Breaking Down the Rose Bowl: Battle of the WRs

Continuing with position breakdowns, today I’ll go over the running backs. If you missed yesterday’s, you can read about the running backs here.
This is by far the toughest decision so far. Oregon has the depth and Ohio State has the star power. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, I am leaving tight end for a separate position, so there is no Ed Dickson or David Paulson in the equation.
For all the publicity that Jamere Holland was getting during fall camp as the next breakout wide receiver, it’s a bit of a letdown that he finished the season with more drops than he had catches. (Maybe I’m making that up but it sure feels like it)
Looking back on it now, it seems like the Oregon media said, “Well, there’s no one else so let’s just say Holland is going to be the man.”
13 receptions, five missed games and only two touchdowns later, Holland has turned out to be a bigger disappointment than any single Nicholas Cage movie, finishing with only one catch in four out of his seven games.
Luckily for the Ducks, their offense isn’t exactly built around a superstar wide receiver. With the emergence of LaMichael James and the ability for Jeremiah Masoli to take off and run like a fullback with 4.6 speed, passing the ball isn’t the top priority.
But when he’s needed to throw, Masoli has several adequate targets. In fact, of late, Jeff Maehl has established himself as the go-to-guy, coming up with huge games against Arizona and Oregon State down the stretch.
Junior D.J. Davis and sophomore Lavasier Tuinei are both nice slot receivers, but the only plays ever really called for them are “Hey, let’s throw three screen passes in a row and see if the corners will figure it out.”
Shockingly, Davis and Tuinei average 10.5 and 8.5 yards per catch.
For tOSU, sophomore DeVier Posey is who Holland should have been.
The track star and former five-star recruit, has blossomed into a legitimate No. 1 wide receiving this fall, leading the Buckeyes with 727 yards and seven touchdowns. That is even more impressive considering that he has accounted for 40 percent of Pryor’s pass yards.
Although, some have said Pryor looks a little too much in Posey’s direction. (Maybe that’s why his interceptions have spiked this year)
It’s a good thing Posey has stepped up, because following the departures of Brian Robiske and Brian Hartline to the NFL, Ohio State was looking abnormally thin at the position compared to what they are used to having (Robiske, Harline, Anthony Gonzalez and Santonio Holmes).
Helping relieve some pressure from Posey is Dane Sanzenbacher. The junior has adjusted nicely from being the seldom used slot receiver last year to starting this season, finishing with 506 yards and six touchdowns.
I’m not sure which would be more impressive: his 18.7 yards per catch average or his last name in Scrabble if used on a double word score. (I vote for Scrabble, because if you can find a way to use 12 letters, you deserve a prize just for that)
Wide receiver play isn’t going to decide the game, because for both teams, passing the ball is the third option. But Ohio State’s quick strike ability sure is an advantage in case they need to come from behind.
Which I am sure hoping is the case.
Rating:
Ohio State 7, Oregon 6.
Overall: Oregon 25, Ohio State 22.

Continuing with position breakdowns, today I’ll go over the wide receivers. If you missed yesterday’s, you can read about the running backs here.

Devier Posey is the biggest airial threat in the passing game for either team.

Devier Posey is the biggest airial threat in the passing game for either team.

This is by far the toughest decision so far. Oregon has the depth and Ohio State has the star power. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, I am leaving tight end for a separate position, so there is no Ed Dickson or David Paulson in the equation.

For all the publicity that Jamere Holland was getting during fall camp as the next breakout wide receiver, it’s a bit of a letdown that he finished the season with more drops than he had catches. (Maybe I’m making that up but it sure feels like it)

Looking back on it now, it seems like the Oregon media said, “Well, there’s no one else so let’s just say Holland is going to be the man.”

13 receptions, five missed games and only two touchdowns later, Holland has turned out to be a bigger disappointment than any single Nicholas Cage movie, finishing with only one catch in four out of his seven games.

Luckily for the Ducks, their offense isn’t exactly built around a superstar wide receiver. With the emergence of LaMichael James and the ability for Jeremiah Masoli to take off and run like a fullback with 4.6 speed, passing the ball isn’t the top priority.

But when he’s needed to throw, Masoli has several adequate targets. In fact, of late, Jeff Maehl has established himself as the go-to-guy, coming up with huge games against Arizona and Oregon State down the stretch.

Junior D.J. Davis and sophomore Lavasier Tuinei are both nice slot receivers, but the only plays ever really called for them are “Hey, let’s throw three screen passes in a row and see if the corners will figure it out.”

Shockingly, Davis and Tuinei average 10.5 and 8.5 yards per catch.

For tOSU, sophomore DeVier Posey is who Holland should have been.

