Pump Up The Volume

Wednesday evening's practice inside Autzen Stadium provided another opportunity for a handful of players to make a case for playing time with some key players sidelined with minor nagging injuries. It also gave both the players and coaches a chance to simulate game-type situations with crowd noise, as the speakers were cranked up inside Autzen today.

With pumped in crowd noise bellowing throughout a relatively empty Autzen Stadium, the players got a small sampling of the audio assault they can expect on their ears once the regular season kicks off at home against Washington on August 30th. The coaches ran 11-on-11's today with each string of the offense and defense being subjected to the chaotic volume. Nate Costa proved once again that he is the best option at quarterback, as he operated the offense with poise and precision, calmly and methodically working the ball up the field. He was a combined 10 for 12 on the drives he engineered with the crowd noise, and had a number of runs that picked up good yardage when he was forced out of the pocket. Though he did throw one interception to Jairus Byrd, he looked every bit the part of the starting quarterback in Oregon's high powered offense, prompting Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti to state, "Nate Costa is grabbing the reins a little bit more each day." Justin Roper bounced back some today after having a string of practices where he looked rather unimpressive. He went 6 for 13 on the drives in which he was under center, throwing a touchdown to Jamere Holland on his second drive.

"Justin Roper is doing some really good things and obviously has the most complete game of anyone that's here, in terms of (actual playing time)," said Bellotti.

The defense once again did some encouraging things today as they continue to improve little by little each day. Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond minimized the impact made by the receiver lining up across from them, as they deflected a number of passes and showed terrific pursuit to ball. As was mentioned before, Byrd was responsible for one interception in which he deftly tip-toed the sideline, and Thurmond could have had two interceptions to his credit, but failed to hold on to the errant passes. Brandon Bair and Casey Matthews also impressed today with Bair accounting for three total sacks during the course of 11-on-11's. He looks healthy and is playing with great desire and should be a great option at defensive end to spell Nick Reed or Will Tukuafu. Matthews also played very well today as he and John Bacon vie for the starting spot at inside linebacker. Matthews filled gaps with consistency and showed very good range in chasing down ball carriers all over the field.

"Casey is doing well," said Bellotti of Matthews' recent play, "John (Bacon) is a veteran and a nine game starter, is a little bit faster of foot and is probably the most experienced linebacker and one of the smartest guys in terms of his defense, but Casey is a very close second. The nice thing is that we feel that either one of those guys can fill in and play and we can win with them."

Notes: Andre Crenshaw was not wearing a boot -- as was the case yesterday and this morning -- while he watched from the sideline with his injured ankle. "It's probably going to be several days to a week before we're able to get him back," said Bellotti. "There's no significant damage, but he did strain it and it should be immobilized in a boot I would think for a couple more days." Jeff Maehl and T.J. Ward were sidelined once again this evening with a strained hamstring and sore knee, respectively. Both remain day-to-day. Thursday's practice is scheduled for 3:35 p.m.

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