Kelly and Tedford have Mutual Respect

The No. 1 ranked Oregon Ducks (9-0, 6-0) travel to the Bay Area this week to take on the California Golden Bears (5-4, 3-3.) At stake for the Ducks is maintaining their position in the BCS for a chance of playing for the national championship and the Bears want to ensure an appearance in post-season play. A 4:30 p.m. kickoff is scheduled on a game to be carried on the Versus Network.

Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly looks at California and is most concerned about the California running game and back Shane Vereen, 5-10, 204. Vereen is averaging 98.4 yards per game and has scored 12 touchdowns. Cal as an offense is racking up 359.1 ypg total offense of which 164.7 yards is running the ball. The Bears score just over 30 points a game and only allow just over 23 ppg. In Kelly's mind, if his team tries to load up the defensive front on the line of scrimmage, the Bears, coached by Jeff Tedford will use play action to torch an unsuspecting secondary. Cal is averaging 194.4 ypg passing with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Kelly, has great respect for Tedford who, like Kelly was an offensive coordinator at Oregon under former Duck head coach Mike Bellotti. Kelly believes Tedford will show several different formations and will put defenses into difficult positions.

"The running game, first and foremost," responded Kelly to the question of what concerns him most about the California offense. "(Shane) Vareen is averaging close to 100-yards a game. I think he's run 886 (yards) in nine games. They'll run some wildcat with direct snaps to him. There will always be a wrinkle or two in there. Jeff (Teford) is going to do something funky that you have to adjust to. He really taxes you with his formations and motions and things like that to see if he can outnumber you at the point of attack. It starts with the run game and if you gang too much then he really hurts people with the play action pass."

However, there is a catch. Cal is in week 2 of the Brock Mansion era. Mansion came in two weeks ago for starter Kevin Riley during the Oregon State game when Riley went down with blown out knee. Even though Mansion has played in five games this season, last week against Washington State was his first start. For the season Mansion is 26-49-2, 312 yards and a touchdown. For the third week in a row the Ducks face a team with a relatively new quarterback. Last week, Keith Price made his first start against the Ducks for an ailing Jake Locker and the week before UCLA's Richard Brehaut played in place of Kevin Prince. Have the Ducks had to make any changes in playing a newcomer to a critical position like quarterback?

"It doesn't change," said Kelly in regard to planning for a new quarterback. "We had the question with UCLA when it went from Prince to Brehaut and the questions about Locker to Price. Now you've got questions about Riley to Mansion. It's too late in the season for people to drastically change their offense and say hey, ‘we've got another guy playing quarterback so let's run the pistol or let's put the wing-T in."

Kelly believes Cal will do what they have all season. The Duck coach thinks Mansion did a "nice job" against Washington State last week and that means he has game experience under his belt. The real key is who is running the show at Cal – Tedford.

"When I watch the tape, it is a Jeff Tedford offense," admitted Kelly. "You're going to see a lot of running the football, what Cal does. They have a lot of motion and shifting. They have some outstanding receivers. They are really good at play-action pass, and that has always been a staple of their offense."

The situation for Cal is similar to what Oregon faced earlier in the season when Duck quarterback Darron Thomas was knocked out of the Washington State game. Kelly points out that the Duck offense didn't change just because someone beside Thomas was at the helm. In Oregon's case, after Thomas left the WSU game, Nathan Costa came in and ran for 80 yards and threw 13-for-15 passing. So what made the transition was the system the Ducks run and it is true of what to expect from California.

"What we're doing," confided Kelly, "is we're going to go play Cal not going to play against one specific player."

Defensively, Kelly looks at the California defensive front with admiration.

"It starts with their front seven," Kelly said. "They are real active."

Kelly knows that Cal is very aggressive on defense and is particularly good in the sacks department recording 28 and lead the conference in that category. The Bear defenders hold opponents to 119.9 ypg rushing and 179.7 ypg passing (first in the conference).

On the other side of the field, Tedford isn't so comfortable with Oregon's offense or defense. "They just have so many weapons and they spread you over the field so much and they're so fast," Tedford said of Oregon. "With the running back that they have, it starts with being able to try to slow the run down. They wear you down. LaMichael James, they play at such a fast tempo and if he finds a crease, he can make such big plays."

