Offensive Aerial Assault Marks Spring Game

Despite the "deluge" described by Oregon head coach Chip Kelly during Saturday afternoon's spring game, the crowd of just over 12,000 braved the soggy conditions to witness over 500 yards of offense combined through the air between the Green and White team as spring practices officially came to a conclusion today.

"I wasn't sure with the weather if we were going to be able to throw it too much," said Oregon wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad, though raining or not, Saturday's spring game at Autzen certainly showed that the Oregon offense is anything but one-dimensional. The wide receiver position was a considerable question mark heading into the spring -- with the Ducks losing two of their top receivers from last year's team in Jaison Williams and Terence Scott -- yet, it seems, at least for the time being, that that question has been sufficiently answered after today's impressive performance by the Oregon quarterbacks and receivers.

Jeremiah Masoli led the charge for the White team, displaying efficiency and accuracy throwing no interceptions on 15 of 22 passing for 215 yards and two touchdowns. As has been seemingly customary through spring practices this year, Masoli's up and down play throughout the week, hasn't translated to Saturdays, where he has been sharp and shown great command in engineering the Ducks' high-powered offense. Masoli attributes much of his success to having the opportunity to have a full spring under his belt.

"I think I'm a whole different player now. Coming in last year, just trying to learn on the fly, everything was just so confusing. Even with just trying to settle in with school and be in another state away from home and family and stuff like that, all that just kind of hit me at once. Now I'm settled and I don't have to worry about too much -- just school and football -- so it's definitely helped me out a lot."

Masoli's favorite targets appeared to be wide receiver Aaron Pflugrad and tight end Ed Dickson, who had 107 and 95 yards receiving, respectively, on the day. Pflugrad in particular may have been the most impressive of any player who saw action today, accounting for both of the White team's touchdowns this afternoon.

"We always knew he was special," stated Masoli, "I'd seen him on film when I first got here and his routes were just supurb. Now just getting in the weight room, getting faster, you can see his improvement physically and it just showed today in his performance."

Pflugrad's play also drew lofty praise from his position coach,

"I thought Aaron Pflugrad did some unbelievable things," said Oregon wide receivers coach Scott Frost, "I can't say enough about that kid. Off the field [he's] just a class act and he's been a real pleasure for me to work with and every time we get on the field in a scrimmage situation, he's shown up in a big time way, so I have real high hopes and expectations for him."

On the other side, quarterback Justin Roper lead the Green team to the 21-14 victory, posting an impressive stat line in the process throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns on 22 of 34 passing and no interceptions. Despite getting off to a rather erratic and unimpressive start, Roper seemed to find consistency and establish a rhythm after the monsoon-like showers had passed. Chris Harper, Lavasier Tuinei, and Blake Cantu were the lucky recipients of touchdown passes from Roper today, with Cantu having the best day of all the Green receivers, catching five passes for 111 yards to go along with his one touchdown.

"I was just pleased with the way they competed," said Kelly, "I've seen a lot of spring games and guys are kind of looking at the clock to find out when they can get out of there...a lot of different kids contributed today, Cantu made some plays today, Lavasier Tuinei made some plays today...I thought Rope played really well...it was a lot of different guys."

While the passing game stole the show on Saturday, the ground game sputtered somewhat, due mostly to an inexperienced line who will need additional time to gel. "Early they were shaky," said Coach Kelly, "but that was to be expected. Bo Thran didn't play in the spring, C.E. [Kaiser] didn't play in the spring, six of [Oregon offensive line coach, Steve Greatwood's] seniors graduated, Hamani Stevens went on a [Mormon] mission, so there is nine kids that weren't here from the Oklahoma State game that you had counted on, so those young guys are going to make mistakes, but the only way they get better is to just kind of throw them in there and figure it out."

Defensive back turned running back, Kenjon Barner, finished the day as they game's leading rusher, gaining 54 yards on only 10 carries. While it's expected Barner will return to the defensive side of the ball come fall camp, with Remene Alston and LaMichael James presumably being healthy, Kelly didn't totally rule out the possibility of Barner seeing action on offense when the season begins.

"It really depends on the health," Kelly said, "Getting Remene, getting Andre back, and then getting LaMichael James back. We're not going to stockpile and have five running backs that are real talented kids playing one position and then be shortchanged somewhere else. We'll make sure we get our best 22 (11 guys on offense, 11 on defense) on the field, but the one thing he's proven is that he can be a running back...I wouldn't hesitate to put him in on offense."


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