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Tag:Bryan Bennett
Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:39 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Washington

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks offense has struggled to be consistent and it appears there's a minor quarterback controversy after Darron Thomas was pulled in the second half for backup quarterback Bryan Bennett. LaMichael James is back and Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas have done a great job running the football but Oregon has to get the passing game back on track with Thomas under center. This is likely the Ducks' stiffest test on defense all season but they're going to need the offense in its usual high-scoring mode to win.

WASHINGTON WILL WIN IF: The defense has to make play plays and force a few turnovers. There's no if's, and's or but's about this game, the defense will need to take a major step forward if the Huskies want to win this game. The offense has been great so far this year but the team has been in too many shootouts - a type of game they'll lose against Oregon. Chris Polk will need another monster game and will need to help control the clock and keep it out of the hands of the Oregon offense. This is a big game for Steve Sarkisian but it's an even bigger game for defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

X-FACTOR: Washington is bowl eligible for the second season in a row and the rivalry against Oregon is an underrated one nationally. That should create an electric crowd at Husky Stadium, one of the loudest venues in the Pac-12. If they can capitalize on the home field advantage and force Oregon in to some mistakes early, there's no doubt that Washington has a chance in this one.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview

Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

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Related links
Video
Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 8:28 pm
 

Pac-12 Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes

In case you've been living under a rock or on another planet, you know the Stanford signal-caller is the best quarterback in the country. After beating the last 10 opponents by at least 25 points, the Cardinal finally faced a stiff test from USC this week and it was Luck that helped lead them out of trouble and to another win to keep the record unblemished. True, he wasn't perfect, throwing an interception late in the 4th quarter that was returned for a touchdown. Luck responded though, leading a calm, efficient drive to tie the game before being flawless in three overtime periods - tossing a touchdown, the winning two-point conversion and picking up several yards using his legs. With two offensive linemen and one of his top targets in tight end Zach Ertz out due to injury, more of the load was on Luck's shoulders and he came through to deliver a big Heisman moment in front of a national television audience.

LOSER: Oregon's quarterback controversy

Starting quarterback Darron Thomas returned against Washington State after dealing with a knee injury and tossed two interceptions that kept the Cougars within five points at halftime. Chip Kelly swapped him out for backup Bryan Bennett, who led the offense to three touchdowns and a 43-28 win at home. Afterward Kelly said Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance to win but assistants downplayed any brewing quarterback controversy. The offense has not been as sharp as they were a year ago but that doesn't mean Thomas is not going to be the starter going forward, all he did was lead Oregon to the national title game in his first full year as a starter. The leash might be a little shorter with Bennett doing well but there's only a real quarterback controversy on message boards (or if they lose).

WINNER: De'Anthony Thomas

The sensational freshman from Los Angeles has continued to fit right into the fast-paced Oregon offense. He finished the game against Washington State with a pair of highlights on a 45-yard touchdown catch and a 93-yard kickoff return. Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, a school-record for a true freshman. What is surprising is how well he's held up over the season given his size but week-in and week-out he goes and makes plays. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars and should continue to be a focal part of the offense.

LOSER: Zach Maynard

California's starting quarterback, Maynard's third leading receiver this week was Tevin McDonald. The problem was McDonald plays safety for UCLA and ended up picking Maynard off three times on Saturday. The offense couldn't get much going against a Bruins defense that has struggled most of the year, with Maynard going 14-of-30 for 199 yards (he also threw another interception to Aaron Hester). It's somewhat puzzling how Jeff Tedford has never been able to get consistent quarterback play since Aaron Rodgers left but it appears he's sticking with Maynard through thick and thin this season. The Bears have lost four of five but have two winnable home games against Washington State and Oregon State to get bowl eligible. If they are going to win, they're going to need a lot more out of Maynard than what he showed at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.

WINNER: Barking for Sark

There was a time where Washington was one of the worst programs in FBS, much less the then Pac-10. Steve Sarkisian has done a wonderful job turning around the program and for the second year in a row has the Huskies bowl eligble and sitting comfortably in third place in the Pac-12 North. Having to replace Jake Locker is no easy task but the offense has actually improved behind Keith Price's arm and Chris Polk's running. The defense remains a work in progress but it is good enough to step up when needed. From top to bottom though, this is a completely different program under Sarkisian and has the entire city of Seattle 'Barking for Sark.'

LOSER: Colorado

Six straight losses and they really haven't been close to being competitive. Jon Embree was given a tough rebuilding job at his alma mater but this is starting to get embarrassing for the once proud program. The defense has given up at least 45 points the last four games and has held just one team under 31 all year. The offense has dealt with injures but has failed to move the ball much at all. The Buffs still haven't won a Pac-12 game and have only a slim chance to win any of their remaining games. Embree could get there and make the program more competitive but it didn't look like it this week.

