Trying to judge how good the Oregon Ducks would be after their week 1 game against New Mexico is tough. New Mexico is a team that only won one game last year and was clearly outmatched last week.
This week, Oregon headed on the road and the level of competition took a step up as they took on Tennessee at Neyland Stadium. The Vols hung around for a half of football but after taking a 13-3 lead, Tennessee gave up 45 unanswered points and ended up losing 48-13 to Oregon.
Time to take a look at what we have learned about the Ducks through two games.
A common comment that you will hear throughout college football is about how much speed teams from the south have. Going into the game against Tennessee, it was really hard to judge the team speed Oregon had after playing New Mexico. This week, it was easier to see the amount of speed Oregon has when going up against the Vols.
All players and coaches could talk about after the game was the amount of speed Oregon had and the fast pace they run their offense. Speed is a weapon that Coach Chip Kelly has used since getting to Oregon and will continue to use.
Last week, Cliff Harris came in and returned two punts for touchdowns against New Mexico. This week, Harris found another way to get onto the endzone. With the Ducks up a touchdown and Tennessee driving into Oregon territory, Harris jumped a curl route and picked off Matt Simms. Harris took it back 76 yards and put the Ducks in control.
While Harris may not be a traditional starter, he continues to find himself on the field and has shown that he can make big plays in various roles.
Regardless of the win, Duck fans still have a reason to be slightly concerned. Early in the game, Vols back Tauren Poole was able to take carry after carry and run it right throw the Oregon defense. Poole was able to pile up over 100 yards in the first half and have Duck fans nervous. In the second half, Oregon made adjustments that allowed them to slow down the run and force Matt Simms to throw.
While this may not be an issue for the next few weeks, the Ducks needs to sure up the defensive line and make sure we don't see a repeat of last years Stanford game.
Another reason for concern going into the Tennessee game was the fact that redshirt sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas was making his first road start. Not only did Thomas manage the offense and pace of the game well, he continued to make play after play. Thomas threw for over 200 yards and had two touchdowns. Thomas also had 34 yards rushing and made sure the Vols defense couldn't key on just the running backs when running their zone read plays.
With the return of LaMichael James to the lineup, Barner was not used as much as he was last week when he totaled over 200 total yards and five touchdowns. Even in a limited role, Barner was again able to put up over 200 total yards and put the final nail in the Vols coffin when he returned a punt 80 yard for a touchdown.
One of the weak points coming into the season was the kicking game of Oregon's. After missing last weeks game due to a suspension, Rob Beard stepped in and was perfect this weekend on both extra points and field goals. Beard was 2/2 on field goals, connecting from 37 and 42 yards. If Beard can bring consistency to the Ducks kicking game, it could be a huge boost to the offense.
Last week the Ducks did anything they wanted too against New Mexico but one thing they didn't have to do was punt. This week, the Ducks had to use Jackson Rice and he came through for them. Rice was called on to punt four times and all four times he pinned the Vols inside the 20 yard line and had an average of over 40 yards per punt.
While the Ducks offense is hard to stop, it is good to see that Rice can effectively change the starting field position, something that cannot be underestimated.
This year, the Ducks have lost senior tight end, Ed Dickson to the NFL Draft. Dickson was a reliable tight end that could make plays and looked to be hard to replace. Through two games, Paulson has filled in well and has caught touchdown passes in both games. If Paulson can continue to make plays and spread the defense out, he will allow many to forget about the loss of Dickson.
It only took two quarters for LaMichael James to find his midseason form. After a pretty average first half of play, James broke the game open with a highlight 72 yard run, in which he reversed field and took it down the sideline for a touchdown.
While the Ducks did not miss his production last week, the ability for Oregon to put either James, Barner or both in the backfield is a huge weapon. James will continue to find his stride this week against Portland State.
While the schedule hasn't been murderers row for Oregon, they have gone out and taken care of their business in convincing fashion. Through 120 minutes of football, the Ducks have scored 120 points. Granted these totals have come against New Mexico, a one win team from last year, and Tennessee, a lower half SEC team, the fact is Oregon is still exceeding expectation.
The schedule will still be light for Oregon as they take on Portland State and then Arizona State but in three weeks they will face Stanford, which many believe will be a true test of their talents.
Until then, Duck fans can just hope for the team to stay healthy and take care of the teams that are on their schedule.