Oregon hosts, and pays, Missouri State
EUGENE, Ore (AP)
Had the Pac-12 Conference realignment never happened, Oregon would be hosting Utah this weekend.
But the Utes joined the league in the offseason, and the nonconference game was scuttled. Utah went on to schedule its suddenly out-of-conference rival BYU. That left the Ducks scrambling for an opponent.
''Not a lot of people want to play in Autzen Stadium,'' coach Chip Kelly said.
Missouri State answered the call.
The Bears (0-2) will make $440,000 for Saturday's game at No. 12 Oregon and take a step closer to funding their football budget. In the opener, the Bears faced then-No. 15 Arkansas and earned a $395,000 paycheck.
But while it looks like an easy win for the Ducks, the players are wary. They need look no farther than up the road in Corvallis, where the Sacramento State Hornets surprised Oregon State 29-28 in their opener.
''I don't think the leadership on this team will let anybody slack,'' running back LaMichael James said. ''We've been beat once, we don't want to lose again.''
Oregon (1-1) is coming off a 69-20 thumping of Nevada last weekend at Autzen, a decisive victory as the Ducks sought to distance themselves from their season-opening loss to then-No. 4 LSU at Cowboys Stadium.
Darron Thomas threw for six touchdowns, matching the single-game school record reached three times before, twice by Joey Harrington and once by Danny O'Neil. He also spread the ball around, hitting James, true freshman De'Anthony Thomas, fellow frosh Colt Lyerla, Rahsaan Vaughn and Lavasier Tuinei.
When Thomas was honored for the feat on the video scoreboard at Autzen, the quarterback raised his hand to acknowledge the cheers of the crowd. But later this week he was picking apart the performance more introspectively.
''It wasn't as good as everyone thought it was,'' he said. ''I missed some balls I could complete. I still got to clean up some things.''
Missouri State's Trevor Wooden is also coming off a notable outing. The sophomore made his debut at quarterback last weekend in the Bears' 28-14 loss to Eastern Kentucky, passing for 262 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a score.
Wooden's passing yards were the most in a debut for a QB in Missouri State history.
After starting in 10 games at receiver last year, Wooden was suspended for Missouri State's opener for violating team rules this spring. The school did not disclose the nature of the violation, but did say it was not a legal matter
''More is expected of me as a leader on this team and I let my teammates down,'' Wooden said in a statement when the suspension was announced in fall camp. ''I have great respect for this program and this university and I won't let them down again.''
True freshman Kierra Harris, Wooden's backup, had a daunting first outing in the 51-7 loss to the Razorbacks, but threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Saffold in the third quarter.
Missouri State, of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, is the only team at any level to play two Top-15 teams in non-conference play this season.
The Bears, who have given up 39.5 points this season, will have two Thomases to contend with on Saturday. In addition to Darron Thomas, the Ducks have gotten a glimpse of the future in De'Anthony Thomas, no relation.
The running back out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles caught two passes - both touchdowns - in the victory over Nevada. He collected 204 all-purpose yards to lead Oregon.
He'll likely see more playing time on Saturday to get more experience before the start of Pac-12 play. Oregon is vying for a third straight conference championship.
''I'm not going to sit here and disrespect anybody because I've seen a lot of crazy things happen, but we need to be ready to play, we need to play like it's a faceless opponent, and hopefully run away from good and get closer to great,'' Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. ''The enemy of great is good, and we need to get closer to great.''
The Bears, who have not gone 0-3 to start a season since 1994, have never played the Ducks.
Oregon has won 17 straight games at Autzen.