WINNER: Utah

It took longer - a lot longer - than those around the program had hoped but the Utes finally have a Pac-12 victory to their name with 27-8 home win over Oregon State. Utah's defense was the strength of the team and forced four turnovers against an underrated Beavers offense that was looking for a second straight road win. Running back John White continued to be a problem for defenses on the ground, rushing for a career-high 205 yards to keep the heat off of starter Jon Hays. The schedule does lighten up during the back half for Utah and getting their first Pac-12 win should provide some momentum going forward.

WINNER: USC


There is no phrase losing coaches hate more than "moral victories" but after almost beating Stanford in one of the most thrilling games of the year, it's safe to give USC a moral victory. The Trojans fought hard and were it not for a fumble near the goal line in the third overtime, were close to pulling the upset. Certainly it's no accomplishment allowing 56 points but when you consider how good Andrew Luck is and the limited depth USC has, Monte Kiffin's crew did enough to put the team in a position to win. Between the Notre Dame win and the game against Stanford, Lane Kiffin has solidified this team as a top 25 team and one that could give Oregon some trouble down the road. As much as anything, seeing the Coliseum full and loud was a welcome sight to coaches and players. “If you’re going to play a team that has the longest winning streak in the country and has beaten everybody by over 25 points and you go down to a game that could have gone either way,” Kiffin said. “You have to be pleased with where your team is at.” The last time USC played a triple overtime game they used it as a launching point for one of the best runs in college football history. Not saying this game can do the same but it could be the impetus for good things in the land of Troy.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview


Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Ducks' Thomas, James both say they can play at CU

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Oregon proved against Arizona State -- much as it's proved over the entire course of Chip Kelly's plug-and-play reign -- that it probably doesn't need Darron Thomas and LaMichael James to defeat 1-6 Colorado this Saturday. But there's also little question that Kelly and the Ducks would like to have Thomas and James in uniform and on the field, just in case.

And to hear Thomas and James tell it, that's exactly what will happen. Thomas said Wednesday that despite his knee injury against the Sun Devils and an earlier report that said backup Bryan Bennett had received the starter's reps in Duck practice during the week, he "expects" to be the No. 1 QB against the Buffs. "Nah, I've been taking them," Thomas said of the practice snaps mentioned in the earlier report.

Thomas added that he wouldn't need doctor's clearance to play against Colorado, since he had never been "uncleared" by doctors in the first place. He was spotted by CBSSports.com Oregon RapidReporter Chris Hansen walking without a knee brace or any noticeable limp after Tuesday's practice.

Thomas's confidence is only more good news for the Ducks after James declared Tuesday that he, too, would be available for the game in Boulder--though having not practiced yet and still without the full range of motion in his dislocated elbow, he was less emphatic than Thomas.

“I’ve (had) enough progress the doctors are fine with me playing ... I definitely could play,” he said. “It’s one of those things if they need me to play.”

With both players nursing their injuries against a team Vegas has pegged as a 32.5-point underdog, don't expect either Thomas or James to get too much burn. And by James's own admission, a fast start for the Ducks would likely see him miss the game entirely.

But it has to be reassuring for Kelly and the Ducks to know that in the event of an emergency, both their stars will be on hand to help.

For more on the Oregon-Colorado matchup, check out our comprehensive pregame page.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:58 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 1:22 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Colorado

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: If they step off the bus. This is a total mismatch between the conference king (two straight conference titles) and the conference newcomer. The Ducks enter as the 9th-ranked team in the country and lead the conference in most offensive categories. There are some injury concerns, with quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James limited or out against the Buffs but that didn't stop the team from rolling 41 points against one of the league's best defenses last week.

COLORADO WILL WIN IF: If there's a blizzard. Jon Embree's squad does not have the talent to stack up against most Pac-12 programs, much less Oregon. The Buffs are 92nd in the country in total offense and 91st in total defense, not the kind of team you want to play the up-tempo Ducks with. There are some playmakers on the team but they'll be without top linebacker Doug Rippy and starting tailback Rodney Stewart. Undermanned and overmatched, it will be tough for Colorado to pull out a win.

X-FACTOR: Injuries on both sides will be a factor. Backup quarterback Bryan Bennett looked efficient running the Oregon offense after coming on in relief for Thomas but is still young and going on the road for the first time. Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen will be without his top rushing threat and might not have his top receiver for the third straight game. It still looks like this will be a comfortable Oregon victory but you never know how some players will adjust to increased playing time.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 1:47 am
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 41, Arizona State 27

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WON. In a possible Pac-12 championship game preview, Oregon pulled away from Arizona State with another big second half up in Eugene. Although they got the W, it was a costly one. Already without the country's leading rushing LaMichael James, starting quarterback Darron Thomas and hard-hitting safety Eddie Pleasant both suffered a knee injury in the 3rd quarter. Still, the Ducks slashed the ASU defense to the tune of 531 yards and 41 points.

