Moving Forward

EUGENE - With an undefeated season now an impossibility, the Oregon Ducks resumed practice Monday knowing much was still on the line.

EUGENE - With an undefeated season now an impossibility, the Oregon Ducks resumed practice Monday knowing much was still on the line.

For one, the Ducks could still reach a fifth straight BCS bowl, win their fourth Pac-12 championship in five years, as well as sustain dominance over every team in the conference not named Stanford.

"Yes we still have a lot to play for. I feel like we should still play for that No. 1 spot, no matter where we're at in the standings," said running back De'Anthony Thomas.

The challenge on Monday, as it is any Monday, is regaining focus, something that Oregon coach Mark Helfrich admitted might be more difficult coming off of the team's first loss of the season.

"There was a little lingering sludge of the hangover of the loss, but I thought our guys as a group responded really well. We finished strong today," he said.

He later clarified that he felt the "sludge" or sluggishness was not wide-spread, but just among a number of individuals.

"We don't want to be good losers. We don't want to be great at recovering from a bunch of losses," Helfrich said.

"The coaches really do a good job of telling us that we can't let it hang with us. We can't let one loss become two. It is what it is, it happened, it's in the past," said quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The Ducks have not lost consecutive games since 2007. That stretch of losses, then three games, came amidst another national championship run, this one derailed by Dennis Dixon's torn knee ligament.

Oregon hopes Mariota's own knee injury does not lead to a repeat one of the program's most disappointing stretches in recent memory.

Mariota said following Monday's practice that he had practice fully, though in a boot and would "for sure" play Saturday versus Utah.

"My knee is what it is, it's not an excuse. I'm not going to let it be an excuse," he said.

Asked if his knee was 100-percent, he said ""That's something that I can't tell you."

Helfrich says they will not put Mariota "at risk", and have lots of confidence in back-up quarterbacks Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues. Lockie is currently tabbed as the top back-up.

Mariota said Lockie practiced exclusively with the second-team Monday.

Thomas, Oregon's other ailing superstar, says he is "hopeful" that he will take extended snaps at wide receiver versus the Utes.

Thomas had led the team in rushing in all three non-conference games, but an ankle injury kept him from playing a complete conference game until Thursday's loss.

"I love running routes, I love catching balls and I love making people miss in space," he said.

Thomas also believes that is where he projects best at the next level.

ESPN cameras caught Thomas smiling in the second half of Oregon's 26-20 loss to Stanford, but the speedster is adamant that his facial expressions were for the benefit of the team, not a deterrent.

"Me smiling, that's a sign to me in my head of 'Let's go, let's pick up the tempo and let's get this game'. People have their different perspective on me smiling, but I know what it is and how to handle myself," he said.

Thomas also made splashes in the week leading up to the loss when said the Ducks would score 40 points against the Cardinal vaunted defense. Thomas explained the comments Monday, crediting his subconscious for the prediction.

"The reason I said 40 points, was because I seen it my dreams. I seen it my dreams. It wasn't me going out there saying 'Oh, 40 points', I seen it my dreams when I was sleeping."


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