Jason Says: No excuses for Ducks


"Next man in," says Oregon coach Chip Kelly, philosophizing about injuries and how he wants his players to simply fill in the holes and play on.

Is the offensive line in a fluid situation this week, given that some players had to miss action with injuries against Fresno State?

"We don't talk about it," Kelly says.

What about with a guy injured and gone for the season?

"We don't talk about it, ever," he says.

Credit Kelly for sending the message that his team won't use injuries as an excuse, but rather as an opportunity for the next guy. It's meant to embolden players. Kelly rarely refers to injuries when talking about his team. An exception came last year when he proclaimed "this team's as banged up as any team I've ever been around." That statement came, interestingly and conveniently, a few days after the USC loss.

News this week that safety John Boyett and offensive guard Carson York are done for the season adds to the questions surrounding the UO program. The Ducks looked like world beaters in ringing up 51-3 and 35-3 advantages in their first two games (versus Arkansas State and Fresno State). But then, the rest of the way in both games, Oregon looked like a team that had serious issues and was barely a bowl contender as it was outplayed by seemingly outmanned opponents.

Disregard the next game, folks. The Ducks should win easily against Tennessee Tech (noon Saturday, Pac-12 Network). But, how they win will be observed, as they face the opening of the Pac-12 schedule the following week against resurgent Arizona.

And, of course, the injury watch continues. How does receiver Josh Huff come back from hurting his knee against Fresno State? How do injured offensive linemen other than York play, or do they play? Who else gets injured, if anybody?

If they stay intact, the Ducks still have the makings of a very good team that should be the favorite in the Pac-12 North Division. But inconsistencies and injuries open up the possibilities of UO losses down the road — it's easy to envision a banged-up Ducks team struggling to beat everybody except Colorado; it's also easy to believe that the Ducks will right themselves, improve and still play USC for the Pac-12 championship. They still have Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, a talented QB in Marcus Mariota and a veteran defense.

Kelly called the Ducks a young — "banged up" — team last season, and they played in and won the Rose Bowl. He calls the Ducks a young — and "next man in" — team this season, so what does the future hold? It'll be intriguing to see.

Saturday's pick: Oregon 52, Tennessee Tech 10

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