD -- Mike Bellotti had a long discussion near midfield.

Wonder what Bellotti told him? Got a sense from a nice chat with Bellotti this week that game days aren't easy for him, though he said, "They're getting better."

Oregon-Washington rivalry rises from recent slumber

October, 24, 2009
10/24/09
2:12
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

SEATTLE -- Weather won't be a factor at Husky Stadium, though sunny skies might encourage enough walk-up sales to push this one near a sell-out.

Back in the day, this place would be overflowing with 73,000 fans hating on the hated, dastardly Ducks, who had the nerve to believe they were just as good as Washington.

Crowds haven't been as frenzied during recent years because Oregon has won five in a row in the rivalry -- each by at least 20 points -- and four of those games were in Eugene.

Oregon and Oregon State have become the Northwest's preeminent programs in recent years, while the Huskies went belly-up.

The feeling, though, is that new coach Steve Sarkisian is reversing that trajectory. A year after a hapless 0-12 campaign, Washington is 3-4 (2-2 Pac-10) -- with victories over USC and Arizona -- and is a threat to play its way into a bowl game.

Oregon, though, has big plans. After the embarrassing effort at Boise State, the Ducks have reeled off five wins in a row against a tough schedule and have climbed to 11th in the BCS standings. At 3-0, they alone are unbeaten in Pac-10 play.

And next week, No. 7 USC comes to town for what could be the Pac-10 game of the year on Halloween night in Autzen Stadium. A Rose Bowl berth -- or more -- could be at stake.

Oh, yeah, but there's this little game here that the Ducks need to survive to make that game have all of its possible import.

The pressing question is Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's knee. He's expected to start, but the issues is will he be his old pass-run self? And will he show some rust after sitting out for two weeks and one game?

If Masoli is his old self, the Ducks should be able to score against a defense ranked ninth in the conference in points and yards allowed.

That then would put pressure on Huskies quarterback Jake Locker to make plays against a surprisingly stout Oregon defense that has been dominant of late and ranks among the national leaders.

Huskies fans would love to see Locker turn in a redletter performance and lead the Huskies to an upset. Of course, every time Locker wows folks, he gets further hyped as an NFL first-round draft pick, which brings into question whether he will return for his senior season.

But this one won't be about future NFL drafts. Or about next weekend in Autzen Stadium.

The Ducks and Huskies fans assembled in green and purple on a sunny afternoon -- we hope peacefully -- will be squarely focused on what transpires on the field this afternoon as a once-great but recently sleepy rivalry reawakens.

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