Top-ranked Oregon breaks silence
For top-ranked Oregon, there is no Oregon State or a major bowl game after that.
It's all about Arizona right now.
The Ducks threw open the doors to practice again on Sunday after shutting down for a bye week, coming out of the self-imposed silence ready for Friday's game against the 20th-ranked Wildcats.
It's the penultimate regular-season stop on the way to what Oregon hopes will be a national championship. After Arizona, the Ducks visit Oregon State in the Civil War rivalry game on Dec. 4.
Not that they're ready to talk about all of that.
''When you look ahead you get beat. I think everybody knows that,'' running back LaMichael James said.
The undefeated Ducks practiced on Monday, Wednesday and Friday last week, no doubt reflecting on a too-close-for-comfort 15-13 victory over California the weekend before.
Oregon has plowed its way through each opponent this season with the same mantra: ''Win the Day.'' The philosophy - coach Chip Kelly's catchphrase - is even painted on the four corners of Autzen Stadium's field and the words greet the players as they head through the tunnel into the stadium.
''It's close,'' quarterback Darron Thomas said of the finish line. ''But we're just worrying about Arizona and not too worried about Oregon State or games down the road.''
The Civil War was looking more intriguing Sunday after the Beavers beat No. 20 USC 36-7 at Reser Stadium on Saturday night. Oregon State, 5-5 overall and fighting for bowl eligibility, visits No. 7 Stanford this Saturday before finishing out the season at home.
Oregon looked vulnerable in the victory over the Golden Bears. The Ducks were averaging nearly 55 points and 567 yards of offense going into the game against Cal, which held them to 317 yards and just one touchdown.
The Golden Bears are tenuously clinging to bowl aspirations after a loss in the Big Game against Stanford on Saturday.
California was accused after the game against the Ducks of unsportsmanlike conduct by feigning injuries to slow the pace. In one instance a Cal player looked over to the sideline before walking toward a game official and abruptly falling to the ground, a scene that lives on in a popular Internet video.
Kelly commented last week that if teams need to resort to faking injury to slow Oregon down, it speaks volumes about how hard the Ducks are to keep up with. And it equally says a lot about teams that resort to such measures, he suggested.
James said Sunday there was no concern that Cal may have exposed a weakness in Oregon's offense. No one is perfect.
''No. We are human,'' he said. ''We put our pants on just like everybody else does. We are different because of our tempo. We practice and play hard. That's the big key for us.''
James, a Heisman Trophy candidate who is averaging a national-best 158 yards rushing a game, had to be helped off the field after the Cal game and appeared afterward on crutches and wearing a boot.
He wasn't listed on Oregon's injury report Sunday and wore pads at practice. But he did not take part in team drills, explaining he was still was experiencing some discomfort.
''A little bit,'' he said. ''There is still pain but in a couple days I'll be fine.''
Receiver Lavasier Tuinei wore a sling on his left arm and did not practice. He was officially day to day, because Kelly does not discuss injuries.
Kelly said practice was business at usual.
''Same thing as every week: Fundamentals, blocking, ball security, normal things, nothing really changes,'' he said.
Oregon also unveiled plans Sunday for the expansion of the Len Casanova Center, adjacent to Autzen, which will include an ''operation center for football that will be unsurpassed in the country.''
The ambitious project, expected to be completed in 2013, will be funded by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny.