TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 24: Quarterback Darron Thomas #5 of the Oregon Ducks smiles as he looks up to the seats during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Wildcats 56-31. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
We have a big game Thursday night against Oregon. Last year, we had a hard fought loss against those Webfeet in Memorial. However, the year before was a much crueler affair as Cal lost 42-3 in Autzen. Does Cal have a shot? Will Oregon fans boo more injured Cal players this year? Who knows what the future holds?
Well, AddictedToQuack naturally! Our Quacker friends to the north are the Persons Most Knowledgeable about the Oregon Ducks. So, we contacted them and valued reader Takimoto returned some answers to us. After the jump, you can find out his thoughts on unheralded Oregon players, DeAnthony Thomas, and whether Cal can repeat stifling Oregon's O. Many thanks to Takimoto and all the guys over at AddictedToQuack for their awesomeness in answering these questions. GO BEARS! BEAT THE DUCKS!
1) Cal 'solved' Chip Kelly's offense. Is there any kernal of truth to that statement?
1. It's not as though Chip Kelly's offense is some cipher that leads Tom Hanks and that French chick around the world only to find that the pirate ship with the lost treasure that saves the seaside town of Astoria was actually Keyser Soze. So "solved" seems like a silly word to use. Did Cal have a game plan that neutralized the zone read, and did they execute it about as flawlessly as they could? Yes. Did they benefit from an off-night from Darron Thomas? A little bit. Am I glad that Chris Conte isn't on the team any more? Absolutely.
2) Oregon's defense has been just the wee bit iffy. How concerned are Ducks fans?
2. I think I am less concerned than many other Duck fans. LSU scored 40 points, Nevada put up 500 yards of offense, and Nick Foles completed 34 passes for almost 400 yards. Those sound like scary numbers if that's as far as you look into it. I prefer to look at it this way: LSU had exactly one scoring drive that started on their side of the 50; Nevada had the ball for almost 39 minutes with a dangerous and effective offensive system (a fact Cal fans know all too well), and still only scored 20 points; and Arizona averaged 2.3 yards per carry running the ball, and put up the bulk of those passing yards after going down 35-9 in the first half. The defense is not as good as last year, but that doesn't make me concerned.
3) The Ducks lost a number of excellent players from last year's team. Who are some of the biggest losses and how well has Oregon done replacing their production so far?
>3. The biggest losses are in the defensive front seven; losing five starters, including three current NFL players, was a major setback, and MLB Kiko Alonso's suspension disrupted the continuity of the unit in fall camp. However, growth was shown last week in Tucson, with the defense recording six sacks, including 2.5 by DE Dion Jordan. Losing Jeff Maehl and DJ Davis as wide receiver has hurt as well, and we saw that against LSU. But super-frosh RB De'Anthony Thomas has emerged as a receiving threat in the same mold of junior Kenjon Barner, and JC transfer Rahsaan Vaughn is quickly establishing himself as the clear-cut #2 receiver behind Lavasier Tuinei. At tight end, freshman Colt Lyerla has caught three passes this year, all of them for touchdowns.
4. Do the Ducks have any weaknesses this year?
4. Weaknesses are relative, because I do believe the Ducks are the best team in the Pac-12, but Oregon's weaknesses lie do lie on the defensive side of the ball. The pass rush was severely lacking until the Arizona game, and those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt considering how many times the Wildcats threw the ball. And the defensive backfield, considered by many Duck fans to be the strong point of the defense before the season started, has been somewhat underwhelming. CB Cliff Harris still hasn't played his way back into an every-down role, and hasn't shown the explosive playmaking ability that he displayed in 2010. Senior Anthony Gildon has been solid, but redshirt freshmen Terrence Mitchell and Troy Hill have been
inconsistent thus far in their careers.
5. Where have the Ducks improved over last year?
5. As hard as it may be to believe, the addition of De'Anthony Thomas to the offensive backfield has made the Ducks offense more dangerous. He played well when thrown into the fire against LSU, despite his two fumbles. And he has shown more playmaking ability as a runner, receiver, and returner than any true freshman in Oregon history, more even than Jonathan Stewart. I think his ceiling as a player is somewhere around Reggie Bush's USC career. Seriously.
6. How confident are you in Thomas' ability to lead the team to victory through the air when the running game has been shut down?
6. I am supremely confident in Darron Thomas. He had the tall order of facing the best secondary in college football to open the season, with a subpar receiving corps, no less. And in the last three games, the running game has been so effective that he hasn't needed to throw the ball. But he can, and will, air it out if the opportunity is there, and I expect him to take shots downfield against Cal's secondary.
7. Do you mind not throwing the ball this year?
7. If we aren't throwing the ball, it's because the running game is destroying the opposition. So no, I don't mind at all.
8. Who is a less publicized player who is going give Cal fans ulcers on Thursday?
8. I'll give you two: WR Rahsaan Vaughn, and MLB DeWitt Stuckey. Vaughn has command of the offense, and is emerging as Oregon's number one deep threat at wide receiver, averaging nearly 20 yards/catch. Stuckey was a question mark entering the season, an undersized middle linebacker trying to replace both Casey Matthews and the suspended Kiko Alonso. He has performed admirably, leading the Ducks in tackleswith 24, and delivering the defensive play of the game last week against Arizona, a delayed blitz that led to a bone-crunching sack of Nick Foles.
9. What uniforms?
9. A night game on national TV? I'd be shocked if we weren't in all black.
ADDENDUM: As an addendum to question 9, rumors began swirling today about 1994 throwbacks. Rumors are not swirling that Ed Dickson will be wearing one of those throwbacks.
10. Who do you want to punch in the face?
10. Tosh Lupoi, only because I'm pretty sure if I make him bleed, I gain ownership to his magical recruiting powers.