Pac-12: Fenuki Tupou

Oregon linemen not just beefcake

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
11:18
AM ET
Oregon's offensive linemen are sick of it. They won't be objectified anymore. They want the world to know they are more than just a bunch of big, nameless, sexy guys.

Sure, they made a calendar. And, yes, the photos are hot. Women everywhere swoon at the thought of Ducks offensive linemen.

But they want to be taken seriously as football players. So there was no beefcake calendar this year.

"Believe it or not, we have a pretty big following," center Jordan Holmes said. "They were very disappointed."

Oh, Jordan, we believe it.

[+] EnlargeOregon offensive line
Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesThe Oregon offensive line has helped pave the way for the top-ranked Ducks.
But there is a larger issue here: When folks talk about the high-powered Oregon offense, they start with coach Chip Kelly and tempo and the spread-option, then move on to LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. Someone chirps in about underrated receivers, such as Jeff Maehl. "Underrated!" someone invariably counters. "That's tight end David Paulson's middle name!" Then someone says that's an unusual middle name. And another pipes in that they thought his middle name was "Joshua."

You get the point. They rarely talk about the offensive line. Heck, only dedicated Ducks fans know any of their names: Holmes, tackles Bo Thran and Mark Asper and guards Carson York and C.E. Kaiser. Ask Kelly to name his line's standouts and he doesn't -- and not because Kelly gets a kick out of not telling reporters what they want to hear.

"I don't know if there is [a standout]. I think they're all really good," said Kelly, whose top-ranked Ducks visit California on Saturday. "It's not like we have one dominant offensive lineman and then four other guys. I think we've got five pretty good guys -- actually six, actually seven or eight pretty good guys. ... I don't know if there's a standout. And to be honest, maybe that's a good thing."

Seven different guys have started games. And you can't argue with the results. The Ducks rank fifth in the nation in rushing (305.4 yards per game) and have given up just five sacks, which is tied for ninth in the nation.

So why doesn't Oregon get mentioned when folks talk about dominant offensive lines?

"They do a phenomenal job there of turning players into system-fit guys," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "I don't think you have first-round picks on their line, guys the NFL is jumping all over. They played really, really fast in the system."

Then Kiffin adds a bit of a zinger: "Obviously, it doesn't help very much for the next level, because there's no carryover in what they do."

Hmm. That's debatable. The Ducks are masters of zone blocking, which is popular in the NFL. And three Ducks linemen -- Geoff Schwartz (seventh round), Max Unger (second round) and Fenuki Tupou (fifth round) -- were picked in the 2007 and 2008 drafts. And all five 2009 starters returned this year, so none were eligible this past spring.

What do Oregon linemen do that's so different? Kelly insists that blocking is blocking, and his line coach, Steve Greatwood, is considered one of the top teachers in the nation.

Still, there is some "new school" at work here (though zone blocking isn't terribly new). The Ducks' line doesn't try to knock you back so much as stretch you out and create spaces for playmakers, such as James. It's not about driving; it's about sticking. There isn't a designated "hole," which sometimes takes some getting used to for young linemen.

"There are so many options -- I don't know what else goes on behind my back," Holmes said. "Sometimes it's frustrating not knowing where the ball's going. But as long as we're moving the ball downfield, we're OK with it."

But the real difference is tempo. The Ducks want to play as fast as possible, and plays can't start until Holmes has a spotted ball and can set the line. Suffice it to say, he gets to know the referee better than any other player on the field.

"There are a lot of officials who like to stand over the ball and wait for their buddy officials to get set up before they'll actually spot the ball," Holmes said. "They'll say, 'Don't snap the ball until I'm out of the box.' But we really never listen to them. As soon as he puts it down, we're trying to snap it."

While zone blocking isn't as aggressive as drive blocking, it's hardly patty-cake. When you watch the Ducks' line work, you see plenty of defenders on the ground. There's plenty of mauling going on, particularly at the second level. And physical play at a fast pace wears a defensive front seven down. Even a layman can sense a defense's will getting broken. Just pay close attention late in the third quarter.

"It's usually in the middle of a drive," Holmes said. "You can read body language. They're having a tough time getting their calls in. They kind of start to snap at each other. When that happens, you know they are not feeling too good. Then it's time to attack."

Yes, Holmes admits he and his linemates get tired. They are big dudes running around, after all. But he also noted they usually score a touchdown before exhaustion sets in, so they can go to the bench and relax with a cup of juice and an orange slice.

