Oregon 101: Ducking the Rush

APART FROM THE self-created spectacle of soon bringing back LeGarrette Blount, Oregon is coming off a 42-3 shellacking of Cal and feeling like the frontrunners in a possibly wide open Pac-10 title race. Chip Kelly's squad is young and confident. And the Cougs, on paper, look like an extra bye week to the Ducks. However, recent events have made WSU more of an unknown than they were a week ago.

Cougars (1-3) vs Oregon (3-1)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
6:15 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Autzen Stadium (54,000)

TELEVISION:
Oregon Sports Network

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Oregon by 31

LAST MEETING:
Oregon won 63-14.

THE SERIES:
Oregon leads 41-38-7.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Cougars 21, Ducks 20

THE OREGON ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
QB Jeremiah Masoli: Masoli occasionally loses his accuracy but he was dead on last week, completing 21 of 25 throws for 253 yards and three scores. He is an outstanding runner too, averaging over 40 yards per game and a threat to take off at any time.
RB LaMichael James: The freshman has stepped in for LeGarrette Blount nicely, rushing for over 100 yards each of the last two weeks.
TE Ed Dickson: Last week's national player of the week has become the Duck's best receiving target. He has all three of the Duck's receiving touchdowns this year.

Overview
Chip Kelly's spread offense strives for balance and minimal turnovers. Oregon needs a consistent running game to keep the chains moving and rarely throws on first downs. Whether throwing or passing, Masoli is dangerous.

Strategy
Contain Masoli in the pocket and stuff the run on first down. Mix up man and zone defensive coverage on third downs and hope the smallish Masoli loses track of defenders and, as he has done at times in the past, starts trying to force things.

OREGON ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
MLB Casey Matthews: Center of Oregon's run stuffing effort. Leads the conference in tackles and also has a pick and a sack this year.

Overview
Oregon's defensive philosophy hasn't changed in the coaching transition: stuff the run and pressure the quarterback. They operate out of a bland, but tenacious, base 4-3 defense. The Cougar run game must help craft long, sustained drives, whether that's Dwight Tardy, Logwone Mitz or Carl Winston, the latter having been pegged by Paul Wulff for his first collegiate playing time this week.

Strategy
The Ducks put incredible pressure on Cal's quarterback last week. Jeff Tuel will do his best to prove he is Moses-In-Cleats in leading WSU out of the desert, but the offensive line needs to do everything they can to protect him. And they'll have to do that having lost their sixth guard to injury since August and being forced by injury to burn the redshirt of a true freshman and insert him into the starting lineup. In other words, a tall task. The Cougs should delay the option of going to a pass-heavy offense as long as possible. When it is third and long, run a couple delayed QB draws and hope Tuel can get past the first wave. Oregon tees-up on the QB when they know the pass is coming.

OREGON ON SPECIAL TEAMS
If WSU wants to start looking decent in special teams, this is an excellent opportunity. The ducks best return man, cornerback Walter Thurmond, is out.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Oregon is a young program and they have a first year head coach. They may fall into the trap of a letdown game against a weaker opponent, particularly in light of last week's effort. But the Ducks will be jazzed playing in front of their home crowd. WSU has not gotten off to a fast start in any of their games so far, and they need to. Missed tackles can be deadly against this offense, the Cougs need to tighten that up on Saturday.

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