Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Look Ahead to Saturday


Oregon Duck fans know as well as anyone the long struggle it takes to rise from have not to one of the elite teams in the country. The rise of the Oregon program was not an overnight success.

For the most part, Duck fans have been shielded from the cost of progress. Yet, ticket price increases and mandatory donation levels to maintain season ticket allocations have slowly taken hold. Lost in the excitement of the run to a National Championship last season and the high expectations this year is another cost that will cause some serious, if unseen to the average fan, ramifications. Tailgating.

Due to the new Football Operations Center which is in the early stages of build, the existing Soccer and lacrosse fields will be moved to the other side of Autzen stadium near PK Park. This has caused the loss of several hundred parking spaces, mostly from the “GA” parking. This is, coincidentally enough, where much of the pre-game tailgating took place.

In your mind, walk through the last several seasons at Autzen and the crush of tailgating which made Autzen Stadium such a unique West Coast venue was centered around GA parking passes. This is where the Duck Sports Authority tailgates had been in 2009 and 2010. There was a big time feel to tailgating in Autzen. Many people received the letter this year explaining that their request for GA parking had been denied.

From the outside, this will have little impact. Autzen Stadium will still sell out it's home games. Tailgating will still happen, just somewhere else. Nonetheless, this move caught many by surprise. In February, when making the annual contribution decision, I called the Duck Athletic Fund staff to inquire about the amount my donation would be required to guarantee a second parking pass (the first was through another Duck Sports Authority member) for myself. WE came to an agreed amount that was felt would ensure DSA received two parking passes. Little did I know the athletic department already had knowledge that there would be no GA parking passes this year and likely, there will never again be GA parking.

The university gladly accepted my significantly increased contribution, but left me scrambling for parking. The DSA Tailgates have become quite popular over the past two seasons. So much so, in fact, that we believe two spaces were now a necessity!

Fortunately, the Boy Scouts, who service their own parking lot and the Serbu Youth Center parking lot were able to ensure the ability of Duck Sports Authority to secure those two parking spaces this season. Yes, we will continue our tailgate tradition, it will simply be in a new location across the road.


Nevada comes to Autzen Saturday at a bad time. The Ducks, having suffered two consecutive losses to SEC teams will have a sour attitude and something to prove. It would have been better, from Nevada's perspective, for Oregon to have beaten LSU as it may have provided a little bit of complacence about their ability. No such luck for the Wolfpack.

Nevada is already breaking in a new QB and a new RB after a stunning 13-1 season and upset of Boise State. That upset, of course, may have cost Boise a shot at the National Championship game.

Nevada WR Rishard Matthews
What the Wolfpack does bring back, though, is a solid former Oregon commitment at Wide Receiver, Rishard Matthews. Matthews is no slouch and will be expected to play a pivotal role in the 2011 Pistol Offense of the Nevada Wolfpack. Last season he caught 49 passes for 793 yards to go along with four touchdowns. In addition to his receiving duties, he was their main punt returner taking 25 returns for 244 yards including a 72 yard touchdown in their bowl game. Expect Nevada to go to Matthews early and often.

The QB is a new starter, but not new to Nevada. A fifth year senior, Tyler Lantrip has been a part of the offense and understands this team very well. It is tough to replace someone like Colin Kaepernick, but Lantrip brings similar size to the position at 6'5” 220 pounds.

On defense, the Wolfpack brings back their leading tackler from a year ago, but break in a lot of new player there as well. Outside linebacker Jeremiah Green, will likely be tested as he was playing wide receiver last season. He has nice size at 6-2, 230, but will likely struggle early with some of his keys and reads against a very fast and physical Oregon team.

The offensive line returns three starters, including their returning Starter at Center. The defensive line returns both starting defensive tackles, Brett Roy and Zack Madonick. In a relief for Duck fans, the two starting DT's are 280 and 285 pounds respectively.

At linebacker, two of three starters return including James-Michael Johnson, a 6'2” 240 pound middel linebacker. In the secondary, the Wolpack return 3 of 4 starters, including both safeties.

Last season was the first under a new defensive coordinator and the team made strides. Nonetheless, they still finished 89th in total defense last season. Though an improvement over 2009, not the most stellar defense in the nation. On a bright not for their defense, thought giving up yards, they were able to give up fewer points than 2009. There should be a decent development in their defense after another year in a new system.

Anyone expecting an early blowout ala New Mexico or Portland State in 2010 is likely to be disappointed. The Ducks, prohibitive favorites in this game, should be able to score considerably more often and easier than against LSU last week, but not likely to the tune some might expect. Nevada under Chris Ault is a different team than the Nevada the Ducks rolled for a 72-10 victory at Autzen in 1999. Then team returns a good corps of linemen on both sides of the ball. Given that the Oregon offense looks to take advantage of defensive ends and that Nevada breaks in two new starters at DE, the Ducks should have a field day against this defense. The Nevada offense was formidable last year and Ault really knows how to maximize his talent. The Nevada offense, however, is not nearly as talented as LSU.

Expect the Ducks to be methodical, but fast early and open up a decent half time lead before exploding in the 3rd Quarter. I imagine the 4th quarter will bring with it a lot of young talent taking their first snaps as Oregon Ducks. As long as the team can clean up it's self-inflicted wounds like penalties and turnovers, they should be able to roll through the Wolfpack.


Thomas (photo Courtesy
Though he struggled some with ball security, De'Anthony Thomas is everything he was expected to be; and maybe more folks. The vision he showed Saturday was unparalleled at Oregon. The young man put on 15 pounds between his senior season at Crenshaw and his first game as a Duck. Expect Thomas to play at 185 as a sophomore after a full year under the watchful eye of Jim Radcliffe. Throw in the fact that he is already considerably faster than any athlete at the University of Oregon (Thomas was timed at 20.61 in the 200 meter while Oregon freshman track star Mike Berry had a best of 21.08) and you have a young man that could seriously be the next in the line of Heisman candidates at Oregon.

Though he was amped up some last week, he made an impression with sure hands catching passes, great feet and incredible acceleration. With Kenjon Barner suffering an ankle injury last week, expect Thomas to have an even bigger impact this week.

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