More Experience and Fewer Mistakes

Eugene -- The Oregon Ducks (9-2, 7-1) can wrap up the Northern Division and secure a home-field appearance in the inaugural Pac-12 Conference Championship game with a win over intra-state rival Oregon State (3-8, 3-5) this Saturday in the 115th annual Civil War game with kickoff scheduled for approximately 12:40 p.m. and carried on ABC.

Last week, the Ducks' loss to USC derailed Oregon's hopes to return to the BCS Championship game this season, however the Rose Bowl is still a possibility if the Ducks can reduce "self-inflicted" wounds such as turnovers plus using its experience to reign in Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion.

"We moved the ball but fumbled twice inside the red zone," Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly said of the USC loss. "There was a lot of self-inflicted wounds and had too many dropped passes in the first half."

Oregon muffed twice on potential scoring drives, most notably at the end of the first half when LaMichael James uncharacteristically coughed up the ball as the Ducks were headed toward the endzone. Had Oregon been able to score Oregon may have been in much better position in the second half when the Ducks came back from a 24-point deficit but fell short by three, 38-35 when the final whistle sounded. Kelly has been very generous with his praise of Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley's performance against the Ducks. The junior USC signal caller finished the game against the Ducks by going 26-for-34, 323 yards and four touchdowns while giving up one interception. Kelly believes that Barkley's statistics are the best any quarterback, including Heisman favorite Andrew Luck had this year against Oregon. This week though, Oregon faces a true freshman quarterback in Sean Mannion. While Kelly tries to steer clear of any controversy by comparing Barkley to Luck, he does think that Mannion stacks up favorably against the two more seasoned veterans.

"I just think he's younger," said Kelly of Mannion in comparison to Barkley and Luck. "I think the one thing with Andrew (Luck) and Matt (Barkley) you look at is that they have the wealth of experience behind them."

Kelly thinks that first year starters in the Pac-12 is a difficult proposition, in that many players have struggled in their first year as quarterback because there are so many varied defensive looks in the conference. Kelly believes there are at least four or five different while Mannion as now seen many of those philosophies, he hasn't yet seen them all first hand. However, Kelly also believes Mannion has a skill set that can overcome a lot of the inexperience disadvantage.

"I think there is an experience factor but I think he (Mannion) has a real good physical tool set and seems as the season has gone on he's gotten better," Kelly concluded in his evaluation of Mannion. "He played really well last week against Washington."

Mannion last week in a 38-21 win over Washington was 26-for-37, 339 yards, two touchdowns, with a long of 58, while giving up one interception and was not sacked. Overall this season Mannion has thrown for 3,029 yards and 13 touchdowns but has been intercepted 16 times. Oregon State's receiver corps is fast and is led by Markus Wheaton with 71 catches for 947 yards and one touchdown. James Rodgers the all-time leading receiver for the Beavers, left the game last Saturday and has struggled with injuries this year but is second on the Beaver receiving list with 45 catches for 514 yards and three touchdowns.

"They have a passing attack that really has our attention in terms of Rodgers, Wheaton and (Brandin) Cooks," admitted Kelly.

Cooks has 26 catches this season for 335 yards and two scores.

For the last two weeks Oregon has had to prepare for two of the top quarterbacks in the country in Barkley and Luck, so will that be an advantage for the Duck defenders as they ready themselves for Mannion and Oregon State?

"I think it will help," projected Kelly of the upcoming match up. "When you face an attack like Washington State who throws the ball all the time, we had 30 throws against last week from a really good group in USC and obviously we're all by-products of our experience so you'd hope that when we get to game 12, which we are getting to right now that the fact that we've faced some pretty good throwing teams already and we're going to face another team that throws the ball really well and has a good scheme that we'll benefit from that (having experience)."

For the year, Oregon's defense is giving up 244.5 yard per game against the pass but is holding opponents to 23.2 points per game and tied for third place in the conference with California in the points allowed. Meanwhile Oregon State averages 21.9 ppg this season but is the conference's fourth leading passing team at 285.6 ypg.


eDuck Top Stories