Ducks aren't buying role of big favorite over Nevada
Coming off a loss to a No. 4-ranked team, Oregon isn't going to take lightly a Western Athletic Conference opponent - especially when the team is Nevada, coached by pistol offense inventor Chris Ault.
The Wolf Pack went 13-1 last season, beating California, Brigham Young and Boise State and then Boston College in its bowl game. Nevada lost four-year starting QB Colin Kaepernick to graduation, but plenty of other players return for the 12:30 p.m. game Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
Preparing for its opener, Nevada has welcomed back six offensive starters, including former Duck signee Rishard Matthews at receiver, and seven starters on defense, including 2010 WAC player of the year James-Michael Johnson at linebacker.
"It ain't a big underdog to us," says UO coach Chip Kelly, whose 0-1 Ducks have been deemed four-touchdown favorites. "We ain't buyin' that one," meaning the inference that the Ducks should handle the Wolf Pack.
Tyler Lantrip, a 6-4, 220-pound fifth-year senior, takes over for Kaepernick. At running back, senior Lampford Mark is coming off a knee injury and illness; he ran for 414 yards last season (7.5 per carry). Junior Mike Ball is also a running back threat. Three offensive line starters return. Matthews caught 56 passes for 879 yards and five TDs last season. The defensive line features Brett Roy, who had 14.5 tackles-for-loss and eight sacks last season. Three-year starter Brandon Marshall joins Johnson in the linebacker corps, and the Wolf Pack could possess its best secondary since the early 1990s.
Ault, in his 27th year at Nevada, has a 219-97-1 record.
Oregon has a 5-1 record against Nevada, including 5-0 since 1996. The Ducks won 31-23 in Eugene in 2003, as part of UO's 4-0 start that season.
"It's a tough, physical football team," Kelly say of Nevada.
• The Ducks fell from No. 3 to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll and No. 14 in the USA Today coaches' poll.
• It'll be interesting to see how the Ducks play after their 40-27 loss to LSU, particularly what kind of personnel changes might take place.
Kelly says Rahsaan Vaughn, who played on special teams against the Tigers, could see an expanded role at receiver Saturday. Do the Ducks turn to freshmen such as running back/receiver De'Anthony Thomas, running back Tra Carson, tight end Colt Lyerla - who played against LSU - and possibly other true freshmen receivers to provide more weapons on offense?
Kelly says decisions haven't been made on whether to re-instate cornerback Cliff Harris and/or linebacker Kiko Alonso. "Once we get Kiko back, he'll figure into the mix," the coach says.
• The Ducks, although facing a conservative LSU offense, held the Tigers to 273 yards on offense.
"We held an SEC team under 300 yards," Kelly says. "I thought our defense played well. And, our offense and special teams did not put them in good position" with four turnovers.
"I thought the one positive coming out of (the LSU game) was how well our defense played."
• The Ducks will be playing their 45th season in Autzen Stadium, and a few changes have been implemented because of multiple construction projects surround the complex. Fans are encouraged to leave for the stadium early and/or take alternate transportation options. Parking will be diminished as the season wears on.