Pac-12: Eugene081

Ducks D throttles Huskies, Locker

August, 31, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- Considering Oregon's dominant 44-10 victory over Washington, the "10" might be more impressive than the "44," which is unusual for a program that's built a reputation for unstoppable offenses and bend-but-don't(always)-break defenses.

Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti couldn't wait to read the final box score, which he was glad to do out loud.

"95 yards rushing... 242 total yards... less than 50 percent completion rate," he said. "Yes, I'm very pleased."

The Ducks, who recorded their fifth consecutive victory over the Huskies for the first time in the history of the rivalry, blew Washington away, 55-34, a year ago, but the Huskies eclipsed 400 yards of offense.

Not this time.

The Huskies averaged just 2.2 yards per rush, and dual-threat QB Jake Locker was mostly contained, rushing for 57 yards -- he lost 26 on sacks -- and passing for 103 yards, connecting on only 12 of his 28 throws.

"I'd say the Ducky D did pretty well," DE Nick Reed said. "This year, I think the defense is going to take a bigger role."

Huskies freshman TB Chris Polk finished with 19 yards on 14 carries, his longest run going for five yards.

While everyone knew the Ducks secondary was outstanding, the up-the-middle defense -- particularly with two new starting DTs -- was suspect.

Didn't seem that way against Washington, which entered the game with four returning starters on one of the most experienced offensive lines in the Pac-10.

"Everyone can quiet down about that now," Reed said.

Oregon had three sacks, including two from end Will Tukuafu. The Huskies only produced two substantial drives, and their best plays came on Locker scrambles.

"Maybe the best part of what we did was defend Locker," coach Mike Bellotti said.

The only downside: The Ducks didn't force any turnovers, a specialty a year ago.

The Huskies ranked second in the Pac-10 in 2007 in rushing, with 203 yards per game, but couldn't find cracks in the newly stout Oregon defense.

"We just couldn't run the ball," coach Tyrone Willingham said.

Oregon QB Roper (concussion) should be OK for Utah State

August, 31, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon QB Justin Roper suffered a concussion in the first half of the Ducks' 44-10 victory over Washington that knocked him out of the game, but early reports are he could be ready for Utah State's visit on Saturday.

"He is expected to be back next week," said Ducks coach Mike Bellotti, who termed the concussion "mild."

With Roper out, junior-college transfer Jeremiah Masoli took over, and he was spelled in situations by true freshmen Chris Harper. Both were seeing their first FBS action. Masoli completed 9 of 17 passes for 126 yards with two touchdowns, while Harper worked exclusively as a runner, rushing 12 times for 60 yards and a score.

"We weren't planning on playing Masoli as much as we did, but we did have a plan to play Chris Harper," Bellotti said. "I'm proud of them. They weren't perfect but they made things happen."

Before Roper left -- his final play was the Ducks' only interception -- he completed 7 of 11 for 114 yards with a touchdown.

The Ducks have been struggling the past two seasons to keep their QBs healthy.

Roper only became the Ducks starter after Nate Costa was lost for the season after re-injuring his surgically repaired knee that ended his 2007 season. Last year, the Ducks went into a funk after losing Dennis Dixon to a knee injury and fell out of the national title race.

Oregon-Washington: First thoughts before post-game interviews

August, 31, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- From the Autzen Stadium press box:

  • Oregon has now won five in a row in the series, which has never happened before.
  • Obviously, the big story is the status of Oregon QB Justin Roper -- an official announcement on his condition has not be made, though a TV report termed it a hand injury. If Roper is going to miss some games, then the Ducks appear to be prepared to use both Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper.
  • With the offense in flux, it's good news for Ducks fans that the defense lived up to high preseason expectations, keeping Jake Locker and the Huskies offense mostly in check.
  • Further good news for the Ducks: RB Jeremiah Johnson looks primed for a breakout season. He set a career-high with 123 yards rushing on just 15 carries.
  • As for the Huskies, the defense did better than its meltdown against the Ducks in 2007, but, then again, the Ducks were using their Nos. 2, 3 and then 4 QBs -- and still made big plays.
  • Locker needs some help. None of the UW tailbacks averaged more than 2.2 yards per rush. The touted crop of youngsters slated to inject some speed into the offense didn't get much done against the Ducks.

Oregon-Washington third quarter: Ducks build advantage

August, 31, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- From the Autzen Stadium press box:

Remember how I said Oregon should give the ball to RB Jeremiah Johnson more?

Well, who knew that Ducks offensive coordinator Chip Kelly reads this blog?!

Johnson's 13-yard TD run with 10:55 left in the third put the Ducks up more comfortably at 21-10. The run gave Johnson 112 yards -- a career-high -- on 12 carries and his second TD of the evening.

With QB Justin Roper injured, Jeremiah Masoli took over primary QB duties but true freshman Chris Harper also saw spot action, primarily as a runner. Neither got much done after the first drive, though.

Two letters: JJ.

The Huskies also couldn't be terribly happy with punter Jared Ballman, who added a 16-yard punt to the six-yard one he had in the first quarter. Of course, punting from his own endzone, Ballman boomed a 57 yarder that got the Huskies out of a field-position bind. It was feast or famine for him.