Their work has earned notice. While James and Thomas are like Brad Pitt and George Clooney starring in the blockbuster that is the Ducks' offense, the line is like William H. Macy, Forest Whitaker and Harry Dean Stanton, playing supporting roles that earn acclaim from educated eyes.

"I think that line is under-appreciated because of the numbers being run up by the individuals involved -- the quarterback's numbers, LaMichael James' numbers -- everybody's got a place to point their attention," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said. "But I think that line does a pretty remarkable job in handling everything at the tempo. And as well with as many schemes as they run."

But who should earn, say, All-Pac-10 honors?

"They all stand out," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "They are technicians who are able to move in space."

So, please, don't only see the Ducks' linemen as mere zone-blockers playing in a system. Or even as eye candy in alluring poses. See them as technicians. Men who move in space.

But, just FYI: Word is there will be a new Ducks linemen calendar this spring.

Opening the mailbag: Should Oregon fans fret their O-line?

May, 22, 2009
5/22/09
6:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Happy Friday...

To your letters.

King from San Diego writes: Given the controversy caused by the differences in conference scheduling, shouldn't the NCAA require all conferences to either do a round robin schedule like the Pac-10 or a division setup with a Conference Championship game at years end like the SEC, Big 12 and ACC?

Ted Miller: The NCAA doesn't have that sort of control over FBS football. It really only does rules enforcement. The BCS and the bowl games operate outside the NCAA, and the conferences mostly make their own decisions about divisions and schedules.

Moreover, round-robin schedules wouldn't work for 12-team conferences and splitting up into divisions doesn't make much sense for the Pac-10 or eight-team Big East.

I understand your sentiments. You want standardization. But I don't foresee that happening any time soon.


Jorge from Chambersburg, Pa., writes: I recently read an article on Tim Tebow and it made me think about his tremendous leadership. This, sadly, reminded me of Vince Young, his great leadership, and how far these two had taken their teams. Who will be the Trojan's leader (on offense) or will Taylor Mays be the leader for both sides of the ball? Will the new leader match Mark Sanchez's fire?

Ted Miller: There are plenty of candidates -- there are veterans at every spot on offense, other than quarterback. The offensive line is a good place to start, most particularly guys like multiyear starters Jeff Byers, Kristofer O'Dowd and Charles Brown.

But a quarterback has to be a leader. That will be a critical part of Aaron Corp's offseason -- convincing his teammates that he's the guy to follow into battle.


Michael from Tucson writes: Why no love for Arizona. Class is out and we're killing for news from the desert. But other then some features on a particular player there's nothing coming out. The team is barely making it into the lunch links more then once a week! What up in Tucson??? Why no love?

Ted Miller: Well, Arizona started and finished spring practices first. There's not a lot going on over there.

Moreover, you should probably be happy you aren't reading much about the Wildcats -- the softball team is getting all the headlines at present. If you were reading a lot of football stories right now, they would likely be bad news -- suspensions, transfers, off-field problems, etc.

Moreover, all our recent posts -- spring reviews -- have had Wildcats tidbits, and this story was about defensive end Brooks Reed.


Scott from Rochester, Minn., writes: Ted, really really disappointed in your answer to the guy from NYC about arguing the PAC 10 is better than SEC. Seriously man, there are enough people who speak without thinking you are supposed to be on our side. I am tired of the ass kissing everyone does for the SEC.

Ted Miller: Hey, the SEC is the nation's best conference, on average, over the past decade. While that can't be stated as fact, there's plenty of anecdotal and circumstantial evidence -- starting with number of different teams that have won national championships -- to support that idea.

My major contentions in this conference strength debate -- tiresome at times, but also catnip for passionate fans -- have been twofold: 1. USC is the best program in college football. If the Trojans had played in the SEC since 2002, they would have dominated and probably won three or four national titles; 2. The difference between the Pac-10 and SEC -- and Big 12 and Big Ten and everyone else -- isn't nearly as large as SEC adherents and many national commentators claim it is.

For example: Oregon would have been the second-best team in the SEC last year and California and Oregon State would have been in the top-five.


