Originally posted on The Duck Stops Here  |  Last updated 10/9/13
Today Andy Basantes of Movili Sports stopped by with three questions about the #2 ranked Ducks. How do you feel the loss of TE Colt Lyerla will impact the Ducks moving forward? Colt Lyerla has incredible talent, a physical mismatch at 6-5, 250. In his first two seasons he scored 11 tds on just 32 catches, also a load to tackle in a part-time role as a power running back. However, Lyerla had become a distraction and a disciplinary liability, frequently late or absent according to reports. He'd missed two of Oregon's first five games, a home game with Tennessee due to illness, last week's game at Colorado because of a suspension. He'd been limited this year to two catches for 26 yards, with four drops. In the first game he missed against the Vols, true freshman tight end Johnny Mundt grabbed five passes for 121 yards and two tds, single game numbers that exceeded anything the enigmatic junior had achieved as a Webfoot. Last week, Mundt had one catch for 13 yards, sophomore Pharoah Brown grabbing another for a 24-yard gain(Taylor Wilder, Eugene Daily Emerald photo). Ted Miller of ESPN called the former 5-star recruit's decision to leave "addition by subtraction." His teammates said they wished him well and still considered him a friend, but that it would be business as usual without him. The Ducks have a very consistent philosophy of "next man up" with regard to injury and disciplinary issues, which has worked beautifully over the last four years. In four BCS seasons they've overcome the loss of stars like Walter Thurmond (lost for the season with injury), LeGarrette Blount (suspended eight games for a post game punch), Jeremiah Masoli (suspended for a season on charges of theft, then left the team), Cliff Harris (dismissed for repeated run-ins with the law) and John Boyett (lost for the season due to injury). The Ducks four remaining tight ends are all good athletes and hard workers. None has the all-world physical ability that Lyerla had, but they will be on time and more consistent. -The Ducks have exploded out of the gate to a 5-0 record in the 2013 season. They’re ranked 1st in the Pac-12 and #2 overall. Have the Ducks planted the seeds of living up to hype built around the offense that will take them to the national championship? The seeds, yes, but their next four games include three against ranked teams, at #16 Washington, hosting #11 UCLA, the pass-happy Washington State Cougars in Autzen Stadium, and a much-anticipated, nationally televised Thursday night showdown with current #5 Stanford in Palo Alto. If the Ducks survive these next four with an unblemished record, good offensive tempo and reasonable health, this is the dream team of Oregon football history, a potential national champion. -Just how good has QB Andy McNamara been, and do you see him sustaining his current level of excellence throughout the 2013 campaign? 14 TDs and 0 INTs is unheard of even by NFL standards. Andy McNamara is the Assistant Athletic Director for Communications, and he can't throw a lick. Marcus Mariota is Oregon's Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback. He hasn't thrown an interception in 202 pass attempts, a school record, leads the nation in yards per carry at 12.1 and is 17-1 as a starter since taking over as a redshirt freshman last season. Mariota completed 68.5% of his passes last season, and this year he has been plagued by drops and slow starts, 56.7% on the year. Even so, he's triggered an offense that's averaging 59.2 points a game so far. One question the ever-skeptical press has about the Ducks tall (6-4), fast (4.5 40) signal caller is that he has only played in a couple of close games, only played in four fourth quarters as a starter. The Ducks blow most opponents out. Some question how he'll perform the first time he faces a clutch situation, needing a drive to win or tie. This week's game at Washington could be the most hostile environment he's faced in his young career. The speculation is ridiculous. Mariota is as cool and even-keel as any 19-year-old on the planet. Situation drills are a daily part of Ducks practice. Truth is, he's only going to get better. The numbers will adjust somewhat--his completion percentage is likely to go up, and even Peyton Manning throws an occasional pick--but as long as he stays healthy, he's one of the best in the country.
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