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SCORESHEET: All about offensive opportunities for Oregon

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kenjon Barner and the Oregon Ducks celebrate one of his five touchdowns in the 62-51 win Saturday at USC.Normally, giving up 51 points isn't a great way to convince pollsters that you should be ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation.

But no one said Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks were normal, or that they care about being conventional.

It almost seemed as if Oregon didn't care much how many points Southern Cal scored in the UO's 62-51 win Saturday — as long as the Ducks could get the ball in their offense's hands as often as possible.

I'm not saying the Ducks wanted USC to score 51, of course, but their top priority sure didn't seem to be to try to hold the Trojans to a low number. The focus seemed to be trying to disrupt them, if possible, but to do so in a way that would make sure their own offense — Kenjon Barner and Co. — would get plenty of chances and get into and maintain its rhythm.

Maybe it was just USC's offensive explosiveness, but it looked to me like the bend-but-don't-break philosophy was eschewed by the Oregon defensive strategists in favor of a "let's put heat on the quarterback and we'll either make a play and stop them and get the ball back for our offense or they'll score on a big play and we'll get the ball back for our offense. And either way, we'll be OK, as long as we don't let USC grind out a bunch of eight-minute drives and keep our offense off the field."

The thinking seemed to be, adjust your defense to allow Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee and Co., only short, underneath routes, thus making them have to execute 14-play drives? Nah. Let's see if we can either sack Barkley or hurry him into poor throws and picks, and if he beats us, he beats us, because even if he does they'll have to put their tired defense back onto the field and we'll beat them — and make sure they're really tired for the fourth quarter when the outcome is still on the line.

Yes, that was a lengthy sentence, but just pretend it was Chip Kelly saying it and it only takes a few seconds to get through.

USC did manage three drives that took from 5:01 to 5:44, all in the first two-plus quarters, and Southern Cal was within 34-31 after the last of those.

On their other 10 possessions, the Trojans scored 34 points — but had the ball for a total of only 16:42, little more than a minute and a half each possession.

Oregon's defense gave up 615 yards in the game. But the Duck offense was able to run 83 plays (to USC's 80) and amass 730 yards.

•Â Kenjon Barner made running through the Trojan defense look a lot like Thomas Tyner of Aloha running through a high school defense.

•Â So, did the Ducks really dominate the game, as many are saying?

Yes, certainly, from the standpoint that they led from start to finish and scored almost at will.

On the other hand, the statement they made would have been louder had they won by 21 or more instead of 11. Yes, USC's final touchdown came with one second left, but I'm guessing the Trojans could have scored — again — on Oregon's defense regardless of the situation.

You're No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation and you score 62 points, you ought to win by 11.

Let's compare:

Oregon beat a team ranked 18th (and now with three losses) by 11.

Also Saturday, Kansas State beat the team ranked 24th, Oklahoma State (now 5-3), by 14.

Alabama, thanks to a late drive and a series of poor play calls by No. 5 LSU, beats the Tigers by 4.

Not much to choose from here.

•Â It would have been interesting to see the chaos an Alabama loss might have created. The debate would have been raging whether even a one-loss Tide or one-loss LSU, with a win over Bama, deserves national championship consideration still, compared to undefeated Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame.

As unproductive (and conservative) as Alabama looked offensively most of the way against LSU, the Tide's win probably is the most impressive of the three. Slightly more.

•Â Alabama versus Oregon or Kansas State would make for great theater in the national championship game. A great clash of contrasting styles and overall team personalities.

•Â Bama coach Nick Saban was critical of hurry-up offenses earlier this season, saying, among other things, that players are more likely to get hurt at that kind of pace, with defenses less able to substitute.

Don't think Saban would have had trouble going to the no-huddle in the final minute if Alabama needed more time to drive for the winning touchdown against LSU.

Does he mean the no-huddle is OK, and that it's OK to have more injuries, in the final two minutes of a game? Should that be the only time it is allowed?

But if you can do it in the last few minutes of a game, why can't you do it in the first few (when players are fresh, by the way)?

•Â Great effort by the Jordan Poyer-less Oregon State defense Saturday as the Beavers avoided a two-game losing streak and beat Arizona State 36-26. The Beavers pressured and befuddled ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly so much, they made it look like this was his first collegiate game.

Any time Oregon State rushes for 227 yards (not counting QB Cody Vaz's 70 yards in losses) and scores 36 points, the Beavers probably are going to win. Except maybe against Oregon.

•Â Ohio State (10-0) would be in the BCS national title talk, too, if it wasn't banned from bowls this year.

No wonder Oregon is fighting possible sanctions so hard in the wake of the Will Lyles scouting/recruiting inquiry.

•Â Back-page news item: Oh, by the way, Portland State loses 32-28 at home. To Northern Colorado. Both teams are 2-4 in the Big Sky and 3-6 overall.

The Vikings could sorely use at least a split in their two remaining games — Saturday at Montana State and Nov. 17 at home versus Eastern Washington. Both MSU and EWU are tied for second in the conference at 5-1, along with Cal Poly, with all three trailing 6-0 Northern Arizona.

The big turnaround at Portland State will have to wait at least another year.

PSU's self-proclaimed "Biggest in the Big Sky" vision calls for each team sport to win a championship at least once every three years. Football may have to be exempted from that. The Vikings are still waiting for their first conference title in football, and they haven't been close in a long time.

Of concern, too, it would seem, is the program's meager attendance.

PSU is drawing about 6,000 announced fans per game — and ranks third from last in the 13-team Big Sky. Attendance jumps some in the years when Montana comes to town, but not much, and that's not the answer.

The only teams drawing fewer fans are Northern Colorado, which plays in Greeley, Colo., population 95,000, and Southern Utah, which is in Cedar City, population 29,000.

The Viks are close behind Idaho State in attendance, but the Bengals (6,117 per home game) have been the Big Sky's doormat in football, haven't won a conference game this season and are in 55,000-population Pocatello.