Kenny from Corvallis writes: Ted- I'd like it if you would give me an honest (not sugar coated) assessment of the Oregon State program, and its possibilities. I understand that is is going to be difficult given the size of the program to consistently win 10 games a year and became a major player. I also believe that a reason Mike Riley's underrated recruiting classes work is because that Pac-10 has been down of late, but once the Washingtons and UCLAs of the conference pick up steam, that he is going to have to get better athletes, plain and simple. What are your thoughts?

Ted Miller: Kenny, are you trying to get me into trouble?

Well, Oregon State's best team (2000) was put together when both Washington and Oregon were up. And recall that team was a nail-biting game at Washington away -- what if someone had blocked Larry Tripplett on that play! -- from being undefeated and playing for the FREAKING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!

I think Mike Riley has something going in Corvallis. A down season will be around .500. The program will regularly win seven, eight or nine games. And every so often they will be in the running for a BCS bowl berth.

I don't think UCLA or Washington rising will damage the Beavers that much.


Bearcatvol from Dalton, Ga., writes: Ted, Loved the roadtrip list but it seems like you missed an amazing potential double header football day. September 19th- Utah (Sugar Bowl) at Oregon and Cincinnati (Orange Bowl) at Oregon State. If TV works the right kickoff times you could easily attend both games and they would be very good non-conference clashes.... all within an hour and 20 minute drive of each other. I'm coming across country for it, hope I get both games in.

Ted Miller: That is a good one. Can you bring me some carpet when you come to the West Coast? (Inside joke about Dalton, Ga., from an Atlanta native.)

That's also a huge twin-bill for the Pac-10, considering both are revenge matchups that the Beavers and Ducks previously lost.


Nate from Pleasanton, Calif., writes: Obviously there has not been much success with Stanford's passing game in recent years but with Andrew Luck primed to be a starter and with the receiving corps improving since the loss of Mark Bradford and Evan Moore, could this be the year were a powerful combination of Stanford's rushing game and passing game push them into the upper part of the Pac-10 and possibly into a bowl game?

Ted Miller: How upper?

My guess is Stanford earns a bowl berth this season. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinal challenge for a spot in the top-half of the conference, though they may still be a year or two away.

By the time Luck is a senior and coach Jim Harbaugh's stellar recruiting settles in? Things could get interesting.


Michael from Parts Unknown writes: There is quite a bit of optimism and expectation for Arizona going into next season. I'm not so convinced. While I can certainly see the team winning eight or games because of the softer schedule, given the number of starters they have to replace on defense while also losing the heart and soul of the offense (i.e. Tuitama, Britton, Thomas), I can just easily see the Wildcats losing as many eight games in 2009. Thoughts? As a followup, I'm wondering what happens to Stoops if the latter scenario plays out considering the recent contract extension.

Ted Miller: Hey, nothing shocks me in the Pac-10.
At least not since USC lost at home to Stanford.

I'd be surprised if the Wildcats tumble. Mike Stoops has collected some good talent and I think he's transformed the culture in a positive way.

But if things did go south, and Arizona went 4-8, well, the hot-seat talk would begin anew. That's just the way it is in big-time college coaching.


Dan from Eugene, Ore., writes: Can you elaborate on why Oregon's offensive line is such a big issue? None of your previous postings have convinced me that this is true.

Ted Miller: The Ducks lost three multiyear starters from their dominant offensive lines of 2008 and 2009. Two of whom -- center Max Unger and tackle Fenuki Tupou -- were drafted. The third, 26-game starter Mark Lewis, signed a free-agent deal with Miami.

They were the Ducks' three best linemen in 2008. By far.

The returning players with experience who are expected to fill four of five starting spots -- Bo Thran, C.E. Kaiser, Jordan Holmes and Mark Asper -- have combined for 19 starts.

The fifth spot is currently manned by Carson York, who's a redshirt freshman.

Thran and Kaiser missed spring due to injuries.

Without those two, the line often looked overwhelmed this spring by a defensive line that also is replacing three starters.

In a previous mailbag, I noted that the Ducks' issues up front aren't as worrisome as they might seem -- they've got four guys back with starting experience and line coach Steve Greatwood is first-rate.

But any Ducks fans who tells you he's not worried at least a little bit is working the fan spin pretty hard.

