From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks try to run their record to a perfect 3-0 on the season as they take on in-state rival Portland State at Autzen Stadium.
The second-best scoring team in the nation after two games, the Ducks have had little trouble taking care of their first two opponents of the season and expect the trend to continue this weekend. In the opener the squad completely dismantled New Mexico at home in a 72-0 romp, then last week the group traveled to Rocky Top and had its way with the Tennessee Volunteers, 48-13. Oregon has won three straight meetings against teams from the SEC and is undefeated in its last five games played east of the Rocky Mountains as well.
As for the Vikings, a team that represents the Big Sky Conference at the Football Championship Subdivision level, they've already challenged and lost ugly to another member of the Pac-10 Conference, suffering a 54-9 loss to Arizona State in the opener. This past weekend, PSU managed to slip by UC Davis on the road, 41-33, to even its record at 1-1. With an open date coming up next week, the Vikings don't play their first home game of the season until October 2nd versus conference foe Idaho State.
As far as the all-time series between the teams, PSU has dropped all three previous encounters with the Ducks, the most recent of those being a 55-12 final back in 2006. Altogether, Oregon has outscored the Vikings by a combined 154-28 in those three contests. PSU has lost all nine of its previous games against teams from the Pac-10 and is just 2-26 versus Football Bowl Subdivision members.
The offense started off a bit slow, but by the end everything was going right for the Vikings as they took down UC Davis last weekend by eight points on the road. Quarterback Connor Kavanaugh converted 15-of-24 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, while Cory McCaffrey generated a team-best 116 yards and a score on 15 rushing attempts as well.
"It's unbelievable, the electricity on the field and in the locker room. It's exciting to be a part of," Kavanaugh noted after the successful effort.
But as well as those two played, the star of the game yet again for the Vikings was kicker Zach Brown who was named the Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week for the second week in a row. Brown not only nailed four field goals for the Vikings against UC Davis, he also ran in a two-point conversion. Brown tops the list in Division I with seven made field goals, his only miss being a 53-yard attempt against the Mustangs.
The defense for the Vikings held its own at UC Davis, allowing the host team just 70 rushing yards on 31 attempts, a far cry from the 257 yards generated by PSU backs in the contest. The pass defense was a bit more lenient, giving up 261 yards, but the group did come up with a pair of interceptions to stop drives in their tracks. While Manoa Latu was leading the way with 13 tackles and a forced fumble, DeShawn Shead was coming up with a pair of fumble recoveries for the unit. Making his presence felt was Joel Sisler who picked off a UC Davis pass and returned it 33 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
Because the Vikings were taken apart in the opener the scoring defense is a bit weak at the moment and ranks 101st among the FCS schools with 43.5 ppg allowed. In terms of passing yards allowed, PSU has given up a hefty 286 ypg and that has it ranked 94th in the country at the moment.
The Portland State offense is still trying to find its rhythm and yet with a solid 345.5 ypg produced the group is still near the bottom of it's nine-team league and is 49th in the nation right now. Kavanaugh has an efficiency rating of 116.3, thanks mostly to his 58.7 percent accuracy and not his two interceptions and just one touchdown through two games.
Like the Vikings, the Ducks also started out slow in their second game of the season, partly due to the fact that the contest with Tennessee had to be delayed due to weather conditions, but in the end it was no contest as Oregon crushed the Vols at Neyland Stadium.
Having served his one-game suspension, LaMichael James returned to register a 72-yard TD run in the third quarter for the Ducks and finished with 134 yards on 16 carries, the team posting 245 yards and a couple scores in 44 attempts. Darron Thomas contributed with 202 yards and a pair of TDs through the air as well.
Once the second half started the Ducks were in complete control against Tennessee, eventually limiting the home team to a mere 2-of-15 on third down and just 333 yards of total offense. Zac Clark was responsible for five tackles, half of which came behind the line of scrimmage, while Cliff Harris forced the only turnover for Oregon and returned an interception 76 yards for a score in the third frame.
Also playing a significant role for the Ducks was punter Jackson Rice who, after not playing against New Mexico in the opener, dropped all four of his punts inside the Tennessee 20-yard line, allowing his cover team to keep the Vols without a single return yard. For his efforts Rice was named the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week. Because of those sorts of efforts, after two weeks of play the Oregon scoring defense is ranked third in the conference and sixth in the country with just 6.5 ppg allowed.
Now that James is back in the lineup, the Vikings can expect to get a full dose of a pounding rushing attack that is already ranked first in the Pac-10 and fifth in the nation with a stunning 307 ypg. Then again, that number shouldn't really be all that surprising given that the Ducks led the conference and were sixth in the nation last year with 231.7 ypg as they rode the back of James who was responsible for close to 120 ypg as he set a new standard for freshmen running backs.
However, even though James has made his return, still expect to see Kenjon Barner get his fair share of carries as well, seeing as how he is averaging better than seven yards per attempt and already has four touchdowns to his credit. With the running attack wide open, that will allow Thomas to pick his spots and find wide open receivers who have already produced four scores off his 54.5 percent passing thus far.