EUGENE, Ore. — The first two weeks of the season have done little to show where Oregon's offense really is, although the Ducks say they're starting to find a groove with No. 18 Utah set to visit on Saturday.
"It's a work in progress," coach Chip Kelly said.
That almost seems to understate how enigmatic Oregon's offense has been. In the opening 19-8 loss at Boise State, it was nearly nonexistent and the Ducks didn't have a first down in the first half.
At home last weekend for a 38-36 victory over Purdue, the Ducks would show flashes of last season's potent offense then lose it on the next series.
The team's best moment would come in the third quarter, when quarterback Jeremiah Masoli had a 15-yard touchdown dash to cap a six-play, 72-yard drive that took just 1:48.
Masoli has shouldered much of the burden in the first two games. Against Boise State, he scored Oregon's lone touchdown, a keeper from five yards out. Against Purdue, he topped the team with 84 yards rushing and led the crucial drive while completing 11 of 21 passes for 163 yards.
It was clear against the Boilermakers that the Ducks need more than Masoli, but weren't quite getting it. Four receivers dropped passes and senior tight end Ed Dickson had just one catch.
The defense had to help out with two touchdowns, and still Purdue got back in it at the end.
While it is true that in the second game Oregon was adjusting to the loss of running back LeGarrette Blount, who was suspended for the season for punching Boise State's Byron Hout, this season has been uncharacteristic for the Ducks.
With its flashy spread-option, Oregon was ranked seventh in the nation in total offense last season with 485 yards per game. Blount rushed for 1,002 yards and a school-record 17 touchdowns last season. Masoli threw for 1,744 yards with 13 touchdowns and rushed for 718 yards and 10 scores.
This year Oregon is averaging 254 total yards on offense — out of even the top 100.
Oregon's answer to Blount's absence seems to lie with three tailbacks, senior Andre Crenshaw and redshirt freshmen LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner.
Crenshaw started against Purdue and ran for an early 2-yard touchdown, while Barner scored late from 21 yards out. In all, Oregon had 193 yards on the ground, compared to just 31 the week before.
"Early on those guys were a little hesitant for whatever reason, I think they were a little too excited," Masoli said about the group's showing against Purdue. "They settled down and started reading what their keys were and got some real nice runs."20 comments on this story
The Utes come in to Autzen Stadium with a 16-game winning streak, the longest in the nation. They beat Utah State 35-17 in the opener, but struggled last weekend in a 24-14 victory over San Jose State.
Despite their recent struggles, the Ducks are still considered dangerous by Utah.
"Last week they put up 38 points, I don't know if you can get much better than almost 40," defensive end Derrick Shelby said. "I know they'll be ready to play us."
Oregon is 28-2 against non-conference opponents — and 5-0 against those that were ranked — at Autzen Stadium since 1995.