Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks come to Knoxville this Saturday to play Tennessee. The Sports Xchange breaks down the Ducks.

INSIDE SLANT

Oregon, even without suspended running back LaMichael James and with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli playing for Mississippi, is off to a record-breaking start.

The Ducks still have all kinds of skill and speed in their read-option offense, which rolled over hapless New Mexico 72-0 on Sept. 4. Oregon gained a school-record 720 yards total offense and set an Autzen Stadium record with 35 first downs.

Oregon led 59-0 at halftime, so the final score and all the stats could have been much more lopsided if the Ducks had kept the accelerator all the way to the floor.

"They didn't exceed my expectations," coach Chip Kelly told the Oregonian, talking about his team.

"We go out and just play. We didn't talk before the game about how many points we were going to score. The only thing I want to know is how hard our players play. I thought they played really hard today."

James, a speedy sophomore, will be back for a much tougher game Sept. 11 -- at Tennessee -- but it was another speedy sophomore, Kenjon Barner, who stole the show against New Mexico. Barner scored five touchdowns, including a 60-yard reception on a screen pass, in the first 21:09 of the game.

All in all, the rout of New Mexico was a great launching pad into a big non-conference game, and it was just what the 11th-ranked Ducks needed to erase the memories of the Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State, which was followed by a tumultuous offseason.

So, bring on Tennessee.

"We got a tough SEC team, and we're expecting bigger guys and more speed all around," linebacker Casey Matthews told the Portland Tribune. "We're expecting a little tougher opponent."

NOTES, QUOTES --Oregon, which arguably has the fastest defense in the Pac-10, smothered New Mexico in the opener, forcing five turnovers and holding the Lobos to 107 total yards. It was the first shutout for Oregon since a 35-0 victory over visiting Stanford in 2003. "I thought the D-line was relentless and that was a big deal for us," coach Chip Kelly said.

--Second-year coach Chip Kelly remained undefeated at home. He is 8-0 in Autzen Stadium, and the Ducks have won 11 in a row in the loudest stadium in the Pac-10.

GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Kenjon Barner -- The sophomore was unstoppable, rushing 17 times for 147 yards and four touchdowns, and turning a screen pass into a 60-yard touchdown -- all of which came in the first half. "I didn't ever imagine that'd happen," he said of his five touchdowns. "They were all fun. I had five touchdowns in high school, but I never expected five in college. Unbelievable." When LaMichael James returns this week from suspension, Barner will be considered "1-A" on the depth chart.

KEEP AN EYE ON: CB Cliff Harris -- The sophomore took over for Kenjon Barner on punt returns in the second quarter and scored twice against New Mexico, on returns of 61 and 64 yards. So, he is 2-for-2 on the only two punt returns of his college career. "I can't even put it into words," he told the Salem Statesman Journal. Barner is still the regular punt returner, however, and figures to be back at that spot Sept. 11 at Tennessee.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've been saying all along, I think he's the most underrated player in the country." -- Coach Chip Kelly, on sophomore running back Kenjon Barner, who scored five touchdowns in the first half against New Mexico.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL LOOKING GOOD: Oregon had two players rush for at least 100 yards against New Mexico -- Kenjon Barner (17 carries for 147 yards) and Remene Alston (21 carries, 110 yards). That marks the fifth time in the last 21 games the Ducks have had a pair of rushers reach triple digits.

--Sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas, making his first career start after beating out fifth-year senior Nate Costa, threw an interception while attempting a screen pass on Oregon's opening drive. Thomas didn't panic after that, settling in to complete 13 of 23 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns, before being pulled from the game late in the first half with the Ducks sporting a huge lead. "I thought Darron did a nice job in his first start taking what the defense gave him," coach Chip Kelly said. "He did a nice job playing within himself. Most guys are so high that they throw the first ball out of the stadium."

STILL NEEDS WORK: While almost everything went right in the opener, coach Chip Kelly wasn't thrilled about the seven penalties for 70 yards against New Mexico. "We will clean up some penalties," he said.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Freshman walk-on PK Eric Solis handled the place-kicking in the opener because of a one-game suspension for PK Rob Beard. Solis made 11 kicks -- eight PATs and field goals of 24, 29 and 30 yards. After making 11 in a row, he had a 26-yard field goal attempt blocked in the fourth quarter.

--True freshman DT Ricky Heimuli played in the opener and was credited with a pass breakup.

--Sophomore RB LaMichael James, who was suspended for the season-opener against New Mexico, watched from the sideline. He will be available for the Sept. 11 game at Tennessee.


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