Oregon spring wrap-up

May, 8, 2009
5/08/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Oregon Ducks
2008 overall record: 10-3

2008 conference record: 7-2

Returning starters

Offense 5, defense 5, kicker/punter 0

Top returners

QB Jeremiah Masoli, RB LeGarrette Blount, TE Ed Dickson, CB Walter Thurmond III, DE Will Tukuafu, FS T.J. Ward

Key losses

C Max Unger, LT Fenuki Tupou, RB Jeremiah Johnson, WR Terence Scott, DE Nick Reed, CB Jairus Byrd, ROV Patrick Chung, DT Ra'Shone Harris

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jeremiah Johnson (1,201)
Passing: Jeremiah Masoli* (1,744)
Receiving: Terence Scott (751)
Tackles: T.J. Ward* (101)
Sacks: Nick Reed (13)
Interceptions: Walter Thurmond*, Jairus Byrd (5)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sep. 3 at Boise State
Sep. 12 Purdue
Sep. 19 Utah
Sep. 26 California
Oct. 3 Washington State
Oct. 10 at UCLA
Oct. 24 at Washington
Oct. 31 USC
Nov. 7 at Stanford
Nov. 14 Arizona State
Nov. 21 at Arizona
Dec. 3 Oregon State

1. Passing the test: The Ducks passing game was only OK last year -- ranking fifth in the Pac-10 -- and with two of the top three receivers leaving, it was a question mark entering spring. It's less so now. Both quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Justin Roper threw well, particularly in the spring game, while Jamere Holland led a receiving corps that appears capable and deep. No longer does it seem essential that JC transfer Tyrece Gaines and freshman Diante Jackson contribute from game one.

2. Linebacking up: Oregon's linebackers have been mostly mediocre in recent years, but this crew has a chance to tip the scales from middling to good. Casey Matthews, Spencer Paysinger and Eddie Pleasant give the Ducks a solid troika of experienced starters, with JC transfer Bryson Littlejohn, Dewitt Stuckey and Josh Kaddu providing depth.

3. DL hope: Oregon lost three starters from its 2008 defensive line, and projected 2009 starter Tonio Celotto quit football. All that raised eyebrows, but the D-line controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the spring. Will Tukuafu, the lone returning stater, tackles Brandon Bair, Blake Ferras and Simi Toeaina and end Kenny Rowe showed promise up front. The question, though, is whether much of their success was a function of the banged-up offensive line's struggles.

Fall questions

1. O-line woes: With returning starters C.E. Kaiser and Bo Thran sitting out due to injuries, the offensive line was green and it looked the part during spring practices. Run and pass blocking were problems. Moreover, when the injured players return, there's still a question of who will be the fifth starter and whether there will be some reshuffling of positions in the fall.

2. Thurmond sidekick? Cornerback Walter Thurmond, who was banged up much of last year, was healthy during spring practices and he looked like the NFL prospect he is. But who will play opposite him and fill the void left by the early departure of Jairus Byrd to the NFL? Will it be Talmadge Jackson or Willie Glasper, who were both injured, or will someone else step up?

3. Nothing special: A lot is expected of incoming punter Jackson Rice and kicker Mike Bowlin, particularly after the inconsistency -- and downright awfulness (see the spring game) -- of the kicking and punting. If those guys aren't ready, special teams may be an adventure next fall, though it's worth noting the kicker Morgan Flint, who was mostly solid last year, may have just had an off couple of weeks.

Big East nips Pac-10 for draft lead

April, 27, 2009
4/27/09
10:23
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

[Note this is a corrected post... apologies for not factoring in the underrated Big East].

The Big East nipped the Pac-10 for the lead among conferences in the 2009 NFL draft.

The eight-team Big East supplied 27 total players in the draft, or 3.4 players per team. The Pac-10 supplied 32 selections (3.2 players per team). The 12-team SEC was third with 37 selections overall, or 3.1 per team. The 12-team ACC was third with 33 (2.8 per team).

Last year, the Pac-10's led with 3.4 per team vs. 2.92 per team for the SEC and ACC (2.75).

USC led the way with 11 players selected, including three in the first round, though many are shaking their heads of linebacker Rey Maualuga's tumble into the second round. Every draft-eligible Trojan who started last season was picked.

Oregon State was second with seven players selected and Oregon was third with six. Arizona State, with a pair of seventh-round selections, maintained a 45-year streak with at least one player drafted.

Not all the news was good: Stanford, UCLA and Washington each had no players selected.

