Oregon's quarterback situation is murky, but that should be the least of Washington State's worries.
Three days from kickoff, the question still goes unanswered: Who will run Oregon’s lightspeed offense against Washington State on Saturday?
Vernon Adams Jr. is still sidelined with a broken finger. Backup Jeff Lockie said Wednesday that he and walk-on Taylor Alie are rotating reps at practice, but pointed out that the Ducks have always been a team that relies heavily on their running backs.
“We’ve always been a running style offense, I think that’s something maybe people didn’t notice with a guy like Marcus (Mariota) playing quarterback,” Lockie said. “We still ran the ball very effectively.”
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So really, Royce Freeman and Taj Griffin will key Oregon’s offense on Saturday. Who cares who plays quarterback?
That’s the mentality Washington State is taking anyway.
“They’re both similar,” Cougars’ coach Mike Leach said in reference to Lockie and Alie. “It’s tough preparing for them because they are quality quarterbacks, but they both have enough similarities it doesn’t change anything up. Whichever they select, the guy is tough and can move the offense.”
Lockie, a senior, is the veteran backup who bided his time patiently behind Mariota. He lost the starting job to Adams at the end of fall camp, but started for the Ducks against Georgia State and Colorado. He’s done OK (41 of 62 for 421 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions) but hasn’t flashed anything spectacular.
Alie, meanwhile, is the walk-on who wasn’t even listed on the depth chart until this week, but he earned his spot and the coaches’ respect over the last two games. He rushed for a fourth quarter touchdown against Utah and sparked the Ducks’ offense against Colorado, throwing the only passing touchdown of the game, and finishing 4 of 9 for 83 yards.
Alie has already garnered a following. Pete Martini of the Salem Statesman-Journal says the walk-on should get the start against WSU on Saturday because he takes better care of the football.
Of course, there’s still a chance that Adams could play. Annie Petersen of the Associated Press quotes Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost as saying that the Ducks’ game plan depends on Adams’ broken finger.
Everyone knows Oregon is going to try and run the ball down the Cougars’ throats. The question is: Can anybody stop the Ducks’ fearsome running attack that’s averaging 300.4 yards per game?
Now, more links:
— I wrote about how Leach has verbally challenged his offensive line to step up its level of play going forward. He basically said they should toughen up or find something else to play “like Scrabble, maybe.”
— I previewed the game with the Eugene Register-Guard’s Oregon reporters Austin Meek and Ryan Thorburn this week.
— Thorburn wrote about how running back Taj Griffin has helped to spark Oregon’s offense this season.
— Also, WR Darren Carrington — he who was suspended for six games for failing an NCAA drug test — is eligible to return this week despite incurring a citation from the Eugene Police Department on Sept. 26 for having an open container of alcohol.
— USA Today released its annual list of coaching salaries on Thursday. Oregon’s Mark Helfrich is the 30th-best compensated college football coach in the country, with $3.15 million coming his way every year. Washington State’s Mike Leach is 38th with $2.75 million per year.
— The Ducks will give away free football tickets to Umpqua Community College students and staff this week.
— Jacob Thorpe says the defense got reprimanded for sloppy play in the rain on Wednesday night, but played much better afterward.
— Brian Anderson of CougCenter.com says the Cougs are still making progress, and are still on track. Sort of.