No. 2 Ducks reopen practice, get ready for Bruins
With just a brief respite at the midseason mark, second-ranked
Oregon is beginning its preparations for UCLA next Thursday
The Ducks practiced behind closed doors earlier this week before
a couple of days off for their bye. They head back to practice as
usual on Saturday.
Oregon jumped up a spot in the polls after former No. 1 Alabama
lost last week. The upset moved Ohio State into the top spot and
the Ducks moved to No. 2 ahead of Boise State.
Coach Chip Kelly kept the first couple of practices private –
with no fans and no media – and did his best to take the spotlight
off the Ducks, while fans excitedly anticipated the possibility of
an upset when the Buckeyes face No. 18 Wisconsin this Saturday.
”We don’t look at this as a bye week, we look at this as an
improvement week,” Kelly said about what his sheltered team was
doing. ”We’re just stressing fundamentals, because fundamentals is
what wins for you. Blocking, tackling, ball security are huge
priorities for us this week.”
Oregon (6-0, 3-0 Pac-10), with its blurringly fast spread-option
offense, is led by sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas and running
back LaMichael James, a fellow sophomore who is rising up the
Heisman hopeful list.
In five games this season, James has rushed for 893 yards and
nine touchdowns. He ran for 136 yards and two scores and also
caught a TD pass in Oregon’s 43-23 victory over Washington State
Thomas, who has thrown for 1,231 yards with 14 touchdowns
through six games, hurt his shoulder against the Cougars and his
status for the UCLA game has not been released by Kelly.
Similarly, there is little known about the condition of running
back and return specialist Kenjon Barner, who sustained a
concussion at Washington State.
UCLA (3-3, 1-2) is more of a mystery with an upset victory over
then-No. 7 Texas earlier this season but a 35-7 loss last weekend
at California. The Bruins also have an open date this weekend.
On Tuesday, the Bruins suspended receiver Josh Smith and F-back
Morrell Presley for the Oregon game for violating team rules. UCLA
would not release more details, citing student privacy.
Smith is the Bruins’ top kick returner, averaging 27.4 yards on
14 kickoff returns. The junior transfer student from Colorado also
caught three passes and rushed for 74 yards in UCLA’s first six
Presley, whose position is a combination of fullback and tight
end, was suspended for a game last season for another undisclosed
violation of team rules. He also has caught three passes this
season while starting all six games.
Earlier this week, Kelly pointed to a 24-10 victory over UCLA as
one of last season’s highlights.
”I believed that because of how banged up we were going into
that game, and how injured our guys were that week in practice,
that arguably was our best football game as a team last year,” the
coach said. ”Now, I know the fans don’t think that, but I know as
a coaching staff we believe that, and I know our players believed
The Ducks are 6-0 for the first time since 2002, but that season
they dropped six of their final seven, including a 38-17 loss to
Wake Forest in the now-defunct Seattle Bowl.