Waiting for the Start

Some things have changed but others haven't for sophomore quarterback Justin Roper. Last year he was riding the bench as the fifth string quarterback when injuries to the other guys shot him up to starter. He led the team in an impressive win in the Sun Bowl and for three games this season he was the main signal caller until he went down with a knee injury in the Purdue game.

"I feel good; my knee is fine; I'm back to normal," admitted Roper. "It's going to be exciting to get back in there and play a bit."

Now, entering the ninth week of Oregon's season Roper again finds himself not knowing if he will be called upon to take the helm of the Oregon offense. The Oregon Ducks take on Arizona State this Saturday at Tempe but no decision has been made on the coaching staff's part as to who will be the starting quarterback.

On one hand, Roper is now completely healed from the knee injury and healthy after a bout with viral tonsillitis. For the first three games of the season Roper had thrown two touchdowns passes and accumulated 484 yards of passing, but he also gave up four interceptions. In the first three games of the season Roper started the games and averaged just over 161 yards per game and the Ducks averaged 239 yards of passing. After Roper's injury, Oregon dropped to just under 155 yards per game. It would seem fairly obvious that Roper may have got things started off right when he plays and should logically be the starter. However, his teammate Jeremiah Masoli has much better mobility and can run when the opportunity presents itself as he did against UCLA when Masoli rushed for 170 yards.

Roper does not know who will be the starter and he isn't mopping around or feeling sorry for himself. He's faced the situation before on not knowing whether he'll play and he has to know that football is a game of opportunities and it is a matter of being ready to take advantage of the opportunities.

"That's been how it's been here my whole career," says Roper of not knowing if he'll start. "It's nothing new for me so just go out and make smart decisions and be the best player I can be. However much I get in the game is great."

Roper's opportunity could easily be this week as Head Coach Mike Bellotti has not yet announced who will start against the Sun Devils.

What does Roper expect to see on Saturday night in Tempe?

"They are fairly simple in what they do scheme-wise," said Roper of the Sun Devil defense. "They have some good athletes and are well coached. The run the exact same thing they did last year. Basically it is a man-on-man thing."

For the Ducks, a win at Arizona State is huge as it gives Oregon the sixth win of the season and four wins in the Pac-10. With all the teams in the conference with a loss every win is crucial for post season play.

Both teams are coming off a bye week so there is no advantage to either squad but the confidence level of the Ducks would skyrocket with a road win.

"It's still going to be a big game because every one else in the Pac-10 is at the same point," reflects Roper. "Every Pac-10 game is important. It's going to be a big game as far as the Pac-10 race is."

During the off-week, Roper and the other quarterbacks worked on timing with the receivers. Roper thinks that was work that needed to be done and the work went well. That extra work last week may pay off because if the Ducks want to play in a bowl game this season they have to have more that 48 yards passing as they did against UCLA. Will we see Roper out there again getting the passing game going? We'll see on Saturday night with kick off scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

There will be no live television coverage but the game will be shown in Oregon on Comcast Sports Net (CSN) at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night.




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