EUGENE - It's crunch time, otherwise known as November games, for the Oregon Ducks.
An improved Washington team will greet the Ducks on Saturday, Nov. 5 - and the Huskies and a home crowd of 72,500 will surely be jacked up to play Oregon, which has won seven games in a row against its Northwest rival, all of them in routs.
But, are the Ducks, coming off a suspect 43-28 win against Washington State, susceptible?
"You can't go into a game thinking they might beat us," running back Kenjon Barner said. "You just gotta go out and play football."
"We haven't circled it on the calendar, but we know the task at hand," safety Eddie Pleasant said. "We're going to start (preparing) Monday. Saturday night we'll be ready."
The Huskies feature QB Keith Price, running back Chris Polk and receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar.
Are the Ducks worried about their own defense?
"No," defensive end Terrell Turner said. "We just need to play our game. We're getting better and better. ... We just like to outwork our opponent and do what we need to do."
The UW defense, meanwhile, got torched by Stanford, and looks just as mediocre as ever.
• Let's see: Washington State managed 315 yards offense - 83 on 19 carries, 232 on 21 of 33 passing - against Oregon State, a 44-21 loss at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Seven days later, the Cougars produced 462 yards at Autzen Stadium - 125 on 39 carries, 337 on 28 of 48 passing - in a 43-28 loss to the Ducks. It takes most of two hands to count the number of times the Cougars ventured deep into UO territory, only to be rebuffed by the Ducks or mess up on their own.
Who saw that Cougar offense coming?
"They're a great team," Turner said. "Washington State has improved so much. I'm not knocking them."
The Cougars fell to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Pac-12. In Paul Wulff's three previous seasons, the Cougs went 2-10, 1-11 and 2-11.
"Props to them," Turner added. "They're a great team. ...
"Top-10 teams come out and lose sometimes. Top-10 teams perform when they need to perform. We were excited to have Washington State coming in here. We came out on top."
• Wulff bemoaned the missed scoring opportunities and added, "to even be close to them shows how we played in other areas of the games. But, no victory. We came here to win and we didn't get it done. ... If we come out and play with the focus that we did today and we take care of the football, with a little higher level of execution, we can play with anybody in the country."
• Marshall Lobbestael, the WSU quarterback starting in place of injured Jeff Tuel, had a decent day spreading the ball around and leading the offense, which dominated time of possession.
But the Ducks got to him twice, as Terrance Mitchell and Eddie Pleasant each stopped WSU drives with interceptions near the UO goal line. Both appeared to be wild throws on Lobbestael's part.
Said Mitchell, of his first career pick: "I was guarding my guy, and he wasn't in the play, so I saw another dude and I just came off (to get the interception). I had the feel."
Like Mitchell, Pleasant credited defensive pressure on the WSU quarterback. "They got pressure, the ball got tipped and I was right there to pick it off."
• De'Anthony Thomas continues to blossom into a full-fledged star. He set the UO record for touchdowns by a true freshman, scoring on a pass reception and kickoff return to give him 11 TDs. He had 262 all-purpose yards, passing injured LaMichael James to sit atop the UO leaderboard with 1,262.
"Nothing more you can say about that kid," Barner said. "He's special. He's blessed. We're blessed to have him."
Added coach Chip Kelly: "He's an unbelievable competitor. He just loves playing football. Fun to be around, fun to coach."
Thomas said he didn't think about breaking the record of 10 TDs, held by Derek Loville (1986).
"I didn't even know about it," he said. "I'm just trying to get experience and score more the rest of the year."
• Different players have been atop the UO tackle list, and Saturday wasn't an exception. Linebacker Michael Clay had 12 (seven solo, five assisted), defensive lineman Dion Jordan had seven (six solo, one assisted) and defensive backs Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Troy Hill and Pleasant all had six total.
Jordan, Pleasant and Turner each had sacks.
The senior Pleasant paid the junior Jordan one big compliment.
"He's the heart and soul of our team," Pleasant said. "Lose or win, he's got the same attitude. On Monday, when nobody wants to practice, he'll be firing people up. On the sideline, he'll be firing everybody up. ... And, there's not too many 6-7 guys who play defensive end and all the special teams."
Pleasant also had nice things to say about redshirt freshmen Mitchell and Troy Hill and true freshman Ekpre-Olomu for rising up at cornerback. Hill and Ekpre-Olomu started.
"Stepping up for Cliff (Harris), they know they got big shoes to fill," Pleasant said. Ekpre-Olomu "is the baby of the group, but he don't act like that. He's aggressive, he's big."
• This and that: The Ducks under Kelly have dominated most teams after halftime, after struggling somewhat with teams in the first half. "We can't have that," Barner said. "Catch a team on the wrong day, we can be on the opposite side of it." Said Kelly: "We don't like being close at halftime. That's not obviously a goal of ours." ... Oregon has won 21 consecutive home games, 17 consecutive league games and played before Autzen Stadium's 79th consecutive sellout crowd. ... Kicker Rob Beard returned to action, on some kickoff duty.