Kelly on Wolf Pack: 'They ain't a big underdog to us'

Kelly on Wolf Pack: 'They ain't a big underdog to us'
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly looks up toward the end zone in the final minutes of the Cowboys Classic NCAA college football game against LSU, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. LSU won 40-26. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Considering the reality check No. 13 Oregon had against LSU, the Ducks certainly aren't taking Nevada lightly.

"They ain't a big underdog to us. 13-1. Beat Boise State, beat Cal. Came within six against Hawaii," coach Chip Kelly said. "We ain't buying that one."

Kelly was ticking off the Wolf Pack's successes last season, when they were ranked No. 11 in the final AP poll after beating Boston College in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

Nevada has won seven straight games heading into its season opener on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

Certainly none of the Ducks want to make that eight.

"I know those guys are going to come out hungry, especially after seeing the game we had," quarterback Darron Thomas said.

That game was the 40-27 loss to the Tigers in the home opener. Because of it, Oregon plunged from its preseason No. 3 ranking, and the chances for a repeat national championship bid were dealt a blow.

Oregon had trouble with LSU's stout defense. The normally speedy Ducks looked out of sorts, and only managed 95 yards rushing. They had four turnovers and 12 penalties.

LaMichael James, who averaged 144.2 yards a game as a Heisman finalist last season, ran for 54 yards against the Tigers.

Because Nevada didn't play last week, the Western Athletic Conference team had a chance to study what the Tigers did to slow the Ducks and Kelly's breakneck spread-option. But coach Chis Ault was still understandably wary.

"You can't give up the big play — they are a big-play offense. They have tremendous, tremendous speed," Ault told reporters this week. "Defensively we've got to mix up our schemes, what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it."

While the Tigers boasted an SEC pedigree, the Wolf Pack poses its own challenges for the Ducks. Nevada runs the pistol offense, which Hall of Fame coach Ault developed. The only school in the Pac-12 that employs it regularly is UCLA.

"It is his offense so he knows it inside and out," Kelly said. "When you play someone like coach Ault, he has the answers to the questions before you have the questions."

The questions surrounding the Wolf Pack lie in who they lost: quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua.

Kaepernick, who was taken by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round of the NFL draft, was proficient both in the air and on the ground. Nevada replaces him with fifth year senior Tyler Lantrip, who has thrown only 23 career passes. The 23-year-old, who will be making his first start, also has thrown a TD and run for two more scores in relief of Kaepernick.

Senior Lampford Mark and junior Mike Ball will have to step up in Taua's absence at running back.

They'll face a defense that Kelly said was a bright spot in the loss to LSU. The Tigers passed for just 95 yards in defeat, putting the Ducks atop the Pac-12 in pass efficiency. LSU had 273 yards of total offense.

"I thought our defense played really well. We put them on a short field too many times," he said.

To prepare for the raucous atmosphere at Autzen Stadium, Nevada has been blaring music at practice. But Ault knows his team is facing a formidable challenge: Oregon will no doubt be anxious to erase last week's loss.

"It's our first outing. They've had a game under their belt. They've had one more week of practice under their belt. Those things add up," Ault said. "So our main thing is don't shoot ourselves in the foot."

Oregon has won 17 of 18 home openers since 1993. They've won 16 straight games overall at Autzen.

The Ducks lead the all-time series against Nevada 5-1, including a 31-23 victory when the teams last met in 2003.

 

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press