The Ducks defense did a nice job of manning up after getting jobbed by a bad pass interference call against CB Walter Thurmond. A Spencer Paysinger sack ended the Huskies penetration into Duck territory.

That set up a 51-yard Jairus Byrd punt return -- which might end up leading to points -- as the third quarter bell rings.

Oregon-Washington second quarter: That's Jake

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- From the Autzen Stadium press box:

For better and worse, Washington's best play -- just like in 2007 -- is Jake Locker running the ball, even though it's clear his passing accuracy is better than 2007. 

After foundering in the first quarter, the Huskies offense found it's rhythm in the second, with Locker playing drums and bass. And, for all intents and purposes, singing lead.

First, the Huskies got on the board with a 35-yard field goal, a drive keyed by two Locker completions of 16 yards.

But the Huskies offense's best work came on its next possession, which started with a Quinton Richardson interception.

Locker ran 17 yards on a third-and-7. He then went for 11 yards on a third-and-11. Those drive-saving runs allowed the Huskies to narrow the gap to 14-10 with 3:17 before the break.

The Ducks then, as promised, put in backup QB Jeremiah Masoli -- it's probably not accurate to view Roper stepping aside as a response to his interception.

Masoli drove the Ducks to the Huskies 37, but missed on a couple of passes and the Ducks turned the ball over on downs.

Observation for the Oregon coaches: Jeremiah Johnson rushed 7 times for 77 yards in the first half. He might be a guy you'd want to get touches.

Oregon-Washington first quarter: The Ducks O is still fancy

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- Thoughts from the first quarter ...

Deja vu.

The Oregon offense is either very good (again) or the Washington defense is very bad (again).

The first quarter was all about the O's O.

The Ducks gained 151 yards and jumped to a 14-0 lead with big plays, looking faster and more poised than the feckless Huskies, who only produced 31 yards.

Jeremiah Johnson looked fully recovered from a knee injury when he ran 44 yards to the Huskies 4-yard line.

And QB Justin Roper surely appreciated Terence Scott turning a short slant route into a 60-yard touchdown. That sort of thing does wonders for a QB's stats.

The Huskies, meanwhile, were bumbling and fumbling and shanking punts and didn't cross midfield.

No love lost for visiting Washington

August, 30, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

EUGENE, Ore. -- Despite USC's dominant performance today at Virginia -- egad, the Trojans looked good! -- the rest of the Pac-10 isn't going to call off the season.

And that's good, because there is no better place to watch a ball game than Autzen Stadium, where Washington faces a huge challenge tonight.

Nestled on the banks of the Willamette River, Autzen is a scenic stadium inside and out, but that's not what has made this venue infamous.

This place is really freaking loud.

I always tell my SEC friends that it's a smaller version -- capacity 54,000, though the average attendance in 2007 was 58,845 -- of "The Swamp" in Gainesville.

And I also tell my SEC friends that Oregon fans are known to sometimes duplicate the tone and tenor of Florida fans, not popularly known for their aristocratic bearing and hospitality (Hey, I mean that in the nicest possible way).

This place is hard on every visiting team, but it reserves a deep and frenzied hatred for the Huskies.

First sign from the the Ducks tailgate I saw: A "Husky Hater Tailgater" road sign. One side of the sign points to Seattle, the other points the opposite way, toward Pasadena and the Rose Bowl.

The rivalry would be bitter just because of the proximity of the schools. It also long was a rich big brother (Washington) vs. poor little brother (Oregon) mutual disaffection until the Ducks program, with an assist from billionaire booster and Nike founder Phil Knight, emerged as a national power with facilities as good as any program in the nation.

The festering bitterness of the rivalry, however, is traced back to 1948 when Oregon and California tied for first place in the conference and, by rule, the Rose Bowl participant was to be decided by member vote. The Huskies decided to stick it to Oregon, voting against the Ducks and actively recruiting then-member Montana to do the same. Cal went to the Rose Bowl and the Ducks stewed.

Washington dominated for years, but the shift in the balance of power began with the famous Kenny Wheaton 97-yard interception return for a TD in 1994 . Known as "The Pick" for those in green and lightning yellow -- and endlessly replayed at Autzen Stadium, particularly when the Huskies are in town -- the play ended what appeared to another Huskies comeback victory and keyed the Ducks Rose Bowl run.

There is a of myriad stories in the rivalry. Huskies officials a few years ago claimed Oregon fans threw cups of urine and dog feces at the UW players. Message boards are brimming with claims of indignities suffered by fans at the opposing stadium.

There's a lot of good ole hate here.

In other words, it's one of those games that make college football great.

As for tonight, my guess is folks are getting fairly lubricated during the lengthy tailgate that precedes night games. There's nice breeze and there figures to be a bit of a chill in the air by nightfall.

This place will be absolutely bonkers in about an hour.

Oregon, ranked 21st and favored by 13 1/2 points, is expected to roll over the Huskies, even with the loss of QB Nate Costa to a season-ending knee injury and the suspension of tackle Fenuki Tupou.

But Huskies QB Jake Locker figures to at least make things interesting.

And, you know, you can throw out the records -- dual 0-0 marks -- in rivalry games.