Creatures of Habit

The Oregon Ducks are creatures of habit according to Head Coach Chip Kelly. They like to do things the same way every time. That includes the same practice schedule, same repetitions and hopefully the same result on the score board this Thursday night when California comes to Eugene for a nationally-televised game.

(PHOTO) Cliff Harris #13 of the Oregon Ducks returns a punt for a touchdown against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

"We still have the same amount of time in preparation before that game," said Chip Kelly of this upcoming Thursday night game with California. "It would skew a little bit if you played on a Saturday then on a Thursday."

The Ducks had the weekend off as they look forward to the Bears coming into Autzen Stadium for a 6 p.m. (Pacific) kick off and an appearance on ESPN's Thursday schedule. Oregon (3-1, 1-0) played the toughest game of the season last year in Berkeley needing Jeff Maehl's touchdown reception, Cliff Harris' score on a punt return and a stiff defensive effort to beat the Bears 15-13.

Cal ( 3-1, 0-1) was stunned by Washington 31-23 the same day Oregon was having its way with Arizona 56-31 in their respective first Pac-12 conference games. Cal also was idle last Saturday.

The 2010 meeting between the Ducks and Bears was somewhat of a shocker for some Oregon fans, as Oregon had been in complete control of the season notching up win after win. No team was able to get within 12 points of the Ducks powerful offense. Yet the Bears put up the stiffest test of the season and showed that Jeff Tedford's Bears were capable of playing the very best in college football.

This year Cal is fourth in the conference in scoring (39.5 ppg), total offense (456.2), rushing (161 ypg) and passing (295.2).

Defensively Cal allows 24.2 ppg (tied for fourth in conference) and giving up a very stingy 78.2 yards in opponent rushing.

The Bears are led offensively by junior transfer quarterback Zach Maynard, 72-of-138, 1,073 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Maynard has two prime receivers in sophomore Keenan Allen, 30 catches for 498 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Marvin Jones has 23 catches for 375 yards and also has three touchdown receptions. Isi Sofele is the leading Bear rusher averaging 95.0 yards per contest on a total of 79 carries for 380 net yards and four touchdowns.

"They have an athletic quarterback, two outstanding receivers in Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen," observed Kelly of the Bear offense. "They are an I-formation team but are multiple in what they do."

Oregon is leading the conference so far this season in points scored per contest (52.0), total offense (533.8) and rushing offense (299.5) and are ninth in passing (234.2 ypg).

LaMichael James is the conference leader in rushing at 153.2 ypg, scoring (13.5 ppg) and all-purpose yardage (226.8 ypg). Darron Thomas is in tenth spot for total yardage as a passer with 842 yards in four games or 210.5 ypg, but is fifth best in efficiency 161.4 on 66-of-108, 12 touchdowns and only one interception. Thomas has also carried the ball 15 times for a net of 99 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Bears are led in tackling by senior linebacker Mychal Kendricks with 34 tackles (19 solos) including 3.5 tackles for loss. Fellow senior linebacker D.J. Holt is the second leading tackler with 29 tackles (17 solos) including two TFLs.

Oregon's Dewitt Stuckey is the leading Duck playmaker on defense with 24 tackles (14 solos) from the linebacker position while safeties Eddie Pleasant (22 tackles, 14 solos) and Jon Boyett (22 tackles, 11 solos) pace the Ducks' secondary.

While statistics this early in the season sometimes make it hard to gauge where a team is at in its progression, one interesting trend that seems to be shaping up is that despite the changes in the defensive unit with the graduation of players like Brandon Bair and Casey Matthews to the NFL, the Ducks have similar marks through the first four games compared to 2010's schedule. For example, in 2010 Oregon racked up a total of 29 TFLs in the first four games and in 2011 the Ducks had 25 TFLs over the same number of games. The Ducks actually have two more sacks so far this year with nine compared to seven a year ago in the early part of the season.

Kelly though is not too impressed with the comparison and thinks there is room to grow for his defense.

"We can always improve and I think statistics, especially in such a short body of time is very difficult to look at," said Kelly. "We played LSU this year; we didn't play last year, so it's tough to compare this year to last year because the opponents are different."

The Oregon head coach really only believes in two categories, how many points you score and how many you give up.

Still though, while some may fret over the state of Oregon's defense, the early comparison should bolster hope. For Kelly's part, he looks at his squad in a positive light.

"We're improving as a group on defense," acknowledged Kelly of his defense. "They have a great understanding and knowledge of what we're doing. We still need to tackle better but I'll say that in every game that we ever play in."

Oregon has a two-game win streak over the Bears. If Oregon should win that would make 14-straight conference wins for Kelly since he took over the Ducks would love to make a habit out of beating Cal by making it three-straight come Thursday.


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