The track star and former five-star recruit, has blossomed into a legitimate No. 1 wide receiving this fall, leading the Buckeyes with 727 yards and seven touchdowns. That is even more impressive considering that he has accounted for 40 percent of Pryor’s pass yards.

Although, some have said Pryor looks a little too much in Posey’s direction. (Maybe that’s why his interceptions have spiked this year)

It’s a good thing Posey has stepped up, because following the departures of Brian Robiske and Brian Hartline to the NFL, Ohio State was looking abnormally thin at the position compared to what they are used to having (Robiske, Harline, Anthony Gonzalez and Santonio Holmes).

Helping relieve some pressure from Posey is Dane Sanzenbacher. The junior has adjusted nicely from being the seldom used slot receiver last year to starting this season, finishing with 506 yards and six touchdowns.

I’m not sure which would be more impressive: his 18.7 yards per catch average or his last name in Scrabble if used on a double word score. (I pick Scrabble, because if you can find a way to use 12 letters, you deserve a prize just for that)

Wide receiver play isn’t going to decide the game, because for both teams, passing the ball is the third option. But Ohio State’s quick strike ability sure is an advantage in case they need to come from behind.

Which I am sure hoping is the case.

Rating:

Ohio State 7, Oregon 6.

Overall: Oregon 25, Ohio State 22.

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Remember, Remember The Third of December

Who's that handsome man? Oh wait, that's me!

Who's that handsome man? Oh wait, that's me!

This morning, the Oregonian’s Bob Rickert posted a story about the top ten things most people won’t remember from Oregon’s win, but should. It’s a  really good list, great even, but he left out a couple of the most important ones. I’m here to help him fill in the blanks.

Jeff Maehl earned the nickname the Maehlman last night. Oregon’s only weakness on offense this season has been at wide receiver. In fact, no wide out caught a single touchdown pass before Maehl did, coincidentally, in the Rose Bowl against UCLA in the sixth game of the season. But recently, the junior has stepped up big time to become a legitimate second receiving threat alongside Ed Dickson. Averaging 95 YPG his past four. including five touchdowns, Maehl has come up with several big catches to help Oregon back to Pasadena.

His 73-yard TD last night gave the Ducks their first lead, but even more important than that was an eight-yard catch on fourth down in the third quarter to keep the comeback hopes alive. Maehl has really blossomed into another weapon for Jeremiah Masoli, and they will only be better next year. Add in the white receiver factor, and Maehl is even more likable.

Winning with the white pants. When the Ducks came out last night wearing white pants, I was shocked. Oregon has worn the white pants twice this season, and you guessed it, they picked up an L both times.  Does Casey Martin get off on almost giving  60,000 a collective heart attack? I guess this proved that Oregon is better than a jinx. But Casey, please don’t do that to me again on New Years’.

The Autzen Zoo lived up to its billing. Duck fans pride themselves on being the loudest and most intimidating fans in college football, and last night, they did just that. I don’t believe there is a decibel rating quite yet, but for what it’s worth, the crowd noise was audible from at least eight miles away. Imagine what it must have been like on the field.  Overall, last night might not have been as loud as the USC game on Halloween, but when OSU decided to go for it on fourth and 16 with just over six minute left, that was the loudest I have ever heard a stadium get. My ears are still ringing from being in the student section.

Coaching. Football is all about making changes and adapting to the game. In the first half, the Beavers were taking of advantage of the spacious Oregon front seven. James Rodgers was running the fly sweep and Jacquizz was catching screen passes underneath for big yards. Realizing that, Chip Kelly adjusted, and stuffed the box, halting the OSU offense. The Result?  The Beavs only got two first downs in the final 26 minutes.

Game. Set. Match. The Ducks are going to the Rose Bowl.

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Rivalry Renewed: Oregon Ducks Look for Sixth Straight over Huskies

I remember going to my first Oregon Duck football game last fall as a freshman. Because of weird scheduling circumstances, the Washington Huskies came to Autzen in just the second week of the season.

If Masoli is healthy, the Ducks will roll over the Huskies.

If Masoli is healthy, the Ducks will roll over the Huskies.

And being a fan of the Ducks for several years before I stepped on campus, I was well aware of the rivalry and was excited to witness it firsthand.

Soon after entering the stadium, I was quickly thrown into the competitive trash-talking that those clever collegians in the student section like so much. Well, this time we weren’t so clever.

From the very second the first purple-clad player appeared in the tunnel, there was a telekinetic-like power that united the entire stadium; students, alumni, and even children to stand up and chant: “Fuck the Huskies!”

Over and over again. I didn’t even know we were allowed to do that. Looking back, we probably weren’t, but it was too much fun it didn’t matter. The loathing between the two teams was palpable.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the way you look at it, the dislike quickly turned to sympathy, as the Ducks went all Michael Vick on the Huskies, 44-10. To make matters worse, Washington didn’t win a single game the rest of the season, including a heartbreaker to the lowly Washington State Cougars.

