2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 8 - Washington St at Oregon
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Oct. 29 at Oregon 43 … Washington State 28
CFN Analysis: Is there a quarterback problem? Darron Thomas threw two picks, but outside of a pick six, he wasn’t awful, completing 8-of-13 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown, and he was helped by the return of LaMicahel James, who didn’t bust out any big runs, but ran for 53 yards on 13 carries. Kenjon Barner was the main man, taking off for 107 yards on 11 carries, but overall, the Ducks weren’t their usual dominant selves. They didn’t have any problem getting the win after the offense kicked it into gear in the second half, but it also helped that Bryan Bennett came in and threw two touchdown passes. Will Thomas be looking over his shoulder from here on? Is this the type of thing that can screw up a season? With road games at Washington and Stanford up next, everything needs to be working perfectly.
The offense moved the ball on an Oregon defense that’s been strong against the better quarterbacks. Marshall Lobbestael kept things moving, completing 28-of-48 passes for 337 yards and a touchdown with two picks, and the running game wasn’t all that bad, running for 125 yards and a score. The Cougars held on to the ball for over 40 minutes, and did a good job of keeping the Oregon ground game under wraps, but the offensive pop wasn’t there in the third quarter to keep up the pace. Damante Horton’s 76-yard pick six was the highlight, but the defensive front did a decent job of holding its own. However, this makes it three straight games of 40 points or more, giving up 44 against Stanford, 44 against Oregon State, and 43 against Oregon. There’s still time to go bowling, but it’s going to take a win over Cal to stop the four-game slide.
(AP) EUGENE, Ore. -- Darron Thomas says emphatically that he's still the starter for No. 7 Oregon.
The Ducks quarterback returned from a knee injury Saturday to face Washington State but threw two interceptions in the first half and was pulled from the 43-28 victory over the Cougars.
Coach Chip Kelly said he felt backup Bryan Bennett gave the Ducks the best chance when they embarked on the second half with only a 15-10 lead.
Afterward, Thomas was asked if anyone had told him he was still the starter.
"I think I know that," he said.
Running back LaMichael James also came back after two games off because of a dislocated right elbow. Wearing a brace, he ran 53 yards for Oregon (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) which won its 21st straight at Autzen Stadium.
True freshman De'Anthony Thomas had a 45-yard scoring pass from Bennett and returned a kickoff 93 yards for another touchdown. Lavasier Tuinei added a pair of TD receptions.
Washington State (3-5, 1-4) lost its fourth straight, but the Cougars hung tough with Oregon for much of the game.
Darron Thomas missed Oregon's 45-2 victory over Colorado last week because of the injury he sustained the week before against Arizona State. Bennett, a redshirt freshman, was steady in the start against the Buffaloes.
With a brace on his left knee, Darron Thomas did not look limited mobility-wise. He finished 8 of 13 for 153 yards and a score.
He said he was told that the team was looking out for his best interests in sitting him in the second half.
"You look at the stats," he said. "I don't think it was that bad."
Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mark Helfrich shot down any notion of a quarterback controversy.
"I believe 100 percent in Darron Thomas in all ways, shapes and forms. There's nothing else to read into this," he said.
Bennett completed four of seven passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. He said he was surprised by the move.
"They just called my number and it was time to go," Bennett said.
Marshall Lobbestael, who played in place of injured Cougars quarterback Jeff Tuel, completed 28 of 48 passes for 337 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Marquess Wilson had a career-high 11 catches for 126 yards.
Cougars coach Paul Wulff was pleased with the effort.
"If we come out and play with the focus that we did today and take care of the football and play with a higher level of execution, then we can play with anybody in the country," he said.
Oregon's special teams set the tone when they blocked Washington State's punt after the game's opening series and Boseko Lokombo returned it 26 yards for the touchdown. Holder Jackson Rice's pass to kicker Alejandro Maldonado was good for two extra points to put the Ducks ahead 8-0.
Andrew Furney kicked a 40-yard field goal to narrow the margin for the Cougars.
Oregon made it 15-3 when Darron Thomas, scrambling away from several defenders, got off a pass moments before he was hit. Tuinei awkwardly pulled it down and stumbled into the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown.
Furney missed a 25-yarder for the Cougars with just under three minutes left in the first half. But Washington State would quickly recover, with cornerback Damante Horton's 76-yard interception return for a touchdown to narrow it to 15-10 with 1:50 left.
Maldonado's 47-yard field goal attempt for the Ducks went wide right as time ran out in the half.
Bennett set the tone for Oregon in the second half with a pitch to De'Anthony Thomas, who ran for a 45-yard score.
After Furney's 35-yard field goal for the Cougars, Bennett found Tuinei in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Ducks a 29-13 advantage.
The Cougars closed the gap again with Lobbestael's 24-yard TD pass to Jared Karstetter, but De'Anthony Thomas answered with a 93-yard kickoff return for a score.
