Where are Cougs heading? Ask Chip Kelly

PULLMAN – At the midpoint of the 2010 season, how good are the Cougars, and where are they heading? Oregon coach Chip Kelly had some pointed remarks after the game on that subject. And just what did Kelly say to Cougar QB Jeff Tuel after the win?

Washington State was driving at the end of the third quarter, at the Oregon 12-yard line with a chance to cut the Duck lead to six points. But things went downhill from there, and explosive Oregon ultimately bested WSU 43-23 on Saturday.

So was Coach Chip Kelly surprised that it was a close, hard-fought game?

"No, I said it on Tuesday during my press conference -- some of you (media) guys probably didn't listen to me," Kelly said. "I told you this was a really good football team. They did the same thing to UCLA, and kept coming back."

Kelly had plenty of praise for WSU head man Paul Wulff and Cougar QB Jeff Tuel, who finished 25-40 for 245 yards with a TD and an interception.

"I think they're really well coached," Kelly said. "Paul's got them playing hard, they don't make a lot of mistakes. And when you have a quarterback in this league you have a shot and they have a quarterback.

"I'm a big fan of Jeff's, and I told him that after the game."

Trailing 36-23, Tuel's interception in Oregon's end zone proved costly. The 10-play, 91-yard UO drive that followed put the proverbial nail in the coffin. Overall, however, the Cougs gave Oregon a lengthy fight that few expected heading into the game.

Senior Duck WR Jeff Maehl had twice as many grabs as any other Duck – 10 catches for 119 yards, as well as UO's final touchdown. But he said he noticed a change playing against Washington State.

"They're getting really good, and they've been improving year after year -- and especially this year," Maehl said. "You have to give them a lot of credit for what they're doing up here. They're trying to improve and you can definitely see it…I think they're getting more mature."

Last season, it was a 52-6 blowout in Eugene, and that score doesn't reflect just how wide the gulf was between the two teams. This time around, said a former Coug player on the Oregon coaching sideline, was markedly different from a year ago.

OREGON SPECIAL Teams/Tight Ends coach Tom Osborne, who graduated from WSU in 1983 and played wide receiver for the Cougs, cited a difference in youthful talent for the Cougs that has come into the program.

"They're a heck of a lot better," Osbourne said. " I mean tremendous improvement from a year ago. They've got a lot better athletes in the last couple of years, they're playing very hard. And teams that get better have better players, and they get them to play hard and do the right things. And they're doing all those things, no question."

What's the biggest difference between then and now?

"Speed, they've increased their speed in all three facets," Osbourne said. "Offense, defense and their special teams, they have faster players, more athletic guys.

"And you could see them a year ago get a little bit better, but watching film this week and seeing that game (today), they've made leaps and bounds from a year ago."

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