Thursday, September 24, 2009

ESPN: Oregon embraces underdog role

Ted Miller

Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews is doing the math in his head, setting up the equation for how disrespected he and the Ducks feel. Last weekend, Oregon won its second in a row after losing at Boise State, ending No. 18 Utah's 16-game winning streak. Yet no return to the national ranking for the Ducks.

Ten teams ranked in the AP Top 25 have one loss. Eight of them lost to a team ranked lower than No. 8 Boise State. Three of them started off ranked lower than the Ducks, who were tapped 16th in the preseason. Four teams with one loss haven't beaten a ranked team this year. But the Ducks, who finished ranked 10th in 2008, measured only at No. 32 among the teams getting just a handful of votes.

"We can't control that," Matthews said. "And we like being the underdogs." The UnderDucks!

Oregon's players and coaches feel they have traveled a great distance since the embarrassing debacle in Boise. They're not there yet -- see the struggling passing offense -- but a win over No. 6 California in Autzen Stadium on Saturday likely would go a long way toward healing the wounds sustained on the Broncos' blue turf. "It's pretty much us against the world right now," cornerback Walter Thurmond said. "We've just got to keep playing and proving guys wrong." As for the passing woes, much of that has fallen on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's disappointing start. Masoli has completed just 45 percent of his passes, with two picks with no touchdowns. He's also fumbled three times, including one that was returned for a score. This is the same guy who was the nation's best pass-run quarterback over the final three games of the 2008 season, when he completed 66 percent of his throws with six touchdowns and just one interception and rushed for 248 yards and seven touchdowns.


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