1. Maintaining Focus
Even on their most dissatisfactory day, Oregon's worst is likely good enough to best a team the caliber of the Missouri State Bears; a squad who enters Autzen Stadium this upcoming Saturday sporting an 0-2 record after a 51-7 blowout loss to No. 15 Arkansas on opening weekend and a narrow 28-24 defeat at the hands of fellow FCS (formerly known as D-1AA) program Eastern Kentucky, last week. Based on Oregon head coach Chip Kelly's general track record of having his teams loaded for bare week-in and week-out, no one should reasonably expect the Ducks to serve up a lifeless performance against the Bears, however Kelly and the Ducks can't afford for Saturday's contest to be a statistical anomaly. While drubbing Nevada by seven touchdowns last Saturday was a step in the right direction, many pollsters and national pundits still have a sour taste in their mouths after Oregon's lackluster display against LSU to kickoff the season; a bitterness that likely won't be purged unless the Oregon runs the table the rest of the way. The Ducks don't just need wins, they need wins in convincing fashion, especially against teams the ilk of Missouri State. Aside from staying healthy, maintaining laser focus and a heavy foot on the gas pedal is necessary for Oregon this weekend as they continue their reclamation effort.
2. Understanding The Opponent
Though the staff has undoubtedly more in-depth information and analysis of Missouri State than most media members (including this one), preparing for someone the likes of Missouri State is much different than preparing for a team such as Nevada, or even Portland State, for that matter. The primary reason is the unfamiliarity with the Bears' personnel in all phases of the game. Kelly acknowledged as much, saying that the collection of information his staff possesses on Missouri State pales in comparison to most other opponents, due in large part, he says, to the lack of "crossover in recruiting." Kelly identified quarterback Trevor Wooden, a former 10-game starter at wide receiver for Missouri State last season, as well as running backs Chris Douglas and Stephen Johnston and wide receiver Jermaine Saffold as the primary playmakers for the Bears on offense heading in to Saturday's game. Wooden is of particular concern for Kelly, who said Wooden's athleticism and ability to throw the ball with efficiency within Missouri State's spread offense attack can pose potential problems. After serving a one-game suspension against Arkansas for violation of team rules, Wooden was 22-of-32 for 262 yards passing and two touchdowns while adding 71 yards on the ground and one rushing touchdown on 21 carries against Eastern Kentucky last weekend. Defensively, the Bears employ a base 3-4 defense which will serve as the first predominant 3-4 defensive alignment the Ducks will face this season. Though it shouldn't take long, figuring out and exploiting Missouri State on defense could provide a minor delay as the Ducks adjust accordingly when they take the field on offense.
3. Grow Cohesively
Aside from special teams gaffs and dropped passes by the receivers against LSU, as a whole, the Ducks have meshed rather nicely through two games thus far. This by no means, however, suggests that Oregon has it figured it out completely on offense, defense and special teams. A game against an opponent the likes of Missouri State can not only serve as a confidence booster for players, but it also allows as another real-game opportunity for coaches to teach and correct technique. Kelly has stated that one of the most valuable teaching tools for his staff and players is the use of game film. Presuming Oregon wins in a landslide, many players with little game experience will have a golden opportunity to make their mark in Saturday's game. These players' appearance on film will enable the coaching staff to evaluate and correct mistakes that were made in a game setting, with the ultimate goal of hopefully developing additional depth at multiple positions on the roster in the event of injury, suspension, etc. Jumping out to a sizable advantage early could allow the Ducks to establish even more team cohesion as they enter Pac-12 play on the road in Tucson the following week.
Follow Chris Courtney on Twitter at eDuckCCourtney
3 Keys To Missouri State
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