WHY OREGON WON: Like many of their Pac-12 victories, Oregon used an explosive running game and a defense that created pressure and forced turnovers. Despite Pleasant getting hurt, the secondary stepped up and held Sun Devils quarterback Brock Osweiler to just five yards passing in the 3rd quarter and picked him off twice. The plug-and-play backfield also ended up with three rushers over 60 yards, including backup quarterback Bryan Bennett.

WHEN OREGON WON. A close game at halftime, the Ducks used a sequence in the middle of the key 3rd quarter to really take control of the game, scoring 17 straight after Cameron Marshall gave Arizona State a 24-21 lead. Behind Kenjon Barner, Oregon responded by going 68 yards in six plays in just 1:37 to re-take the lead. The defense forced a three-and-out and Bennett took over on the 12 yard line. After moving the offense to the 48, he took off for 18 yards but fumbled. It appeared a Sun Devils defensive lineman had successfully knocked it back inbound to another defender but a replay kept the ball in the hands of the Ducks. Barner scored a touchdown two plays later and it was pretty much over after that.

WHAT OREGON WON. Chip Kelly's squad continues to be well positioned for a big Pac-12 game at Stanford in early November that likely puts the winner in the Rose Bowl. It was a costly victory in terms of a few injuries but they still proved they have plenty of depth and the system that is tough for every conference opponent to stop. They have two easy games at Colorado and against Washington State before their big stretch of at Washington, at Stanford and against USC.

WHAT ARIZONA STATE LOST. In the grand scheme of things, not that much. The Sun Devils are still the runaway favorites to take home the Pac-12 South title and wind up back in Eugene (or Palo Alto) to play for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Still, this was a big step that the program wanted to take under Dennis Erickson and they fell short on the road.

THAT WAS CRAZY. The Ducks came into the game with only four turnovers on defense, none in the last three games. Cliff Harris ended that in the 2nd quarter, picking off Osweiler and returning it 50 yards to set up a score. Oregon also set a school-record for attendance at Autzen Stadium, with 60,055 screaming very loud.

Posted on: November 8, 2010 3:41 pm
 

Oregon (and Arizona) with backup QB issues

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

The way Oregon has a cut a swath of destruction through the Pac-10 thus far this season as athletic dual-threat quarterback Darron Thomas has operated Chip Kelly 's lethal spread-option offense to perfection, you might think the Ducks were invulnerable. But you don't have to go any further back than 2007 remember another season when an apparently-invulnerable Oregon was cutting a swath of destruction through the Pac-10 as athletic dual-threat quarterback Dennis Dixon was operating Chip Kelly's lethal spread-option offense to perfection, and that season ended with an unfortunate ACL injury to Dixon derailing what could have been a national championship campaign.

Until last Saturday, the Ducks appeared impervious to even that nightmare scenario, as senior backup Nate Costa , with several years of experience in Kelly's system under his belt, appeared to be a 100 percent sound backup plan in the event of Thomas's departure. (Costa deputized against Washington State earlier this year and hit a brisk 13-of-15 while rushing for 84 yards.) But that was before Costa "appeared to suffer a serious injury to his right knee" while trying to salvage a botched field goal hold against Washington this past weekend.

A final evaluation of Costa's status is still forthcoming , but Kelly seemed resigned to not having the senior available for this week's tricky visit to Cal , at the minimum. That leaves Kelly with two less-than-appetizing options if he has to turn to someone other than Thomas: true freshman Bryan Bennett , who earned the No. 3 job in the offseason but is a true freshman and who Kelly wants to redshirt, or redshirt sophomore Daryle Hawkins , who has spent the season working at running back and receiver.

As long as Thomas stays healthy, it won't matter who the backup is. But before Costa's injury, it had become nearly impossible to lay out a blueprint for a Ducks loss; now, an early knock to Thomas that could thrust Bennett or Hawkins into the fray on the road against an athletic, disruptive Bears defense could turn things awfully dicey for the Ducks in a big hurry. Even if Thomas remains intact, Kelly may feel forced to alter his play-calling to prevent him from taking as many hits; against the Bears, on the road, it's conceivable could this lead to the first real offensive hiccups of the season for the Duck offense.

At least the Ducks won't be alone in wondering what might happen if their starter goes down; Arizona will be without rejuvenated backup Matt Scott for their trip to USC as he recovers from a wrist injury. Scott led the Wildcats to a pair of wins in starter Nick Foles 's recent injury absence and might have spelled Foles Saturday against Stanford if healthy. Instead, the 'Cats will go with junior Bryson Beirne (and his five career pass attempts) in the event Foles is forced ot the bench.

 
 
 
 
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