Taking Redemption in one-week doses: a first look at Oregon vs. Nevada
The best antidote for a miserable, demoralizing loss is a confidence-building win. The Ducks play host to the Nevada Wolfpack on Saturday in Autzen Stadium, and their goal is to be inhospitable and vengeful hosts.
But the Wolfpack are an unknown quantity: they took last week off and have the blessing of an extra week of preparation and no in-game bumps and bruises, while the Ducks have several of unknown severity. Rob Moseley reported Kenjon Barner left Cowboys Stadium in a walking boot, and nearly every Duck suffers from at least severely-wounded pride as they begin preparations for their opponent in game two.
The Wolfpack will be amped for a showdown with a PAC-12 opponent, and the Ducks would be foolish to overlook them.
LaMichael James had his right ankle stepped on in the game and also had difficulty with leg cramps. Freshman running back De’Anthony Thomas suffered a youthful case of fumble-itis, best cured by advanced therapy in the Gary Campbell School of Ball Security.
The Black Momba will learn, as he is blessed with a gifted and thorough instructor. Expect more touchdowns and far fewer letdowns from the elusive legend from Crenshaw High. Even with the errors, he flashed explosiveness and a knack for catching the football, scoring his first touchdown in the last few seconds of the fourth quarter. He’ll develop into a dynamic weapon, maybe as soon as the first quarter of game two. It was encouraging that Chip Kelly hadn’t lost confidence in him; DAT stayed in the lineup and finished the game strong. He’ll learn, and the results will be memorable.
Nevada, meanwhile, is coached by Chris Ault, 65 years young and a dynamic innovator, the father of “The Pistol” offense, which his teams have employed to reach six bowl games in the last six years. Ault’s had three stints as head coach of the Wolfpack and over 200 coaching wins, including a signature 34-31 upset of Boise State last season on the way to a 13-1 record, a tie for the WAC conference championship and a victory in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Ault lost his two biggest weapons from that team, dual threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick and 1600-yard rusher Vai Taua. He replaces them with a little-used senior Tyler Lantrip at quarterback, and talented bruiser Mike Ball at running back, who made 4th team all-conference in a part-time role last year.
Lantrip has 23 career passes with one touchdown, and the Autzen crowd will do everything it can to make his first start a rude awakening. He’s 6-4, 220 and has good mobility, running for about five yards a carry in his brief appearances. Ball is the dangerous one, powerful and quick at 5-10, 215, built in the mold of LSU’s running backs, 38 carries for 259 yards and four touchdowns last season. He’s also a dangerous kick returner. In all the Wolfpack return just five starters from last year’s high-powered offense, but three of those are on the offensive line. No doubt Ault and his staff took careful note of the formula LSU used, power running with a sprinkle of play-action passes to frustrate and wear down Oregon’s defense, particularly in the second half,
The Ducks have a talent advantage in this game but they’d better be careful. Nevada has some speed at receiver, especially senior Rishard Matthews, who led the team last season with 55 receptions for 843 yards and five touchdowns
Careful also because the Nevada defense is very good. They return seven starters, including both defensive tackles, a decent secondary and stud middle linebacker James-Michael Johnson who led the team last year with 88 tackles. He’s 6-2 240, sure to put his helmet and a powerful forearm on the ball whenever he gets a chance, second team All-WAC in both his sophomore and junior years.
This week Chip Kelly and the Ducks have to follow some sage old coaching advice: losing stings, but don’t let the Tigers beat you twice.