Here's the complete list

Arizona

Eben Britton, OT, Jacksonville, second
Mike Thomas, WR, Jacksonville, fourth

Arizona State

Troy Nolan, S, Houston, seventh
Paul Fanaika, OG, Philadelphia, seventh

California

Alex Mack, C, Cleveland, first
Zach Follett, LB, Detroit, seventh
Cameron Morrah, TE, seventh

Oregon

Patrick Chung, S, New England, second
Jairus Byrd, CB, Buffalo, second
Max Unger, C, Seattle, second
Fenuki Tupou, OT, Philadelphia, fifth
Ra'Shon Harris, DT, Pittsburgh, sixth
Nick Reed, DE, Seattle, seventh

Oregon State

Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo, second
Keenan Lewis, CB, Pittsburgh, third
Victor Butler, OLB, Dallas, fourth
Slade Norris, OLB, Oakland, fourth
Brandon Hughes, CB, San Diego, fifth
Al Afalava, S, Chicago, sixth
Sammie Stroughter, WR, Tampa Bay, seventh

Stanford

NONE

UCLA

NONE

USC

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets, first (No. 5)
Brian Cushing, OLB, Houston, first (No. 15)
Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay, first (No. 26)
Rey Maualuga, LB, Cincinnati, second
Fili Moala, DT, Indianapolis, second
Patrick Turner, WR, Miami, third
Kaluka Maiava, LB, Cleveland, fourth
Kyle Moore, DE, Tampa Bay, fourth
David Buehler, PK, Dallas, fifth
Cary Harris, CB, Buffalo, sixth
Kevin Ellison, S, San Diego, sixth

Washington

NONE

Washington State

Brandon Gibson, WR, Philadelphia, sixth

Oregon completes Tupou violations review

December, 23, 2008
12/23/08
4:27
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Remember the case of Oregon's Fenuki Tupou? The offensive tackle was suspended for one game for accepting a meal and money from a sports agent.

Well, the Eugene Register-Guard reported that the case is now in front of the Pac-10 and will shortly be forwarded to the NCAA.

Oregon officials told the newspaper "that based on precedents they do not believe that the Pac-10 or NCAA will increase the penalties Oregon has already imposed."

We shall see. Someday.

Perhaps we'll get the Reggie Bush verdict someday, too.

Updates from USC, Oregon and Arizona State

October, 11, 2008
10/11/08
10:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The lead Saturday stories.

  • Best bet is to call Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter "very questionable," meaning Danny Sullivan likely starts at USC.
  • Oregon quarterback Justin Roper may not start but he should play behind Jeremiah Masoli. As big an issue is left tackle Fenuki Tupou (knee), who is questionable and may force a reshuffling of the Ducks line with UCLA coming to town.
  • USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and linebacker Rey Maualuga won't let their knee injuries stop them from playing against Arizona State.

Oregon's Roper returns to practice as No. 2 QB

October, 7, 2008
10/07/08
10:42
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

First, Oregon fans, knock on wood.

With Justin Roper returning to practice Monday, Oregon, though not exactly chipper after losing 44-10 at USC over the weekend, is getting healthier at quarterback.

During the upset loss to Boise State, the Ducks were down to their No. 5 quarterback.

Roper, who started the season as No. 2 on the depth chart, partially tore the MCL in his left knee at Purdue on Sept. 13, and then got sick (it turns out it wasn't mono). He's lost some weight but he's back, running the No. 2 offense as of now, and ready to compete with Jeremiah Masoli for the starting job, starting Saturday against UCLA.

Here's what Roper had to say after practice.

The Ducks, however, still aren't completely healthy -- running back LeGarrette Blount (hip), cornerback Walter Thurmond (groin), offensive tackle Fenuki Tupou (knee) and linebacker Spencer Paysinger (hamstring) sat out practice.

What statement will USC, Oregon make?

October, 4, 2008
10/04/08
7:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Oregon should feel right at home tonight. It's cloudy and cool (68 degrees) with a chance of showers. Just like it is much of the year in Eugene.

  

The winner tonight between No. 9 USC (2-1, 0-1 Pac-10) and No. 23 Oregon (4-1, 2-0), however, figures to feel pretty sunny. That team will walk away as the Pac-10 front-runner, though California, a future foe for both, might have something to say about that.

Oregon does boast a 5-3 record in its last eight meetings against the Trojans, including a 24-17 win last year.

