Oregon-Washington Preview

By TAYLOR BECHTOLD, AP
Tue Oct 8, 10:43 PM UTC

Coach Mark Helfrich isn't concerned that his starters haven't played in many pressure situations heading into what appears to be Oregon's toughest challenge yet.

After a heartbreaking finish against a top-5 opponent, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian hopes his 16th-ranked Huskies can learn from the experience and bounce back in another Pac-12 showdown.

It isn't likely to be easy, as the second-ranked Ducks look to extend the nation's longest road winning streak to 18 games by beating the Huskies for the 10th straight time Saturday.

Behind Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota, Oregon enjoyed yet another rout in a 57-16 victory at Colorado last Saturday. The Ducks (5-0, 2-0) haven't suffered a road loss since falling 51-42 to Stanford on Nov. 7, 2009.

Mariota accounted for a career-best seven touchdowns, completing 16 of 27 passes for 355 yards and five scores and running for 43 yards and two TDs.

The sophomore is 17-1 as a starter and has thrown at least one touchdown in all 18 games. He connected on 15 of 24 attempts for 198 yards with four scores and one interception in a 52-21 win over visiting Washington last October.

"I think as a unit, we've all gotten better with Marcus," said Bralon Addison, who caught five passes for a career-best 158 yards and two touchdowns against the Buffaloes. "Marcus does some amazing things with his legs and has the arm to complement those legs. It's almost like he's playing a video game out there."

Although Mariota hasn't played a full game, the Ducks have put up at least 55 points in five straight contests for the first time in school history. They rank second nationally with averages of 59.2 points and 630.4 total yards while winning by an average of 47.4 points.

They're not all going to be this easy, though, and the Ducks are heading into the teeth of their schedule with games against Washington (4-1, 1-1), Washington State, No. 11 UCLA and fifth-ranked Stanford upcoming. Helfrich doesn't buy the notion that the Ducks could be in trouble because they haven't experienced a close game.

"I think every time you step on the field is a high-pressure situation," Helfrich said. "I think first-and-10 at the 20 in the first quarter is a high-pressure situation."

While tight end Colt Lyerla has left the team because of personal reasons, Oregon has not given a status for star running back De'Anthony Thomas.

Thomas wore a boot all last week and then on the sidelines against Colorado, though he's been boot-free this week. If the junior isn't able to play, Byron Marshall could get another start after rushing for 122 yards on 23 carries against the Buffaloes.

Washington, one of the few teams that can match Oregon's firepower, looks to move past a tough-to-swallow 31-28 loss at Stanford last Saturday.

On the Huskies' final possession, quarterback Keith Price scrambled and fired a pass to Kevin Smith for what appeared to be a first down before the diving catch was overturned by replay officials. Sarkisian said the Pac-12 affirmed the replay officials' decision on the play, which came on a fourth-and-10 at the Stanford 49 with less than 90 seconds left.

"It's such a drastic change in philosophy when you go from a Stanford to an Oregon, we don't have too long to dwell on Stanford and that ball game," said Sarkisian, whose squad is fifth nationally in total offense with 557.0 yards per game. "We have to learn from it, but we have to get ready for a completely different style in Oregon this week."

Bishop Sankey leads Washington's rushing attack with 732 yards and seven touchdowns. The junior, who ranks fourth nationally with 146.4 yards per game, finished with 104 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries last year at Oregon.

After completing 33 of 48 passes for a season-high 350 yards with two scores and one pick last Saturday, Price can't be happy about seeing the Ducks again. The senior has thrown for 415 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions in three career meetings.

Though Price appeared to injure the thumb on his throwing hand against the Cardinal, he stayed in and has been participating in practice.

He'll go up against an underrated Oregon defense that has allowed 11.8 points per game - second-fewest in the country.

The Huskies aren't far behind the Ducks, ranking 11th at 14.8 points allowed per contest. They're also 10th in total defense (287.8 ypg), while Oregon sits 21st (331.2).

Washington hasn't won in this matchup since 2003, dropping the last nine meetings by an average of 25.8 points.