New week, different challenge.
Once more, the Ducks will try to move on.
Last week, it was after their first loss of the season. A 53-7 win over Washington State at home showed Oregon to be a pretty resilient group.
That character will be tested again today when the No. 7 Ducks take on Washington at 4:30 p.m. in Husky Stadium, the 100th meeting all-time in the rivalry. Oregon will try to improve its 5-1 record - 2-1 in Pac-10 games - without running back Jeremiah Johnson and receiver Cameron Colvin, who were injured against the Cougars.
They joined wideout Brian Paysinger and linebacker A.J. Tuitele on the surgical schedule for the UO medical staff this fall.
"It's just hard to celebrate the victory when the joy's taken out of it by the loss of two players," UO coach Mike Bellotti said Thursday. "But there was a lot of talking (Wednesday) in practice, offense and defense competing, which is what you want. Some new kids are stepping up, getting an opportunity, and responding to that."
One of those new kids, however, is out of the mix before the game even begins. Friday, Bellotti announced that sophomore receiver Derrick Jones has been suspended indefinitely for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Jones was a potential starter in place of Colvin, a role that will now be filled by freshman Aaron Pflugrad. Jones missed practice Tuesday while attending to personal business, and it's unknown whether that related to the suspension.
That puts yet another dent in what had been one of the nation's best offensive machines to date, whether measured by yards (532.5, sixth) or points (45.2, fifth) per game. The injuries and the suspension of Jones could threaten those levels of production today, along with the potentially bleak weather and hostile crowd.
Andre Crenshaw has skills similar to Johnson's, and so the Ducks expect him to successfully slide into the injured veteran's role. Receivers may play a bigger part in the rushing game, including tight end Ed Dickson, and true freshman Malachi Lewis could join Dickson on the field more frequently in double tight end sets. Lewis took 31 snaps last week, his most extensive playing time of the season.
Bellotti said Tuesday that Jonathan Stewart, the Pac-10's second-leading rusher who is playing in his home state today, could carry a bigger load. But UO offensive coordinator Chip Kelly wasn't making any promises later in the week.
"Do I have any reservations about handing the ball to Jonathan 30 times? No," Kelly said. "But is that the plan going into a game, that we're going to give him 30 carries? No. We still want to try to be a balanced team; we still want to spread the ball around; we still feel that we have enough weapons at the other positions where you just can't key on one guy and think you're going to stop us."
Due to the injuries, Kelly conceded Thursday that "we're probably down to our bare bones of weapons." And that was before the suspension of Jones was announced. Pflugrad is now expected to start in the slot position formerly manned by Paysinger and Colvin, and walk-on Daniel Barkley made the trip to Seattle as a reserve.
Also, junior college transfer Terence Scott, previously in line to redshirt this season, made the trip and is likely to play. Pflugrad, Barkley, Scott and the other two receivers scheduled to make the trip, Rory Cavaille and Drew Davis, have combined for 10 career receptions.
Considering all the losses, and that Oregon's rushing game is so strong, and Washington's run defense so porous - not to mention the high winds in Seattle this week - perhaps Stewart will indeed be leaned on.
"I'm ready for whatever this year," the native of Lacey, Wash., said. "I'm injury-free, so I'm ready to take on whatever comes my way."
Today features a matchup of two spread offenses, though the Huskies (2-4, 0-3) also use more traditional sets.
Bellotti's remarks this week that he considered such a mix difficult, on the heels of confusion over a comment he made Monday about the transition Washington has undergone under third-year coach Tyrone Willingham, were the only "controversies" to arise during the usually entertaining run-up to a UO-UW game.
Those remarks aside, Washington's offense is a concern, given the dual-threat abilities of quarterback Jake Locker. As the Ducks try to move on from a couple of devastating injuries and a suspension, they best be sure not to overlook that challenge.
Matchup: Oregon vs. Washington
When and where: 4:30 p.m. at Husky Stadium, Seattle
TV: Live on FSN; replay at 11:30 tonight on KEZI
Radio: KUGN-AM (590)
Line: Oregon by 13
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|Title Annotation:||Football Oregon|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Oct 20, 2007|
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