The last time the Ducks visited the Coliseum in 2006, though, they got thudded 35-10. The Trojans were coming off a loss to Oregon State then, too. The last time USC coach Pete Carroll lost consecutive games against Pac-10 foes?

Never.

He's also 7-0 against conference teams that beat him the year before, delivering retribution by a 248-114 count. A team hasn't won two in a row against the the Trojans since 2001-02 (Kansas State), Carroll's first two seasons at Troy. Carroll's first season, when USC finished 6-6, is also the last time the Trojans lost consecutive games.

USC is riding a 25-game winning streak in the Coliseum.

And the Oregon programs haven't swept USC since 1957.

So, in other words, there are plenty of trends and factoids that suggest USC will make a statement to the nation tonight that it is premature to count the Trojans out of the national title hunt.

(Read full post)

Oregon finds new ways to overcome adversity

September, 13, 2008
9/13/08
11:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Oregon defensive end Will Tukuafu first heard the phrase from his junior college coach, Ken Giovando.

As Oregon backslid in the first half Saturday, making "enough mistakes to last the rest of the season," according to head coach Mike Bellotti, Tukuafu began to repeat the line: Adversity introduces a person to himself.

"Things aren't always going to go our way," Tukuafu said. "But when those things don't go our way, how are we going to react? I think we reacted pretty well today."

More than a few things haven't gone Oregon's way during the last month, but the 16th-ranked Ducks continue to find a way.

Consider the stumbling blocks and the Ducks' response:

  • After losing projected starting quarterback Nate Costa to a season-ending knee injury, Oregon put up 110 points in its first two games behind Justin Roper.
  • Left tackle Fenuki Tupou was suspended for the season opener for receiving improper benefits from an agent, but Oregon pounded Washington, 44-10.
  • When the offense couldn't find the end zone for the better part of three quarters Saturday, the defense put up a wall at its own 40-yard line and wouldn't let Curtis Painter and Purdue cross it.
  • As starting running back Jeremiah Johnson played with a recently separated right shoulder, backup LeGarrette Blount stepped up with 132 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in the second overtime.
  • When Roper went down with a sprained left knee in the first overtime, freshman Chris Harper led the winning touchdown drive.

"We got as close as you could get to losing, but still we got a victory," offensive coordinator Chip Kelly said. "In the end, you're 3-0 and in January and February, no one's going to talk about the Purdue game."

Most of Oregon's mistakes Saturday stemmed from Kelly's unit, but the defense faced its own hurdles. Purdue's Kory Sheets gashed the Ducks for an 80-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage and put his team up 20-3 on the first play of the second quarter.

But from that point, the Ducks' defense locked down. Purdue consistently got good field position but didn't advance past Oregon's 38-yard line on its next 11 possessions. The Boilermakers racked up just 22 yards on 17 plays in the second quarter.

"I challenged the defense to shut them out, and they did," Bellotti said. "They put the momentum on our side."

As Blount walked over to Kelly outside the visitors' locker room after the game, the coach embraced the 229-pound junior and said, "I'm proud of you."

Johnson insisted his shoulder was fine, but Bellotti acknowledged the back wasn't 100 percent. The Ducks needed Blount to step in, just as Roper did for Costa and Harper eventually did for Roper.

Though Jairus Boyd's 87-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the third quarter was undeniably the game's turning point, Blount changed field position and ignited the offense with a 72-yard dash from his Oregon's 4-yard line.

"He's one of a kind," Johnson said of Blount. "That's my boy. When I went out, he came in and did an excellent job today."

The heroics from Blount, Boyd and others helped Oregon survive a multitude of mistakes in all three areas of the game. Roper had two passes intercepted in Purdue territory, Oregon lost the turnover battle 4-3 and committed several costly penalties. The Ducks' inability to handle a short kickoff into the wind set up a Purdue touchdown.

Late in the third quarter, Bellotti slammed his headset to the turf after the defense was nearly whistled for illegal substitution on consecutive plays.

"I can't think of a game anywhere that we played that poorly," Bellotti said.

"We weren't nearly as focused," Harper said. "I don't think we had the same intensity we had for Washington or some of those other games. We came out sluggish."

They'll have to be better starting next week against Boise State, and more adversity awaits. Roper is expected to miss the game, meaning Harper or Jeremiah Masoli will start at quarterback.

Relief was the general sentiment after Saturday's win, but there were lessons, too.