James is the country's leading rusher at 166.4 ypg and 17 touchdowns. The Duck offense generates 567.2 ypg (leads the conference) including 305.4 ypg (No. 1 in the conference) rushing and 261.8 ypg passing (fourth in conference) plus leading the conference in scoring at 54.7 ppg and is second in Pac-10 play in points allowed at 17.7. Tedford also thinks Thomas is an improvement over last year's quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. "While I have great respects for [Jeremiah] Masoli, Masoli was a tough, hard runner," said Tedford, "but Thomas I think even brings more to that offense because he's so elusive and so fast in the open field, and he's very accurate throwing the football."

Tedford is hoping the Bears can keep the score down and be hanging around in the fourth quarter in order to beat Oregon. How low is a low scoring game? Tedford isn't sure and he admits no one has been successful keeping the Ducks from putting up big numbers on the scoreboard.

"I can't give you a number," admitted Tedford. "I mean, low enough where we can win, whatever it may be. I think they've proven to be very difficult to stop. We can't have them score 50-something points. Hopefully we can keep the game close till the end and have an opportunity to win. Nobody's been successful at that so far."

Another thing Tedford is clear about is that not only will Oregon's offense give a team headaches, so will the Duck defense.

"Their offense gets a lot of attention but their defense plays great, they really do," observed Tedford of the Oregon defense. "The team speed that they have on defense, they love to pressure you."

Just prior to Kelly's weekly media conference the Oregon Athletic Department announced that quarterback Nate Costa's playing career had ended due to an injury suffered during the Washington game. Kelly said he was saddened when he learned of Costa's condition on Monday evening and spoke on the phone with Costa for some time about the situation. The coach revealed that Costa wanted to tell the team the news personally and Kelly agreed to hold off releasing the information. Costa met with the team on Tuesday morning just before the start of practice to deliver the bad news personally.

"(I'm) really disappointed for Nate because he's given so much," said Kelly during his weekly media conference. "He tore his leg in high school and did it twice here and then to hurt his other leg last Saturday is tough. The way he handles anything is just kind of amazing. We didn't find out until last night when I got the results, I talked to him on the phone for a while and he is just moving forward. He wanted to talk to the team before we announced anything. So he spoke to our team just before stretch today and told them he would be there for them. He is still our captain. He means a lot to all of our players. He's been an inspiration on everything that he has done. He's had a lot of adversity since he's been here, but he won't let that affect him. It's a real compliment to him. We're just fortunate that we've been able to be around him. He's truly one of the great leaders I've been around."

Kelly said that Costa will remain a captain with the team and travel with the squad to the remaining games.

The coach also indicated that freshman quarterback Bryan Bennett is now the back-up signal caller to Thomas and should Thomas get injured, Bennett will come out of his redshirt. Bennett could remain a redshirt if he is not used this season. Kelly wouldn't speculate in what situations Bennett would be used other than an injury to Thomas.

So far this season, Oregon has been in a position of having a wide gap in point margin against foes in every game that all of the games have been well decided by the fourth quarter. Kelly would not say if Bennett would be brought in to the upcoming game should Oregon find itself leading big in the fourth quarter. In a rather heated exchange with reporters Kelly made it clear that Bennett is Thomas' back up. Kelly indicated the coaching staff has been impressed with Bennett since the freshman arrived on campus but the headman bristled when several questions about pulling Bennett's redshirt were asked.

"This red-shirt stuff is out of your minds," flared Kelly. "I'm not worried about the 2014 season. I keep getting this question, are you going to burn a redshirt? Our goal is to win a football game. If Bryan Bennett is going to help us win the football game this Saturday then you are going to see him. I don't know how to say it any different than that. I don't know what this whole (thing is) everybody keeps asking these questions. Bryan Bennett is going to play, number two. If Darron Thomas goes out of the game we're going to play Bryan Bennett if we need him to win a football game for us."

The coach also indicated that no decision has yet been made on who will replace Costa as holder. Last week punter Jackson Rice came in to hold after Costa went out. Kelly mention Thomas and Daryle Hawkins as other possible candidates for the job.

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