It’s late here at Autzen and we’re finally down with our report. On the link you’ll find the unedited versions of our game story and the notebook. Enjoy. We’ll be back from the Portland airport with our links and such. Read on.
• Here’s the game story …
EUGENE – The University of Oregon is known as a track power, having won numerous NCAA titles.
But the Ducks fastest group of athletes might just be the guys who wear gaudy uniforms and pounds of football pads.
At least they appeared to be Saturday night.
Oregon used its speed on both sides of the ball to run around, past but mainly over the Washington State Cougars, 52-6 before 57,378 in a Pac-10 mismatch at Autzen Stadium.
“They played very fast and we couldn’t stay up with their tempo,” Washington State coach Paul Wulff said. “They executed well.”
The 16th-ranked Ducks’ offensive explosion overpowered the Cougars (1-4 overall and 0-3 in Pac-10 play), who never matched the speed or power.
Oregon rushed for 318 yards, led by LaMichael James’ 81 on just 13 carries.
They passed for another 196, with Jeremiah Masoli accounting for 118 of those before leaving with the Ducks leading 35-0. He was 14 of 18, while backup Nate Costa finished 7 of 9. Seven of their completions, for 103 yards, went to tight end Ed Dickson.
And the defense sped past WSU’s makeshift offensive line to stifle the Cougar offense.
Even the starting debut of true freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel was aborted quickly. He played just the first quarter, having to leave after suffering a hip pointer.
The injury came on the Cougars second-to-last offensive play of the first quarter and Oregon already ahead 14-0.
Tuel dropped to pass – only the fourth time he tried – but couldn’t find anyone open. As defensive end Will Tukuafu crashed in from the left side, Tuel tried to escape right. He ran into middle linebacker Casey Matthews, who was almost on the ground. Tukuafu arrived , made contact with Tuel’s back and the freshman seemed to whiplash back.
“I just got a helmet in my lower right back. It just got me in a bad spot,” said Tuel, who added he felt well enough to return but was dissuaded considering the circumstances.
When he left the Cougars had 9 yards of total offense. They finished with 158. The injury-riddled offensive line, with two freshman starting on the left side, gave up four sacks – two on Tuel – and could only power WSU to 107 rushing yards.
“We’ve got two guys making their first-ever start, and one guy who has just started one game, going up against an experienced, good, fast defense,” Wulff said, referring to guards Joe Eppele, whose only game experience before was at tackle, and true freshman Alex Reitnouer and tackle Tyson Pencer.
“We didn’t matchup,” Wulff added. “We didn’t block well enough and (Tuel) took some shots that were unnecessary.”
Adding to the Cougars’ early offensive woes, Tuel’s three drives began at the WSU 15, 5 and 14.
“I can’t put our offense (struggles) on field position, because we should be able to move the ball from any point on the field,” Tuel said.
The Cougars’ lone score came late in the third quarter, and Oregon’s special teams gave them a huge boost.
Scott Grady, a backup punt returner, tried to gather in Reid Forrest’s 41-yard punt at the Ducks’ 3. He couldn’t handle it and long snapper Zach Enyeart fell on the loose ball at the 1.
It took the Cougars three plays to score, with Marshall Lobbestael finally pushing in on a quarterback sneak. The officials talked it over for about 30 seconds before deciding it was a score.
But that wasn’t good enough for Oregon coach Chip Kelly. Leading 45-6, he challenged the call. It was upheld.
“Coach always says on QB sneaks just keep our feet moving, so I tried doing that,” Lobbestael said. “I was looking down the line and I was laying down sort of. I was looking at the goal line and I thought I was in.”
The call made WSU 1-1 on replays.
On the opening kickoff, Joshua Garrett forced a Kenjon Barner fumble at the Oregon 40 and Mike Ledgerwood fell on the ball. But the replay official ruled Barner’s knee was down and Oregon retained the ball.
Eight plays later the Ducks were in the end zone – a 26-yard run by LaMichael James, who finished with 83 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with a sore ankle in the third quarter – and the rout was underway.
Oregon’s (4-1, 2-0) first six touchdown drives took no longer than 2 minutes, 42 seconds, even though two of them covered more than 70 yards.
It was telling that reserve cornerback Terrance Hayward tied linebacker Louis Bland for the team lead with nine tackles, eight of them coming in the first quarter. The Cougars finished with 86 tackles, 64 of them solo, the latter number just seven off the school record.
The Ducks’ defense had to make just 50 total tackles.
“Their defense played well,” Wulff said. “They were simple. They played hard. They have very good speed on defense and we just didn’t function very well.”
There’s that word again, speed.
Lobbestael, hurried by Oregon’s pressure, finished 7 of 13 passing for just 48 yards. He also threw two interceptions, both on high throws over the middle.