"It makes me want to work harder," said Tukuafu, who had two sacks and recovered a fumble. "We want to understand the mind-set now. We faced a little adversity and our mind-set changed. Our work habits, all those things, increased a lot more this week."

More on agent vs. Oregon tackle Tupou

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
2:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN,com's Ted Miller

Lying is so widespread in our society that it no longer seems to amaze many of us.

To flat-out fabricate a story in order to save your hide, and often to falsely blame another -- it's truly distressing how much this is part of our public dialogue.

In Fenuki Tupou vs. agent Tim Norling, somebody is lying.

Did Tupou, as he claims, accept money from an agent, try to give it back and then confess to Oregon officials because he felt guilty? Or is the Ducks starting offensive tackle attempting to rewrite reality in order to protect himself?

George Schroeder in the Eugene Register-Guard makes a solid argument that it's easier to believe Tupou than Norling, an employee with the Arizona-based sports management firm Lock, Metz & Malinovic. Here are further comments from Schroeder on his blog.

Figuring out exactly what Tupou's motive was for confessing is difficult.

Of course, he only had to sit out one game for coming clean, which was carefully managed by the school.

In this day and age, it's hard not to be skeptical. Of everyone.

My guess is that many -- MANY -- FBS teams have players quietly accepting benefits that are not permitted by NCAA rules.

Think about it: The only time these transactions produce splashy headlines is when a disgruntled somebody privy to the exchanges squeals, typically as an act of retribution.

Or in this unusual case, confesses.

This is usually when folks step in and say, "Pay the players already!"

But that's not going to happen. It's a lazy point made by writers typically doing a drive-by on major college sports.

My dreary conclusion on this? It's just part of the game and, really, there's little we can do about it when people are willing to compromise their integrity for cash and trinkets.

Pac-10 Morning: Arizona in search of 2-0

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
10:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

They say fans improve the most between week one and week two.

Afternoon Musings: Roper back, Sanchez rising, Willingham struggling

September, 3, 2008
9/03/08
8:49
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Before heading to Arizona State practice, finishing up on Mill Avenue -- in a Starbucks (promise).

  • Agent denies he gave Oregon offensive lineman Fenuki Tupou money. Tupou is expected back from a one-game suspension this weekend. Wonder if this has any legs? Meanwhile, QB Justin Roper practiced and should start against Utah State.
  • Pac-10 bloggers roundtable.... some sharp observations here. 
  • An SEC writer offers: Maybe the SEC does need to play more quality nonconference games to prove that it's the best conference instead of trying to prove it by just talking a lot.
  • Notes from the Cal media luncheon.
  • Jon Wilner's Pac-10 ratings with a note on the precariousness of Tyrone Willingham's situation at Washington.
  • Palmer begat, Leinart, who begat Booty, who begat Sanchez, who will begat... Barkley. Wonder what the most QBs one program has had in the NFL at one time is?
  • Notes from Willingham's pre-practice meeting with Huskies reporters, including the return of TE Michael Gottlieb and the decision to redshirt safety Jason Wells. By the way, Willingham is No. 3 on Coaches' Hot Seat's weekly list.
  • Bud Withers tips his cap to UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.
  • Here's a very thorough recap of Washington State coach Paul Wulff's radio show
  • USC QB Mark Sanchez, now No. 4 on Heisman Pundit's weekly list, was named the Davey O'Brien Quarterback of the Week after completing 26 of 35 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the Trojans 52-7 victory over Virginia 
  • In the good works category: coach Pete Carroll and members of USC's top-ranked football team will make their annual visit to the USC Women's and Children's Hospital on Thursday (at approximately 11:15 a.m. They will be joined by the USC Spirit of Troy Marching Band as well as the USC Song Girls
  • Some folks were wondering about the relocation of Sunday Morning Quarterback. Found him here. It appears he's now calling himself "Dr. Saturday." So he's, like, 12 hours earlier, which is the way you've got to be in this world, where Monday is the new Sunday.

Pac-10 Morning: Ducks QB Roper should play Saturday

September, 1, 2008
9/01/08
10:26
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Seems like everyone outside of the state of Washington is smiling (you Beavers have surely recovered, right?)

No love lost for visiting Washington

August, 30, 2008
8/30/08
9:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com'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.

Pac-10 Morning: Oregon OL takes hit

August, 30, 2008
8/30/08
10:42
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Anyone for 12 hours of college football?

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