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DUCKS NOTES: Injuries, defense remain questions going into conference opener

by: JAIME VALDEZ Oregon's Keloni Kamalani pursues Missouri State Julian Burton in the first half at Autzen Stadium.

EUGENE - Several Oregon Ducks sat out Saturday's 56-7 home win over Missouri State.

The list of non-combatants: safety John Boyett, receiver Josh Huff, running back Kenjon Barner, offensive lineman Ramsen Golpashin, linebacker Michael Clay and kicker Rob Beard.

All were presumably nursing injuries and resting, given that Oregon's Pac-12 opener happens next Saturday at Arizona.

Some Ducks offensive linemen had Golpashin's number, 70, painted on their arms as some kind of honor. Coach Chip Kelly doesn't talk about injuries, and Oregon doesn't put out an injury report.

• Linebacker Kiki Alonso, who started and received extended playing time, and cornerback Cliff Harris, who played in the second half, did not report to the post-game media room for interviews.

Freshman tight end Colt Lyerla, who had two touchdown catches against Missouri State and whose three receptions this season have all gone for TDs, also did not make himself available for an interview.

Approached by a Portland Tribune reporter, the Hillsboro-groomed Lyerla said that his position coach, Tom Osborne, told him not to do interviews.

• Missouri State, despite being blown out, gained 185 yards rushing on 55 carries. In three games, the Ducks have given up 643 yards rushing on 154 carries (4.2 per).

"They ran hard and played hard, and even threw the ball fairly well," Oregon defensive end Brandon Hanna said. "Overall, we did pretty well."

The Ducks had eight tackles for loss, but only two by defensive linemen (Hanna, Tony Washington). The tally is now 4.5 tackles for loss by defensive linemen in three games.

"A lot of it depends on what scheme we're running," Hanna said, of TFLs. "Part of it is getting penetration, and we were able to get some penetration on these guys. I don't know if it was better ... hard to tell."

Overall, "I'd say it's a work-in-progress," Hanna said, of the defensive line.

Linebacker Dewitt Stuckey proclaimed the UO defense "ready" for Pac-12 play.

"We have momentum, we're stopping plays, getting some tackles for loss," he said.

• Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said he feels good about the defensive line and secondary, but the linebacker corps, especially with injured Michael Clay out, relies on young players and Alonso and Stuckey, who didn't start last year.

"Last year at this time we were further ahead than we are right now," Aliotti said. "Nobody might not want to hear that, particularly the kids."

He said the Ducks miss the talent and experience of graduated linebackers Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger.

Aliotti said the Ducks, along with every college team, usually have trouble stopping opponents completely and relies on offense to put up points.

"If you can hold teams to under three touchdowns, you have a good chance of winning," Aliotti said. "It's hard to hold people nowadays, you just have to get more stops than the other team."

Observed Missouri State coach Terry Allen, of the UO defense: "There's no doubt they are solid. Oregon is blessed with their offense. Their defense is more bending and not breaking. You can't outscore Oregon because their defense is going to make you work for everything and their offense is going to move at a remarkably fast pace."

• The Ducks rushed for 416 yards and had 681 yards offense. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said the blocking with the offensive line and on the perimeter has improved.

"I thought today our guys took a huge step forward in communication and execution," he says. "The LSU game, it wasn't always a matter of guys stoning somebody, we didn't communicate great. Last week and this week, we got better.

"On the perimeter, we did a fantastic job blocking today. Justin Hoffman sprung the 90-yard (James run), Rahsaan Vaughn had the block on the 50-yard (James run). Daryle Hawkins had a couple key blocks, including on (Eric) Dungy's touchdown."

Can the Ducks take what they've improved on in blocking against two lesser opponents and apply it to a bigger and faster Arizona team?

"There will be different principles," Helfrich said. "Arizona is a fantastic team in all three phases. Our matchups will be different. You can certainly take communication, and we made some good adjustments today (into that game). You can certainly build on that."

Said Mark Asper, who has moved to right guard with Nick Cody at right tackle: "A lot of guys are starting to understand the type of blocking you need to do in games. It's different than practice. The finish aspect of our game plan, guys are starting to get a good hold on."

Quarterback Darron Thomas said, of the offensive line: "We want to be known for our ability to power you up front, and our linemen are key to that. They have taken on that as a personal challenge this season, and they are doing an incredible job."

• Helfrich said the Ducks have been working on the deep passing game.

"It opens it up," he said, of offense. "It's something we were trying to get to last week (against Nevada). We wanted to get that rolling a little bit more. We have to spread the field horizontally and vertically."

• James tied Derek Loville's career record with 45 touchdowns, and he ranks second to Loville's career mark of 41 rushing TDs with 40. He became the first UO player in the modern era to have two rushing touchdowns of 50 yards or more in the same game (he also did it in 2010 against Portland State). His 204 yards rushing marked the fourth 200-yard game of his career.

• James had this to say about his speed: "(Critics) watch film, they watch the game. People are going to think what they want to think. If anybody that wants to place some bets and race me, then so be it."

• De'Anthony Thomas had his third consecutive game of 100 all-purpose yards or more (169). His first four touches of the ball came on a kick return, punt return, reception and rush.

• Linebacker Rodney Hardrick became the sixth true freshman to see action.

• Autzen Stadium saw its 76th consecutive sellout (58,847).

• Missouri State had 39:30 possession time to UO's 20:30.