For some reason, the rivalry didn’t feel so much like a rivalry to me anymore after that game. It was more of a business as usual, fifth straight win in a row type of thing.
But the Huskies are no longer a joke. No more Tyrone Willingham or Rick Neuheisel and his March Madness office pools.  Washington now has a legitimate head coach: Steve Sarkisian, who learned from the best of the best in Pete Carroll at USC. Coach Sark finally has the Huskies playing up to their full potential.

Despite going winless last season, Washington had plenty of talent, although most of it was inexperienced. Willingham brought in several solid recruiting classes, including QB Jake Locker in 2006 and receivers Jermaine Kearse and Kavario Middleton last season. He just couldn’t get anything out them. I mean, Locker is good enough that he should be able to win a handful of games by himself.

But now Locker has developed into the player many expected him to become, the West Coast’s version of Tim Tebow, Chris Polk emerged as a talented running back and Kearse has excelled in his first season.

However, the one thing that has kept the Huskies from a 2008 Miami Dolphin-like turnaround is their defense. Although better than last season, the Huskies still rank ninth in the Pac-10 in total defense, allowing 424 yards per game.

And that’s why the Huskies are at least a year away from putting a stop to Oregon’s five game winning streak. Jeremiah Masoli (who should play) and LaMichael James, two of the hottest players in the country, should be able to feast on the porous Washington defense.

With two weeks for the Ducks to rest up, and two weeks for offensive mastermind Chip Kelly to game plan, Oregon should be focused and ready to march into Husky Stadium for their sixth straight win.

Kelly has instilled his mantra of “one game at a time” into his players, as offensive tackle Bo Thran can attest: “They’re just the next team on our schedule.”

The only worry for the Ducks, is adjusting to the unfriendly confines of Husky Stadium. Only one game in their current five game winning streak over Washington came in Seattle.

But Chip Kelly has done a tremendous job preparing this team week in and week out. Going into the Rose Bowl before the bye, many fans were frightened because it was the first road game since the Boise State debacle, but Oregon overcame a lackadaisical first half to win handily.

“We don’t put any more stock in this game than another,” Kelly said. “By that, I don’t mean to diminish it, but we put everything we have into every game. We haven’t done anything different in terms of our approach. It’s a league game. It’s on the road. And that’s enough to get our players up and excited for practice.”

In Big Balls Chip I trust.

Prediction: Oregon 34, Washington 24

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Third Quarter Hat-Trick Propels Oregon Ducks Past UCLA Bruins

Chip Kelly must be one hell of a motivational speaker.

After being held scoreless in the first half—for just the second time since 2007—the Oregon Ducks overcame their three-point deficit faster than you could say “LaMichael James for Heisman in 2010.”

Literally.

This about sums it up.

This about sums it up.

Kenjon Barner took the third quarter kickoff back 100 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. And then just 13 seconds later, on the Bruins’ first play of the half, Talmadge Jackson stepped in front of Terrence Austin, picked off Kevin Prince’s pass, and ran it back for 32 yards.

Those two plays epitomized the Ducks’ season so far—winning with defense and special teams.

But they weren’t done yet.

Just two plays after Jackson’s interception, Kenny Rowe knocked the ball out of Prince’s hands on a scramble, and Oregon recovered.

Now that the offense finally had the ball, they were ready to join the party. On third down, Nate Costa found Jeff Maehl on a quick slant pass in heavy traffic, but broke through to race 20 yards into the end zone.

Hat trick: complete.

That touchdown throw, the first of Costa’s career, was the first touchdown pass caught by an Oregon wide receiver this season.

Special teams. Defense. Offense. Three touchdowns in under four minutes. In the end that’s all the Ducks would need, as they went on to win 24-10.

“The fire that everyone had in them just ignited,” Costa said. “We got on a roll and started saying, ‘We’re going to put these guys to sleep.”’

Costa, who was making the first start of his career, replaced Jeremiah Masoli, who sat out with an MCL sprain.

Costa wasn’t spectacular, but he didn’t need to be. The Ducks ran the ball at will against the Bruins. Led by speedy freshman LaMichael James, the Ducks totalled 222 rushing yards. James had 151 of those. Barner added 50.

James, who is establishing himself as one of the premier running backs in the conference, was absolutely electric. The Texas native put on a juking spectacular for UCLA, spinning his way out of trouble and into daylight several times.

His best run came after UCLA pinned Oregon at their own one-yard line in the first quarter. With the Bruins stacking eight in the box, Costa handed off to James, meeting several defenders at the goalline. Averting disaster, James first spun out of the grasp of a lunging tackler, and then spun back around three Bruins into the open field.