The Cougars finished with three turnovers, which the Ducks turned into 10 points.
There was a simple reason.
“Their speed got after us enough and we didn’t execute,” Wulff said.
• And here’s the notebook …
EUGENE – As one-sided as a 52-6 final score is, the statistics from Oregon’s Pac-10 conference defeat of Washington State might have even been worse.
The Ducks rolled up 514 yards of total offense, 318 of those on 59 rushing attempts. In contrast, WSU had 47 total plays and gained 158 yards.
Oregon had a 31-4 “edge” in first downs, almost 12 more minutes in possession time, forced three turnovers while yielding only one and converted four times on fourth down.
“It’s fun when we’re firing on all cylinders,” Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said. “Everyone gets to play, gets a piece of the pie.”
That showed in the rushing statistics.
Though LeMichael James led the Ducks with 81 yards on 13 carries, six others carried the ball, with five of them gaining more than 40 yards.
By the way, the last three times these teams have met, the cumulative score has been 168-27, Oregon.
It’s not often a Saturday night football game is overshadowed by a press conference Friday morning.
But that was the case this weekend at the University of Oregon.
Coach Chip Kelly’s announcement senior running back LeGarrette Blount, suspended for the season after throwing a punch and losing control following the Ducks’ 19-8 season-opening loss at Boise State, would be eligible for reinstatement in November if he completes an undisclosed series of benchmarks, threw the Willamette Valley into a tizzy.
Radio talk shows covered little else. Newspapers were full of commentary, pro and con. And the Internet fairly sizzled.
Kelly said it wasn’t a football decision but “a human-being decision.” ESPN reported a lawyer for Blount played a part in the change of direction. Whatever the case, Kelly’s reversal overshadowed most everything else until kickoff.
Then the rest of Oregon’s football team took center stage.
Though he played just a quarter before getting hurt – suffering a game-ending hip pointer when sacked by Will Tukuafu and Casey Matthews – and couldn’t move Washington State to a first down, Jeff Tuel pulled off something that only Drew Bledsoe had done before him as a Cougar: starting at quarterback as a true freshman.
Oddly enough, there were a couple of people on the field Saturday that were also members of WSU’s team that day in October in 1990.
Cougar assistants Malik Roberson and Jody Sears both played with Bledsoe in that game. And Sears actually had an impact in the 55-24 win over Oregon State.
Now the Cougars’ co-defensive coordinator, back then Sears was the holder for Jason Hanson. And Sears scored on a two-point conversion. A bobbled snap?
No, Sears explained Friday. It was called. Mike Price actually ran a trap play on an extra point. Sears pulled the ball back and ran in for two points.
Since James Montgomery was injured against Southern Methodist and was lost for the season, the Cougars have been looking for a running back to step up.
They gave freshman Carl Winston his chance against the Ducks.
Winston appeared for the first time at the 6 minute, 9 second mark of the first quarter with WSU backed up at its 5-yard line. On first down, Winston took a handoff from Tuel and tried to bounce a run outside. He gained just 2 yards.
Winston finished with seven carries for a team-high 56 yards, though his 21-yard fourth quarter run ended when he fumbled, turning the ball back to the Ducks. He also added a 24-yard third-quarter kickoff return.
“I thought Carl ran really hard,” offensive coordinator Todd Sturdy said. “He did some really good things. … I hated to see that ball punched out from behind, he made a great run.”
Freshman walk-on Jared Byers also made his first appearance, playing fullback. He did not carry the ball. With Winston, Byers and offensive guard Alex Reitnouer making their first starts, WSU has played six true freshmen this year. The Cougars played nine last season.
Besides Tuel’s injury, the Cougars lost a couple more players.
Jared Karstetter limped off the field just before halftime, suffering from a hip pointer. He did not return.
Dwight Tardy pounded up the middle on the last play of the half then had to jog to the sideline, his left arm hanging by his side. He did not play in the second half but the official word was he could have returned. Before he left he gained 21 yards, giving him 2,006 in his career. He’s the ninth WSU back to go over 2,000 yards.
Safety Xavier Hicks tweaked his back in the first half and did not play the second half.
Defensive tackle Bernard Wolfgramm also limped off in the second half with a hip injury and did not return.
Spokane Valley native C.E. Kaiser of Oregon was helped off the field after leading Andre Crenshaw on a 10-yard run around right end. Kaiser, a junior, suffered a bruised shin and did not return.
Jeremiah Masoli also left early with what was described as a right knee tweak, though the Ducks’ 35-0 lead when he left might have played a part in the decision to hold him out.
• That’s it for now. Like I said, I should be back sometime in the morning with links. Until then …