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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

November 3, 2010 at 1:36 PM

Scouting Oregon — Whether you want it or not

Well, it’s pretty obvious the enthusiasm of UW fans for this game isn’t exactly at an all-time high. But we’ve done the “scouting the opponent” segment every week in this space so I figured I’d plow ahead again with five questions about the Oregon Ducks. Kind enough to answer those queries is Ken Goe of The Oregonian, a longtime Pac-10 writer who now covers the Ducks. You can find Goe’s writings here or follow him on Twitter.
Now, on to the questions. …
1, Chip Kelly says it’s more Oregon’s players and not the scheme that make the offense so explosive. What do you think?
A: Impossible to separate one from the other. I think the scheme has been molded to the players, and Kelly does nice job of play-calling within the scheme. LaMichael James is a great runner in a zone scheme, because he finds the crease and hits it with everything he has. He is very fast, with instant acceleration. Darron Thomas (pictured in an AP photo) reads the option well, and throws effectively. The play-action passing game is a dangerous weapon, especially against defenses that load the box to take away the run. The offensive line is a really good zone blocking group, smart, mobile and experienced. The Ducks can hit a defense in a lot of ways, and the pace at which they play means if the defense is out of position, a little winded or at all off balance, it can mean a big gainer. They run both veer and zone read plays, screen well and are more effective this year than last at throwing it downfield.
2, Any surprise down there that Darron Thomas has played so well? That seemed like a real question mark heading into the season.
A: Yeah, I missed on this one. I didn’t think there was any way Thomas could play at this level in his first year as a starter. I think he is better than Jeremiah Masoli was last year, and Masoli was the team’s co-MVP in a Rose Bowl season. Thomas doesn’t run with the power that Masoli did. But he is fast, can hurt you when he keeps it, and is a polished ball-handler on option plays. Where he really stands out from Masoli is as a passer. Masoli completed 58 percent of his passes and averaged 178.9 passing yards. Thomas’ completion percentage is 60.7 percent and trending up. He averages of 228.4 passing yards. He is better in the pocket than Masoli, because he is taller and more willing to stand in and take a hit to complete a downfield pass.
3, The defense seems to get overlooked. What are its strong points?
A: Takeaways. Oregon leads Division I-A in turnover margin and has 28 takeaways. The Ducks use a lot of looks, stunts and blitzes, and will play some combination coverages in the secondary. It’s a high-risk, high-reward style. They give up yards, but create enough turnovers to make for it. Sophomore cornerback Cliff Harris is a ball hawk, who plays with swashbuckling confidence. The story goes that in his first team meeting after arriving as a freshman, he stood up, looked around at the veterans, and announced: “I’m Cliff Harris, and I’m here to lock (beep) down.”
4, Is there any sense that the Ducks are feeling any pressure due to being ranked No. 1 and all that?
A: No. For all the credit Kelly gets for Xs and Os, I think this is where he has done his best coaching. He has convinced the players to take it one day at time. His “Win The Day” slogan is painted all over Autzen. You can’t look too far in any one direction and not see it. It might sound corny, but the players have bought in. They put their complete focus on one practice at a time, one week at a time, one game at time. I thought they might clutch up a little when they were voted No. 1 two weeks ago for the first time in school history, but they went out and and hung 60 on UCLA.
5, This has long been regarded as one of the fiercest rivalries in the Pac-10. Given Oregon’s status as No. 1 in the country and recent domination of the series, do you think the Oregon players still regard it as such?
A: I don’t think so. It’s real different for me. When I first covered Oregon football in the mid-80s, Husky week was a crusade. There wasn’t anybody those guys wanted to beat more. Now, it’s just the next game. For a lot of Oregon fans, particularly those 35 and over, Washington still is hated with a passion. But for the players, coaches and younger fans, the Civil War has eclipsed it. Of course, last year’s Civil War was for the Rose Bowl. Two years ago, Oregon State would have gone to the Rose Bowl with a win in the Civil War. And three years ago, OSU beat the Ducks on their own field.



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