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September 2, 2009

Oregon at Boise State Preview

(AP) -- Based on his work with Oregon's fast-paced offense over the past two seasons, there's little reason to believe the Ducks will suffer a drop-off as Chip Kelly makes the transition from coordinator to head coach.

Whether they can give Kelly a win in his debut, though, is anything but a given.

Sixteenth-ranked Oregon begins the Kelly era Thursday night on the imposing blue turf of Bronco Stadium, where No. 14 Boise State will look to win its 50th regular-season game in a row after stunning the Ducks in Eugene a year ago.

Oregon (10-3) became a regular contender in the Pac-10 and on the national scene in the 14 years Mike Bellotti roamed the sidelines, finishing as high as No. 2 in 2001.

The Ducks were expected to rebuild last season - Bellotti's last at the helm before his predetermined transition to the role of athletic director - but instead, were one of the nation's most dangerous offenses in Kelly's second year as offensive coordinator.

Oregon finished seventh in the country in scoring offense (41.9 points per game) behind the running tandem of Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount, which led the nation's second-ranked rushing offense (280.1 yards per game).

"When I was at New Hampshire before I got to Oregon, we threw the ball all over the place," Kelly said. "But when I got to Oregon I was smart enough to realize that with (the running backs) and the offensive line we had, that we were going to be really good at running the football."

Blount, a junior college transfer who ran for 1,002 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, will be the star in the backfield with Johnson gone, but the Ducks also found out late last season that they have a reliable quarterback. Junior Jeremiah Masoli threw for 830 yards and six touchdowns - running for seven more - as Oregon averaged 54.0 points in winning its final three games, including a 42-31 victory over No. 13 Oklahoma State in the Holiday Bowl to secure a No. 10 finish.

Masoli's sophomore season got off to a somewhat rocky beginning, though, particularly when he was knocked out of his first career start. He completed 3 of 4 passes for 27 yards Sept. 20, 2008, against Boise State, but left with a concussion in the first half after giving the Ducks a 6-0 lead.

Boise State (12-1) took over from there, exploding in the second and third quarters for a 37-13 lead before hanging on for a shocking 37-32 win over the then-No. 17 Ducks.

"Coming into (Autzen Stadium) and getting the victory, it's big," redshirt freshman quarterback Kellen Moore said after throwing for 386 yards and three touchdowns.

Some Oregon players weren't happy with the hit by then-senior Ellis Powers - deemed late by the officiating crew - that knocked Masoli out of the game.

Masoli simply wasn't happy with the loss, and believes the Ducks can be the team that halts the Broncos' 49-game regular-season winning streak in Boise. The quarterback told a Eugene television station during the offseason that the loss was "embarrassing" and that this year he and his team would "take it to (Boise State)."

Moore, meanwhile, went on to throw for 3,486 yards and 25 touchdowns in leading the Broncos to a 12-0 regular season in 2008 and a No. 9 ranking heading into a Poinsettia Bowl meeting with 11th-ranked TCU. He failed to throw for a touchdown in that game, and TCU ran for 275 yards - limiting Boise State to 28 - in a 17-16 win.

The Broncos return 12 starters - six on offense, six on defense - and that's enough to make them the favorite to win their seventh WAC title in eight years. Coach Chris Petersen, though, just wants his team to concentrate on the Ducks.

"You win enough they're going to pay attention to you," said Petersen, who was the receivers coach at Oregon from 1995-2000. "You step out of your conference and play teams like that and you can get something done, you'll make more of a statement, without question."

Boise State was third in the nation in scoring defense (12.6 points per game) last season, and cornerback Kyle Wilson was the WAC's preseason defensive player of the year after leading the team with five interceptions last year. He also returned three punts for touchdowns.

One player Wilson and the Broncos won't have to worry about is senior wide receiver Rory Cavaille. A projected starter, Cavaille will miss the opener because of a shoulder injury, leaving Masoli to rely more on senior tight end Ed Dickson, an All-America candidate.

Boise State last lost at Bronco Stadium on Dec. 28, 2005, to Boston College in the Humanitarian Bowl, but it hasn't dropped a regular-season game there since a 41-20 loss to Washington State on Sept. 8, 2001.


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