Duck defense dominates

Leslie Montgomery

After a 42-3 win over then-No. 6 California on Saturday, the Oregon Duck football team is putting the win behind it to focus solely on this week’s match-up with Washington State.

“It’s a new week,” said senior tight end Ed Dickson. “Like coach said, there’s 24 hours to celebrate, and after those 24 hours are up, we’re back at work. It’s Monday now and we’re (focused) on WSU.”

The Walter Camp Football Foundation named Dickson, who recorded 11 receptions for 148 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday, the national offensive player of the week. By the end of the season Dickson will likely hold sole possession of the most career catches by an Oregon tight end, as he is just six receptions shy of tying Josh Wilcox’s first-place mark of 103.

Dickson and the Oregon offense were able to put together their best overall performance of the year against Cal, as they tallied 524 yards of total offense compared to just 207 for the Bears. Junior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli appeared to have regained some of his old swagger as he completed 21 of 25 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns — his first through the air this season.

“It feels good.” Dickson continued. “We’ve still got a lot of stuff to work on, just to crisp things up a little bit and have that passing game back.”

While the passing game made its first appearance of 2009, redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James elapsed the century mark for the second game in a row, totaling 118 yards on 21 carries, while reaching the end zone once.

The Duck defense proved strong again as well, holding Cal to only three points and allowing zero red zone visits the entire game, while limiting the nation’s top running back, Jahvid Best, to a miniscule 55 yards on 16 carries in one of the more remarkable defensive performances in recent years.

Junior linebacker Spencer Paysinger said Oregon’s front seven played “tremendously well,” preventing Best from “cutting back and out-running people’s angles.”

“He ran a 10.2 in high school so we just wanted to make sure we had more than one guy tackle him at all times,” Paysinger said.

The Ducks’ secondary has sustained a few blows through the first four games, most recently with senior cornerback Walter Thurmond III’s right knee injury suffered during the opening kickoff on Saturday. He and senior free safety T.J. Ward, who has missed the last three games due to injury, did not practice Monday and will likely be sidelined for this week’s match-up with the Cougars. As Thurmond III sported a knee brace Monday, head coach Chip Kelly said there’s still no update on when Oregon might see its defensive leader return.

“We’ll find out a little bit later about Walter,” Kelly said. “He had an MRI (Sunday) and the doctors are coming in to meet with our athletic trainer.”

But even though the Ducks played the entire game without Thurmond III, they were still able to win, and because of it they jumped all the way to No. 16 this week. The team will test that ranking this weekend, as it faces a Washington State team it defeated 63-14 in Pullman, Wash., last season. The Cougars are 1-3 so far in 2009 with their lone victory coming over Southern Methodist — a 30-27 win in overtime.

Despite the big win Saturday, Paysinger said the Ducks are taking a cautious approach to their next face-off.

“We don’t want to go 1-1,” Paysinger said. “We don’t want to win last week and keep patting ourselves on the back this week and end up losing to Washington State.”

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