Last year, when Oregon faced the Cougars, the Duck defense had to withstand a barrage of 89 passing attempts from the most prolific passing team in the conference and perhaps the nation. After the game, former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti released several choice words illuminating his feelings about Mike Leach’s decision to continue throwing the ball down the stretch.
There’s no need to revisit Aliotti’s statement, it’s available in a variety of locations online, but when the topic was broached with coach Mark Helfrich on whether Washington State would use his statements as bulletin board material, the coach was dismissive.
“Mike Leach never needs bulletin board material,” said Helfrich.
This will be the first time any player on the current roster has played in Pullman. The last time the Ducks went on the road to play the Cougars, their meeting was in Seattle at Centurylink Field. Martin Stadium has undergone some renovations since the last time the Ducks were there and the crowd is certain to be noisy and excited for the #2 team in the country coming into their house.
“They have great fans and do a great job of being loud. We’ve incorporated a ton of crowd noise this week. The new stadium I’m sure will look great and they are going to be excited,” said Helfrich.
As the Ducks continue to gain momentum through the season, their media campaign is in full bloom. Marcus Mariota will be on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine with the headline “Peaking Duck.” While the attention is nice for Oregon, Mark Helfrich seems to underplay its overall impact on the team and their season. He does, however allude to it not going unnoticed in the locker room.
“It’s great. How do we handle that? We make fun of Marcus. Any chance you have to poke fun at the perfect person, you have to take your shots. It’s great for our fans, it’s great for our program. It’s a great honor,” said Helfrich.
Ultimately, early season attention and accolades do not mean anything if the Ducks don’t follow through with success on the field. They have the opportunity to get their first conference win in a place that historically has not been kind to them. Getting over the first Pac-12 hurdle is a big step and Oregon needs to make it.
Helfrich prepares for first trip to Pullman
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