The only thing that stopped James from a 99-yard touchdown run was himself, as he outran his blocker and collided with a UCLA defensive back at midfield.

“That’s what our team does,” coach Chip Kelly said. “They feed off each other. When somebody makes a big play, the other guys feed off that. These guys have a great attitude, a great chemistry right now. It’s fun to be around them.”

When I was looking ahead to the matchup against UCLA, I saw the serious possibilty of a trap game.

Playing on the road in a stadium where they typically don’t fare well, playing without three of their four best defensive backs—Walter Thurmond, Willie Glasper, and T.J. Ward—and letting Costa make his first collegiate start made me weary of a potential upset.

But the Ducks quickly dispelled any notion of suffering their first Pac-10 loss. This team is 100-percent focused right now, living up to Kelly’s mantra of “one game at a time.”

With next week’s open date, Oregon will have time to rest up and get healthy before traveling to another difficult environment in two weeks—Husky Stadium.

Kelly brought along four quarterbacks to Saturday’s game, including Masoli and true freshman Daryle Hawkins.

“I thought it would be nice if Daryle could see Los Angeles,” Kelly said in some postgame levity. “Maybe Disney World on the way back.”

Let’s hope Hawkins doesn’t need to go anywhere near the Space Needle on Oct. 24th.

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Third Quarter Hat-Trick Propels Oregon Ducks Past UCLA Bruins

Chip Kelly must be one hell of a motivational speaker.

After being held scoreless in the first half—for just the second time since 2007—the Oregon Ducks overcame their three-point deficit faster than you could say “LaMichael James for Heisman in 2010.”

Literally.

This about sums it up.

This about sums it up.

Kenjon Barner took the third quarter kickoff back 100 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. And then just 13 seconds later, on the Bruins’ first play of the half, Talmadge Jackson stepped in front of Terrence Austin, picked off Kevin Prince’s pass, and ran it back for 32 yards.

Those two plays epitomized the Ducks’ season so far—winning with defense and special teams.

But they weren’t done yet.

Just two plays after Jackson’s interception, Kenny Rowe knocked the ball out of Prince’s hands on a scramble, and Oregon recovered.

Now that the offense finally had the ball, they were ready to join the party. On third down, Nate Costa found Jeff Maehl on a quick slant pass in heavy traffic, but broke through to race 20 yards into the end zone.

Hat trick: complete.

That touchdown throw, the first of Costa’s career, was the first touchdown pass caught by an Oregon wide receiver this season.

Special teams. Defense. Offense. Three touchdowns in under four minutes. In the end that’s all the Ducks would need, as they went on to win 24-10.

“The fire that everyone had in them just ignited,” Costa said. “We got on a roll and started saying, ‘We’re going to put these guys to sleep.”’

Costa, who was making the first start of his career, replaced Jeremiah Masoli, who sat out with an MCL sprain.

Costa wasn’t spectacular, but he didn’t need to be. The Ducks ran the ball at will against the Bruins. Led by speedy freshman LaMichael James, the Ducks totalled 222 rushing yards. James had 151 of those. Barner added 50.

James, who is establishing himself as one of the premier running backs in the conference, was absolutely electric. The Texas native put on a juking spectacular for UCLA, spinning his way out of trouble and into daylight several times.

His best run came after UCLA pinned Oregon at their own one-yard line in the first quarter. With the Bruins stacking eight in the box, Costa handed off to James, meeting several defenders at the goalline. Averting disaster, James first spun out of the grasp of a lunging tackler, and then spun back around three Bruins into the open field.

The only thing that stopped James from a 99-yard touchdown run was himself, as he outran his blocker and collided with a UCLA defensive back at midfield.

“That’s what our team does,” coach Chip Kelly said. “They feed off each other. When somebody makes a big play, the other guys feed off that. These guys have a great attitude, a great chemistry right now. It’s fun to be around them.”

When I was looking ahead to the matchup against UCLA, I saw the serious possibilty of a trap game.

Playing on the road in a stadium where they typically don’t fare well, playing without three of their four best defensive backs—Walter Thurmond, Willie Glasper, and T.J. Ward—and letting Costa make his first collegiate start made me weary of a potential upset.

But the Ducks quickly dispelled any notion of suffering their first Pac-10 loss. This team is 100-percent focused right now, living up to Kelly’s mantra of “one game at a time.”

With next week’s open date, Oregon will have time to rest up and get healthy before traveling to another difficult environment in two weeks—Husky Stadium.

Kelly brought along four quarterbacks to Saturday’s game, including Masoli and true freshman Daryle Hawkins.

“I thought it would be nice if Daryle could see Los Angeles,” Kelly said in some postgame levity. “Maybe Disney World on the way back.”

Let’s hope Hawkins doesn’t need to go anywhere near the Space Needle on Oct. 24th.

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