Running The Ball Well a Key

Last Saturday night after beating the Purdue Boilermakers, 38-36 a relieved Chip Kelly simply went home and went to bed. He got up Sunday morning and went back to work preparing for the Utah Utes this Saturday afternoon in Autzen Stadium. He deserved to sleep well because his team recaptured the run game against the Boilermakers and for his team's sake he hopes it will do the same against Utah.

The Ducks 1-1 are an early favorite on the betting lines over the 2-0 Utes, but that has little to no affect on Kelly as he expects a tremendous battle from last year's second ranked team in the country. Kelly mentioned in his weekly media conference that he is surprised how many times it is overlooked that a team like the Boilermakers can beat Toledo, 52-31, yet the Rockets can turn around and beat Colorado 54-38. Many have made a point of pointing out that Utah struggled with San Jose State, 24-14 and 35-17 wasn't exactly a landslide over Utah State.

Kelly isn't having any of it.

"Utah played in the Sugar Bowl," responded Kelly to the question if Oregon has any advantage of already having played big games this season. The Oregon coach has no illusion that just because Utah has yet to have a marquee match up (until this week) that it is an advantage to Oregon. At least Kelly isn't counting on it to be a factor.

What concerns him so much about the Utes?

"They have a 16-game winning streak coming in, the longest in the nation," responded Kelly to the question. "They have a lot proven players back on both sides of the ball that have been a huge part of that."

Kelly mentioned he really enjoyed watching Utah play on tape and thinks the Utes are a hard working bunch, a very sound team. Utah's quarterback Terrance Cain is a "big athletic kid that can move." Last week Cain had 247 yards passing on 18-of-31 attempts and a touchdown. He also rushed for 76 yards, including a long 30-yard run.

Kyle Whittingham hired a new offensive coordinator this year, Dave Schramm, but Kelly doesn't feel Utah is that much different than last year.

Kelly observed that Utah is a shotgun, one-back team that runs a lot of zone-read option. The Utes throw a lot of screens and quick hitting passes and also employ play action in throwing the ball down the field. They may also show the wildcat formation using the fullback, Sausan Shakerin.

So far this season the Ducks are averaging 254 yards of total offense a game, well below last year's 484.8 yards. That was then and this is now, so for Kelly it is all about Utah. Part of what the Ducks will do is run the ball. Last week Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James had a coming-out party during the Purdue game. The pair combined for 90 yards, with most of that coming in the fourth quarter. Add in quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's 84 yards of net rushing plus senior running back Andre Crenshaw's 23 to add up to a total of 193 yards against Purdue and things were a little more normal.

Kelly thinks that Masoli becoming a factor in the run game against Purdue was the biggest difference the Oregon offense had between the Purdue game and Boise State. The headman indicated that in the first half of the Purdue game, both James and Barner were a bit awestruck by the large Autzen crowd. Both Kelly and running backs coach Gary Campbell kept reassuring the two young players to not let the crowd get to them.

"Run like you do in practice," Kelly said as to what he told the talented pair of young running backs. "That run Kenjon did at the end (21-yard touchdown run) of the game, that's what he does in practice."

Crenshaw, the lone senior in the RB group, provides leadership to the two younger players and understands the system, according to Kelly.

This game will be a big battle for the Ducks and Kelly has a feeling the kicking game will be a big factor for not only field position but also scoring opportunities. Punter Jackson Rice has had more work than Kelly wants, but has responded well with a 42.0-yard average and a long of 55. Place kicker Morgan Flint is 1-for-2 so far and Rob Beard has kicked off well, but Kelly wants to see a better job on coverage as the Ducks have given up 22.7-yards in returns.

Oregon's defense has been solid even though some of the statistics don't reflect it. Against Boise State the defensive unit was on the field for 43 of the 60 minutes of the game. Despite the amount of time on the field BSU only scored 19 points. Last week BSU showed its offensive firepower by overwhelming Miami (Ohio) 48-0. Against Purdue, the Duck defenders recorded two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), plus recovered a fumble and returned it for another touchdown.

Kickoff for the Utah game on Saturday is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. and will be shown nationally on ESPN.

Update on T.J. Ward: he did not practice on Monday but Kelly expects him back by midweek, and still lists Ward as day-to-day.

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