De'Anthony Thomas now has 11 touchdowns this season, an Oregon record for a true freshman. He finished with 262 all-purpose yards against the Cougars.
Kenjon Barner ran for a 28-yard touchdown to open the fourth quarter for the Ducks. Washington State's Rickey Galvin had an 8-yard scoring run and the two-point conversion was successful for the final margin.
"We feel like we can play with anybody. We may not have the whole world behind us, but at the end of the day it's about the 11 players on the field. It's about us," Cougars running back Carl Winston said.
James, a Heisman trophy finalist last season, said he felt that he was out of sync. But he was glad to get back on the field and take some hits before the Ducks face Washington in Seattle next week.
"If a guy has a big robot arm, of course they're going to try to strip the ball," said James, who dislocated his elbow against California on Oct. 6. "I'm glad that I got that out of the way."
Neither he nor Thomas played last week.
And as for the quarterback issue?
"Darron's the guy," James said. "He's our quarterback."
On Washington State's side, Tuel aggravated a clavicle injury in Washington State's 44-21 loss to Oregon State last weekend, but the real problem this week turned out to be a bruised right calf. He was later diagnosed with acute compartment syndrome.
Also absent was Oregon All-American cornerback/kick returner Cliff Harris, who was suspended earlier this week after he was cited during a traffic stop for driving on a suspended license, driving without insurance and failing to wear a seat belt.
Harris cannot participate in any football-related activities. It was a second strike for the junior, who was suspended to start the season after he was cited for driving 118 mph this June.
Harris reportedly paid to have his license reinstated on Friday.
Washington State (3-4) at Oregon (6-1) Oct. 29, 3:00, FSN
Here’s The Deal … And the beat goes on in Eugene. For the second straight game, Oregon rolled to an easy victory without its full complement of offensive weapons, battering Colorado in Boulder, 45-2. The Ducks have now run their winning streak to six games, staying on pace with Stanford in the Pac-12 North, and sliding up to No. 7 in the BCS rankings. The program is determined to get healthy and remain focused on the task at hand as it inches closer to the Nov. 12 showdown with the Cardinal in Northern California.
Washington State’s hopes of barging into the postseason have started to fade quickly. The once-surging Cougars have lost three consecutive games, the last two convincingly. In a pivotal home game with floundering Oregon State a week ago, Wazzu wasn’t even competitive long after halftime, falling meekly, 44-21. At this rate, the only intrigue on the Palouse will be whether or not head coach Paul Wulff has done enough in 2011 to earn an invitation back in 2012.
Why Washington State Might Win: While the offense has been stumbling of late, the Cougars still believe they can compete in a high-scoring affair. QB Jeff Tuel aggravated his clavicle in the loss to Oregon State, but backup Marshall Lobbestael has already proven that he can ignite the attack from behind center. He’s thrown for 15 touchdown passes and 1,739 yards, and is comfortable with Wazzu’s ensemble of gifted receivers. Marquess Wilson, Jared Karstetter and Isiah Barton, in particular, are capable of stretching opposing defenses, and opening up the field for the backs and the tight ends. Quality passing games have had success moving the ball on the Ducks this year.
Why Oregon Might Win: The Washington State defense is in shambles, which is no way to enter a game against the Quack Attack. No one is saying with certainty whether or not starting QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James will suit up this week. Then again, no one in Eugene seems that concerned about it either. The Ducks have been just fine with Bryan Bennett taking snaps and Kenjon Barner taking handoffs. The latter has run for more than 100 yards in each of the last two games, and the former has piloted the offense like a veteran. Oregon has not been kept below 41 points since the opener with top-ranked LSU. Don’t expect a Cougars defense that was just gutted by Oregon State to change any recurring trends.
What To Watch Out For: Is anyone paying attention to the play of the Oregon D? You ought to. The unit has quietly played real well this fall, rising to no lower than No. 2 in the Pac-12 in sacks, pass efficiency defense and scoring D. A new set of stoppers, like DE Dion Jordan, LB Josh Kaddu and rover Avery Patterson, has emerged to solidify a group that was in transition when the season started. After pitching a shutout of the Buffaloes on Saturday, the Ducks want to seize more momentum in anticipation of upcoming games with a couple of potent foes, Washington and Stanford.
What Will Happen: Oregon will roll to win No. 7 in-a-row. The only mystery will surround the identity of the touchdown-makers. If head coach Chip Kelly decides to use Thomas and James, he’ll probably have the luxury of getting them to the sidelines at some point in the third quarter. The Ducks will have few problems strafing a Washington State D that’s proven out of its league versus far lesser competition. They’ll rack up close to 600 yards spread throughout the first and second-teamers.
CFN Prediction: Oregon 47 … Washington State 17
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Oregon -36.5 O/U: 69
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