No. 1 Oregon takes look at uncharacteristic errors

Top-ranked Oregon has extra work this week, trying to figure out

exactly what caused the Ducks’ first-half malaise against


Nearly all the Ducks admitted that while the outcome might not

have shown it, Oregon’s 53-16 victory over the Huskies was nowhere

close to the team’s usual standard.

The Ducks had 107 yards in penalties and four fumbles, two of

them lost. Oregon’s normally prolific offense was held scoreless in

the first quarter, and the team led by just 18-6 at half –

something that no one foresaw against Washington.

”We score a lot of points. That’s what we’re out there to do,”

center Jordan Holmes said. ”It was a sloppy game.”

The lapse, if it can be called that, appeared to put the Ducks

on notice: anything less than the best is unacceptable if they want

to play for the national championship.

Oregon (9-0, 6-0 Pac-10) visits California next weekend, before

hosting Arizona and wrapping up the season in the annual Civil War

game at Oregon State.

Many had anticipated that the Beavers – who normally surge in

the second half – could foil Oregon’s title hopes in that final

regular-season game. But Oregon State fell 17-14 at UCLA on

Saturday for a second Pac-10 loss and Stanford, which Oregon

already beat, is the only remaining one-loss team in the


The Ducks are at least two games ahead of the rest of the pack

with three games left.

So the Rose Bowl is clearly within their grasp barring total

disaster. But that isn’t what the Ducks are aiming for.

”If we lose a game, we’ll be out of the race,” Thomas


The national championship race.

And that’s exactly why Oregon needs to correct those nagging


”We want to get back to the drawing board, eliminate the

mistakes that we made and make sure we don’t bring them down to

Cal,” running back Kenjon Barner said.

Barner returned to the Ducks Saturday after sitting out the past

two games because of a serious concussion against Washington State

back on Oct. 9.

Barner, who complements running back LaMichael James, ran for 60

yards, including a 30-yard touchdown against the Huskies.

But his return was tempered by the loss of quarterback Nate

Costa, a fifth-year senior who has backed up Darron Thomas this

season after the duo battled for the job during fall camp.

Costa, a stalwart leader of the Ducks, was hurt Saturday when he

bobbled a field goal attempt – he also serves as the holder – and

was tackled as he tried to scramble with the ball.

Costa was taken from the field by a cart with what looked to be

a serious injury to his right knee. There was no word Sunday on his

injury or condition.

The possible loss of Costa poses a dilemma for the Ducks, who

seem to have a recent history of inopportune quarterback knee

injuries. Oregon was hoping to redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett, who

was impressive during fall camp. The team also has redshirt

freshman Daryle Hawkins, who serves as a reserve

quarterback/receiver/running back.

The lack of a clear backup for Thomas is a concern. Oregon saw a

chance to compete for a national title crumble in 2007 when Dennis

Dixon went down with a knee injury in the third-to-last game of the

regular season.

That season, backup Brady Leaf was also knocked out with a knee


Costa has thrown for 286 yards and a touchdown this season. He

threw for 151 yards against Washington State when Thomas left with

a shoulder injury.