Oregon will work on details against Tennessee Tech
By no means does No. 4 Oregon look at Tennessee Tech as a cakewalk win. It's a chance to address the details before the Pac-12 season starts and the Ducks take aim at a fourth straight conference title.
The lower-division Golden Eagles (2-0) will visit intimidating Autzen Stadium on Saturday having never defeated an FBS-level team. It will be their first outing against a Pac-12 opponent.
While it figures to be an easy day for the Ducks, it is also their last tuneup for league play - so they're looking to iron out some kinks.
Oregon (2-0) has outscored its two non-conference opponents 99-59, but those opponents have outscored Oregon 43-14 in the second half.
In a 57-34 victory over Arkansas State in the opener, the Ducks played their reserves after building up a big first-half lead. But last weekend against Fresno State, many of Oregon's starters - including quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner - played until the end.
Oregon led 35-6 at halftime but the Bulldogs outscored the Ducks 19-7 in the second half. Oregon's final score came late in the game when Barner took charge and ran the ball 10 times in a single drive, capped by a 16-yard touchdown dash.
Center Hroniss Grasu, who himself struggled with a few errant snaps, was not pleased.
''I don't like walking off the field knowing the other team finished the game better than we did. Nobody likes that,'' Grasu said. ''At practice we work on finishing, and that's what we need to do.''
''I just think there's been points in the game where we felt the game was out hand and we got a little complacent. But that's easy to nip in the bud and we should be OK,'' Mariota said. ''I think what happened this last week kind of really woke us up as an offense to really keep our foot on the pedal.''
Oregon was hit this week by the loss of two of its senior leaders, free safety John Boyett and guard Carson York.
Boyett told his hometown newspaper earlier this week that he needed surgery to repair patellar tendons in both knees. The injury will end his career with the Ducks unless Oregon successfully petitions the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility.
York hurt his right kneecap during Oregon's 42-25 win over Fresno State last weekend. He announced to reporters that he also required surgery and his season was done.
''It's hard when you lose guys like that, but we're trying to focus on Tennessee Tech because that's all we can do,'' Mariota said. ''We hope and we pray that they'll be all right, but really, we just have to continue to take day by day.''
Unclear was the status of junior receiver Josh Huff, who went down on a first-half kickoff return against Fresno State. Huff appeared to injure his left knee and had to be helped off the field. While he later walked unaided to the locker room, he came out on crutches in the second half.
Huff said earlier this week that the injury was not serious and that Oregon's trainers would decide whether he should play against Tennessee Tech. Ducks coach Chip Kelly does not discuss injuries.
Tennessee Tech sits atop the Ohio Valley Conference in both total offense and total defense. The Golden Eagles are similar to the Ducks in that they pride themselves on the speed of their offense. Last week in a 42-14 victory over North Greenville, their six scoring drives averaged 1:26.
In their opener, the Golden Eagles defeated Hampton 41-31.
Tennessee Tech's offense includes receiver Da'Rick Rogers, who was suspended indefinitely by Tennessee on Aug. 23 and quickly transferred. He told reporters at the start of the season that the suspension was due to failed drug tests.
Rogers was a first-team all-SEC receiver in 2011, with 67 receptions for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns for the Volunteers.
He faced Oregon when the Ducks visited Knoxville in 2010, finishing with a carry for 21 yards in Oregon's 48-13 victory.
Last week, Rogers had five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown against North Greenville. The week before he was named Ohio Valley Conference newcomer of the week after three receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown against Hampton.
One other facet of the game deserves note: Not to be outdone by Oregon's flashy Nike uniforms, the Golden Eagles chose this Saturday to unveil their new look by Russell Athletic.
The white, purple and gold uniforms feature the team's Golden Eagle mascot in a pattern on the sleeves and down the sides of the pants. New helmets are a tribute to the 1972 Tennessee Tech football team that won the Ohio Valley Conference championship.