Ducks Are Hurting
Oregon averted disaster with a late comeback win in its cross-country trip last weekend. The Ducks are now hoping their new running back tandem can help them overcome the loss of another quarterback.
With Justin Roper sidelined, LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson will try to keep No. 17 Oregon unbeaten on Saturday when it hosts Boise State in the first-ever meeting between the recent Northwest powers.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Oregon -10.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 61% of bets for this game have been placed on Oregon -10.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
The Ducks (3-0) had the country's top offense heading into a trip to Purdue last Saturday, but scored only six points in the first half and found themselves trailing by two touchdowns. Oregon rallied in the second half though behind the running back duo of Blount (132 yards) and Johnson (96 yards).
Blount tied the score with a five-yard run late in the third quarter, and the teams traded field goals in the fourth before heading into overtime. Each kicked a field goal in the first session, but after the Boilermakers missed a kick in the second overtime, Blount scored on a three-yard run to give the Ducks a 32-26 double-overtime win.
"I think it's a great test for us," coach Mike Bellotti said. "No matter the hole we get ourselves in, we can dig ourselves out of it. We are a very explosive team. Our team really gained confidence from this game."
They may be a bit less explosive without Roper, who's expected to miss two to four weeks after partially tearing a ligament in his left knee at Purdue. Roper struggled in that game, going 20-for-48 for 197 yards and two interceptions.
Losing quarterbacks is nothing new for Oregon. Roper was starting because of a knee injury to projected starter Nate Costa, who will miss the season after having surgery. Senior Dennis Dixon had the Ducks on track for a spot in the national championship game last season before tearing his ACL in mid-November.
With Roper out, Oregon is expected to use Jeremiah Masoli and true freshman Chris Harper at quarterback, though Masoli will "probably" get the start against Boise State, according to Bellotti.
In the meantime, the Ducks will likely ride Blount and Johnson without trying to make their inexperienced quarterbacks do too much. Johnson, the smaller, quicker back, has been a successful backup for four seasons and is dealing with a shoulder injury suffered two weeks ago, but Blount - a junior college transfer - is making quite an impression.
"Even where there wasn't a hole, he made some yardage, and he rarely got tackled by the first guy," Bellotti said. "He's a big, strong back that's getting more comfortable with the offense. Jeremiah's not 100 percent healthy, so obviously LeGarrette's role is going to increase."
Boise State (2-0) started 10-1 last season before losing its final game of the regular season and its bowl game, but the Broncos are off to a fast start in 2008. They put up 582 yards of offense in beating Idaho State 49-7 in their opener, then forced three Bowling Green turnovers last Saturday in a 20-7 win.
Boise State has the nation's 28th-ranked defense, allowing 257.0 yards per game. The pass defense (148.0 ypg) is tied for 16th.
"We played very good red zone defense," said coach Chris Petersen after the Broncos forced a late turnover with Bowling Green inside the 20-yard-line. "They had to earn that one touchdown they got, so give a lot of credit to our guys on the defensive side of the ball."
Quarterback Kellen Moore has only two starts under his belt, but he hasn't looked like a typical redshirt freshman. Moore is 32-for-42 (76.2 percent) for 454 yards and two touchdowns in the two victories.
He also has one of the best running backs in Boise State history lined up behind him, as Ian Johnson needs 875 yards the rest of the season to become the Broncos' all-time leading rusher.
Johnson, a two-time all-WAC selection, has 184 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries this season.
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