DUCKS NOTES: Handling Autzen, avoiding turnovers may be keys for ASU
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
EUGENE - Arizona State will try to end its six-game losing streak against Oregon, but it won't be easy 7:15 p.m. Saturday night at Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks have 19 consecutive wins and 77 sellouts in a row.
"It's a great opportunity, going to Eugene and playing one of the better teams in the country," ASU coach Dennis Erickson says. "It's exciting for our players. Not many people have (won there), if any of late."
The Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0) played the Ducks (4-1, 2-0) fairly evenly last year, before seven turnovers caught up with them, and UO won 42-31.
"We didn't take care of the most valuable thing - the football," Erickson says. "We turned it over every which way. You name it, we did it."
A lot of the same ASU players return for this game, with QB Brock Osweiler back at the controls.
• Oregon running back LaMichael James calls himself "questionable" for Saturday's game, with swelling in his right elbow.
Erickson was asked by a reporter if the Ducks had anybody who could capably fill in for James. The veteran coached laughed, before pointing out the talents of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.
"They have so many guys. Their quarterback (Darron Thomas) is so much better throwing the football. The receivers are playing well," he says. "They have a lot of speed and talent to take his place."
James has three consecutive games of 200-plus yards rushing, including 239 against Cal on a night when he maybe could have topped 300 without the elbow injury. He's averaging a nation-leading 170.4 rushing yards, with 10 total touchdowns. He has 4,129 career rushing yards, fifth all-time in the Pac-12.
Coach Chip Kelly says "nothing changes" with James out of the lineup.
"I feel extremely comfortable," he adds, about possibly playing without James.
• Could Darron Thomas also be a running threat for the Ducks on Saturday?
"Darron's done a really good job managing the game, taking what the defense gives him," Kelly says. "He's very efficient with the ball - two interceptions in five games. He's not forcing the issue.
"For us to be successful, he has to be a viable running threat. There's a lot of playcalling involved in that. He's not a selfish player. He'll do exactly what he's supposed to do in the scheme we have called."
• The Ducks are explosive, and "you've got to be able to tackle against these guys," Erickson says. "They break a lot of tackles and make big plays. They have such skill, you don't see it every day. To emulate it (in practice) is virtually impossible.
"Hopefully you make them earn (yards), keep big plays down, try to run to the football and tackle."
• The Sun Devils have created 18 turnovers, and the Ducks only four.
"It seems like they have great vision, and great understanding of what the opposing offense is trying to do," Kelly says, of the ASU unit that features linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive end Jamaar Jarrett. "They get their hands on a lot of balls."
The Ducks committed four turnovers against LSU, then improved in ball security until QB Thomas served up an interception against Cal.
"We need to create more turnovers, from a defensive and special teams standpoint," Kelly says.
The Ducks had 14 pass breakups against Cal - and no interceptions. The Ducks thought they should have picked off about eight passes.
"You hope over the course of the season those things iron themselves out," Kelly says. "If they do, we're up for a lot of interceptions."
• Osweiler went 5 of 10 for 14 yards, with one pick, in a 2009 start at Autzen. He got hurt, and the Ducks won 44-21.
"Since that time, he's matured in a lot of different ways," Erickson says. "He's played some games now - six this year, two last year. I don't know if we've been to a place like Autzen, with tremendous fans who are very loud. That'll be new for him. But he has experience and maturity.
"I'm sure he'll play much better than he did the last time he was in there."
Osweiler is averaging 279.5 yards passing per game, with 13 TDs and 6 interceptions.
Osweiler is 6-8, and "he's also athletic," Kelly says. "He can move, buys time in the pocket, keeps plays alive. When we generate a pass rush, we have to wrap up and get him."
And, "you can't manufacture experience," Kelly adds. "He's obviously grown as a quarterback."
• The Sun Devils also feature running back Cameron Marshall (421 yards, 8 TDs), and a slew of receivers - Jamal Miles (27 catches, 191 yards), Gerell Robinson (26, 403), Aaron Pflugrad (26, 380) and Mike Willie (17, 234), as well as Marshall (13, 140) and Kyle Middlebrooks (12, 93).
"As a group, they keep rotating them in," Kelly says. "They spread the ball out maybe better than anybody in the conference."