The Ducks Are Hot in the Mo

The fifth ranked Oregon Ducks (3-0) head south to Tempe, Arizona to meet the Arizona State Sun Devils (2-1) for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff this Saturday and one thing that the Oregonians will have – exposure to heat. All week the Ducks have practiced inside the Moshofsky Center in Eugene with the thermometer turned up – way up.

"The report was 96 (degrees) and it was pumping out at 125 (degrees inside the Moshofsky Center), we can't hold it all in there," said Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly of the climate controlled temperature." It was in the mid-90s as I understand it."

Kelly has ordered the heat wave, even if it is inside of the huge athletic center, so that his players would feel just a bit more comfortable when game time rolls around in the Arizona desert. This isn't the first time Kelly has used the climate control in preparation for a game. Two weeks ago, the Ducks thought they'd experience the heat and humidity of the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, so the Oregon field staff turned up the heat; they also watered down the practice turf to make things a little more like Knoxville, Tennessee. This week of course the climate of Arizona is not going to be muggy – but it will be hot. Forecasts say game day temperatures could be as much as 103 degrees during the daylight and dropping to 77 degrees sometime during the night. At kickoff though, the temperature will likely be around the 95 degree mark – give or take a couple of degrees. When asked how the training was going in the Moshofsky, Kelly had a one-word response: hot.

"I think the reporters are more worried about it, I see those guys fanning themselves," mused Kelly of the sauna-like conditions inside the Mo Center. "We got to practice in it because we are going to play in it. It helped us when we went to Tennessee (and) our kids got acclimated to it (the temperature.) I know our kids remarked that it wasn't as hot as what we practice in. So we're just trying to simulate the situation we are going to. I think it will help us but I think people make too much out of that."

Of course Kelly was wearing shorts during practice and most of the reporters were in long pants. Noticeably, his shirt was sweat-stained. He had to stay inside the building, while reporters had the luxury of stepping outside into the much cooler Oregon day.

Even though the team will fly to Tempe on Friday after a normal morning practice, there isn't much chance for the Ducks to gradually break into the hotter temperatures. Consequently, the simulated conditions Oregon is able to generate in one of its showcase facilities is a pretty good substitution and allows the troops to train in heat.

The high flying Ducks need all the advantages they can take or make. ASU has a new look on offense, when Head Coach Dennis Erickson hired Noel Mazzone to be the offensive coordinator. The Sun Devils run a variation of the spread offense and so far this season, the Devils have made their presence felt by averaging 38 points a game, racking up 461.0 yards of total offense including 305.3 passing. A big reason for those impressive numbers is junior quarterback Steven Threet. After stints at Georgia Tech and Michigan, Threet has found a home in Tempe and has responded by throwing five touchdowns and averaging 280.3 ypg. His primary target is a name very familiar to the Ducks – Aaron Pflugrad, who started his career off at Oregon and played as a true freshman. Pflugrad, now a junior, has caught 15 balls so far this season and averages 55 ypg. Sophomore Cameron Marshall is the leading rusher for the ASU attack and is averaging 55.7 ypg with freshman Diandre Lewis right behind at 50.3 yards per contest.

The ASU offense might look new to the Ducks, but the Sun Devil defense is the same stellar group from last year and is part of what Kelly thinks is the key to the game – the Oregon offensive line against the Arizona State defensive front. The Devils are holding opponents to 16.3 ppg. Sophomore linebacker Vontaze Burfict is the team leader in tackles with 23 (15 solos) including three for loss. He also has three pass break ups for the year. Fellow linebacker, junior Oliver Aaron and junior safety Eddie Elder both have 11 total tackles. Several names on the defensive front will sound familiar to those Duck fans that follow recruiting. Junior Lawrence Guy (nine tackles) was a player the Ducks coveted and defensive end and junior defensive end Jamaar Jerrett (nine tackles) actually gave Oregon a verbal commitment before deciding to switch his allegiance to the Sun Devils. Junior defensive lineman Bo Moos (seven tackles) is the son of former Oregon Athletic Director Bill Moos. Kelly's concern regarding the matchup of the Oregon offensive line against the ASU defensive line may come down to Oregon's depth. So far this season, the Ducks have been able to play everyone on the roster and when it comes to game time on Saturday, the Ducks seem to be in pretty good shape. Part of that reason is for many years, Offensive Line Coach Steve Greatwood has made it a point of training his players to play all the positions along the line.

"We gotta have depth, just like at every other position," Kelly said of his offensive line." We need eight (linemen) We need a swing-tackle, swing-guard (and) swing-center. That's what makes you feel comfortable. The same thing we do on our Dline. Wood (Steve Greatwood) has done it since I've been here. We've always played at least seven linemen in every game, not just five. "

The Ducks are leading the country in scoring at 63 points per contest and have held opponents to 4.3 ppg with the running game averaging 380.7 yards per game. That is all part of the astounding 611.7 yards of total offense per game. Sophomore LaMichael James leads the rushing attack averaging 180.5 yards and quarterback Darron Thomas averages 187.3 yards per game, even though he has yet to play four quarters in one game.

"To me they may be the best football team in the country," said Erickson. "When you look at them on both sides of the football and their kicking game. They are so balanced. You cannot decide what their strengths are."

Kelly and his crew are not taking any chances though and are keeping it hot in the Mo.

The game will carried live on FSN.

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