Running, passing proving difficult for Duck offense

Leslie Montgomery

Who would have guessed it? Oregon’s vaunted rushing attack is ranked No. 64 in the nation. A year after burning up the field turf with two 1,000-yard rushers, the Ducks don’t have a single running back projected to breach even 950 yards in 12 games. But that’s not the story. Oregon looks positively stellar on the ground compared to what the team has done through the air.

Through three games the team has yet to throw a touchdown pass. It’s one of four teams out of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams that hasn’t.

To add to it, the Ducks are ranked No. 116 in passing offense, and they’re averaging 126 yards per game. However, Oregon is 2-1 despite throwing for 95 yards against No. 18 Utah on Saturday.

It’s an enigma for sure, but head coach Chip Kelly said he still has confidence in quarterback Jeremiah Masoli despite a few Duck fans calling for backup Nate Costa on the message boards.

“We’re just practicing football,” Kelly said. “We’re not changing things. He’s the same kid who has won 10 games for us.”

Masoli said after the Utah game that the he and the receivers needed to work on their timing and reads and coming into Friday, he feels confident they have done that. At the end of the practice clutch drill Wednesday, he connected with tight end David Paulson for a touchdown to win the game over the scout team.

“We definitely look sharper,” Masoli said. “We are just running simpler routes and basic stuff. We’re running the same stuff, just not as complicated.”

Wide receiver Jamere Holland said the first three games have been frustrating and he’s looking forward to California. So far this season, Holland has caught seven passes for 105 yards.

“It has been kind of rough,” Holland said. “As a receiving corps, we like to score touchdowns and catch balls and do all these great things and it just hasn’t happened yet for us.”

But wide receivers coach Scott Frost said if players are frustrated, it’s the wrong mentality. He wants them to be a part of the solution and not feel sorry for themselves.

“I think if guys are frustrated I have a problem with that,” Frost said. “We’re never going to put ourselves in front of the team. Guys at the wide receiver position have a habit of doing that throughout football and we’re not going to. These guys are Oregon first, they’re going to do their job and when the ball comes to them they’re going to try and catch it.”

And for this weekend, Frost says the team just has to take what’s given to them. If that means more passing, then his guys will be ready.

“It’s got nothing to do with what we’ve tweaked, it’s more if the game goes that direction,” Frost said. “The rain affected that a little bit and what they did, too (last weekend). The passing game is going to be a big part of this offense; we just need work on things to get more consistent.”

Oregon’s first test will be against a good Golden Bear secondary that has three interceptions this year. However, the team is allowing opponents to complete 66 percent of their passes — a good sign for Masoli, who is completing 45 percent.

“I think Cal’s secondary is really good,” Frost said. “The two safeties are good cover guys and they tackle well, too. We’ve got a big challenge. Both of the corners are as good as we’ve seen. We have our hands full but we’ll accept the challenge.”

Masoli is also confident that this weekend things will turn around.

“We talked after the (Utah) game last week,” he said. “And we told each other that it’s time to shine.”

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