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Bruins take on No. 13 Oregon

With Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli dealing with an injury, the conference's top offense could falter Saturday.

October 10, 2009

Two burning questions surround No. 13 Oregon's visit to the Rose Bowl for a game against UCLA on Saturday. Who will be the Ducks' quarterback? What kind of fashion disaster will they be wearing as uniforms? Times staff writer Chris Foster looks at the key matchups and issues.

Trying to make a point

The Pacific 10 Conference's top offense comes to town and that means . . . not much. Sure, Oregon averages 34 points and rolled up 94 points in its last two games, but that was with the nimble Jeremiah Masoli directing the spread attack.

Masoli suffered a right knee injury last week. But accurate injury reports seem second only to the spotted owl on the endangered-species list in Oregon. Ducks Coach Chip Kelly has tap-danced around the issue all week, telling reporters Friday that he would watch Masoli on tape before making a decision.

What he saw was Masoli meandering around the practice field, making sure he was seen in uniform. Nate Costa ran the first team.

How big a difference does Masoli make? Oregon opened as a 6 1/2 -point favorite. When word of his injury leaked, the game was taken off the board.

Costa was to be the next big Nike billboard, but that was two knee surgeries ago. He is a better passer than Masoli, but if he's running the Ducks' deception-dependent offense, the Bruins should spend less time playing button, button, who's got the button.

Prince valiant

Meanwhile, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel tried to be a chip off the old Kelly block, playing it coy when asked about his quarterback situation. Neuheisel said Friday that he would meet with offensive coordinator Norm Chow and "talk about it and see exactly what we think. I'm not ready to say, yet."

Actions speak louder than words. Kevin Prince, just back from a fractured jaw, took every snap with the first team this week. Either Neuheisel out-decoyed the Ducks or Prince is starting.

Being Blount

Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount can take a hit, but found he couldn't deliver one, being suspended for the season after punching Boise State's Byron Hout.

There has been talk of a commuted sentence and possible reinstatement for Blount. It won't be this week. Still, the Ducks were hardly left without a leg to stand on.

LaMichael James, a second-year freshman, has 429 yards rushing, including a 152-yard game against Utah, a school record for freshmen.

Boom, goes the dynamite

It was catchphrase week around Westwood, where the words "high-octane" and "explosive" were being tossed around.

Prince's return does give Chow an arm to work with, and a quarterback who realizes there is more than one receiver running routes. But don't expect too much from the whiz-bang section of the playbook, though teams probably haven't seen the last of tailback Christian Ramirez in the wildcat formation.

Speedy receiver Randall Carroll should be more involved. The potentially dangerous Morrell Presley has seen his role enlarged. And tailback Damien Thigpen's quickness, elusiveness and smallness can make him a "Where's Waldo?" search for the defense.

But the plan probably will work off the running attack.

"We can't just force the issue and continue to go three-and-out," Neuheisel said.

Passing fancy

Prince may have opportunities. The Ducks have been adequate on pass defense, though Purdue's Joey Elliott did throw for 266 yards.

Injuries in the Oregon secondary could tempt Chow. The Ducks lost cornerback Walter Thurmond III for the season with a knee injury two weeks ago and his replacement, Willie Glasper, suffered the same fate in practice this week.


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