EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — With a 2-0 start during a short season where every win is crucial, Oregon is not concerned with some of the more minor details.
The No. 11 Ducks host UCLA on Saturday, a game that was originally set for Friday night.
Just hiccups in an otherwise unusual season.
“Let’s just say we have bigger challenges throughout the course of this season than that,” coach Mario Cristobal said.
The game was pushed back a day after the Bruins hosted California on Sunday morning at the Rose Bowl. Coronavirus cases kept the Bruins' and Bears' original Week 2 opponents from playing. UCLA won the game, which came together in less than 48 hours.
While obviously the Bruins (1-1) have had to be more flexible that the Ducks, the stakes this season are undoubtedly higher for Oregon.
Should they win out, the Ducks have perhaps the best chance in the Pac-12 of making the College Football Playoff. Undefeated Oregon currently sits atop the Pac-12 North, but two other teams have only played one game with little chance of make-up games. Stanford and Oregon State are both 0-2.
The key is to remain adaptable, much like UCLA was against Cal, Cristobal said.
“Everyone’s on high alert, 24-7, you know, DEFCON 5. That’s an 80s term from an old movie,” Cristobal said. “But yeah, we’re on high alert.”
He had big shoes to fill, but Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough is off to a fine start.
Shough threw for 312 yards with four touchdowns, and had nine carries for 81 yards, against Washington State last weekend.
“(Shough) is athletic and can beat you with his feet, too, so you can’t sleep on him,” Bruins coach Chip Kelly said.
Shough, who stepped into the starter’s role after Justin Herbert departed for the NFL, became only the second Ducks QB to throw for more than 200 yards and run for 80 or more in back-to-back games. Marcus Mariota was the first in 2014.
He is one of four quarterbacks, including Liberty’s Malik Willis, Virginia Tech’s Hendon Hooker and Middle Tennessee State’s Asher O’Hara, to have reached those passing and rushing marks in two games this season.
UCLA has a dual threat QB, too: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, in his third year as starter for the Bruins.
On the day after his 21st birthday, he threw for 196 yards and three touchdowns while running for 52 yards and another score in the 34-10 UCLA victory over Cal.
“He’s probably, if not the most dynamic, one of the most dynamic players in college football,” Cristobal said.
In the Bruins’ season-opening loss to Colorado, Thompson-Robinson threw for 303 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 109 yards and another score.
Kelly, who memorably coached the Ducks from 2008 to 2012, said he enjoys returning to Eugene. But this season will be a bit different because Autzen Stadium, one of the more raucous venues in the Pac-12, will be empty.
“I don’t even think we’re going to have The Duck. And that’s always depressing because he’s always fun to see.” Kelly said. “Same thing at Colorado, we didn’t get Ralphie. So it’s just a different year, just a different vibe, unfortunately.”
ON THE RUN
With dual-threat quarterbacks, the ground game could be key to the success of both teams Saturday.
Oregon has rushed for 538 yards this season, surpassing any other Pac-12 team, and leads the league with 268 yards per game. That’s good for fifth nationally. CJ Verdell leads Oregon with 111.5 yards a game, while Shough is second with 83.
UCLA has averaged 209.5 yards on the ground in its two games, led by Demetric Felton with an average of 82 yards per game. Thompson-Robinson is close behind him, averaging just over 80 yards.
OHANA MEANS FAMILY
Oregon will unveil new Polynesian-inspired green uniforms Saturday in honor of the team’s relationship with the Pacific region. Oregon assistant coaches Joe Salave’a and Alex Mirabal came up with the idea, and Nike collaborated with Hawaiian label Sig Zane Designs to execute it.
Among the program's high-profile players with Polynesian roots is former quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.
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