Blount becomes sideshow as Oregon surges down home stretch

EUGENE — Late into the LeGarrette Blount waiting game, the crowd at Autzen Stadium got impatient.

"We want Blount! We want Blount!" they chanted in the fourth quarter of Oregon's 44-21 victory over Arizona State.

Blount would never get in the game, putting off his return to the field for at least another week. But his will-he-or-won't-he comeback is suddenly taking a back seat to the Ducks' run in the Pac-10.

No. 11 Oregon (8-2, 6-1) sits alone atop the conference standings, helped by California's 24-16 victory over Arizona. The Wildcats, No. 14 Stanford and No. 20 Oregon State each have two Pac-10 losses.

The Cardinal won 55-21 Saturday against USC, which has won the Pac-10 title for the past seven years but now has three league losses.

With its only conference loss to Stanford, Oregon visits Arizona next Saturday. The Ducks finish the regular season by hosting Oregon State in the annual Civil War rivalry game.

After the Ducks, Arizona visits the Sun Devils before playing the Trojans on Dec. 5. Stanford hosts California and Notre Dame to close out the season while the Beavers visit Washington State and Oregon.

With the top spot, Oregon essentially controls its own destiny.

"We just have to stick to the script and keep doing what we've been doing," Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said.

Oregon was ranked No. 16 going into the season with what was believed to be one of the most potent and innovative offenses in the country.

But the Ducks fell flat in a season-opening loss to then-No. 14 Boise State, after which Blount threw the infamous punch that resulted in his suspension the next day.

Without Blount and embarrassed by the loss to the Broncos on national television, Oregon went on a seven-game winning streak what included routs of ranked opponents Utah, California and USC.

Oregon's lone stumble in Pac-10 play came on the road against Stanford two weekends ago.

Blount, suspended for the season but allowed to keep his scholarship and practice with the team, returned to active duty with Ducks earlier this week when the coach Chip Kelly said he had met certain behavioral and academic conditions.

Blount, who rushed for 1,002 yards last season, came back after the eight-game layoff as the team's fifth-string quarterback.

In his absence, redshirt freshman LaMichael James has emerged as Oregon's top rusher. On Saturday he ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns against the Sun Devils. It was his fifth straight game with 100-plus yards and his seventh overall.

James has run for an Oregon freshman record 1,193 yards.

Oregon wisely is not going to mess with a good thing by making Blount a threat to James' job.

"He has confidence and speed. He is a dangerous guy," Kelly said about James. "It is tough to knock him off of his feet and he understands the game offensively."

The Ducks on Saturday will face a Wildcats team disappointed by the loss at Cal.

"Nothing's really changed in our eyes (as far as) what we have to do," Arizona coach Mike Stoops said. "We have to win next week. That'll put us back in a good position. That's all we can really look forward to — getting on the field next weekend."

Blount will also be looking to get out on the field. He appeared eager this past Saturday, at times pacing the sidelines with his helmet on, and at others jogging in place.

Receiver Ed Dickson, Blount's best friend on the team said: "He's a competitor. He wants to get out there so bad."

Blount is not allowed to speak to the media.

There was a humorous moment late in the game against Arizona State when the P.A. announcer at Autzen Stadium said Blount was coming in the game at running back. The crowd roared.

Only it wasn't Blount running on the field, it was running back Remene Alston. The announcer had mistook the stylized silver No. 5 on Oregon's black uniforms for Blount's No. 9.

"I was sitting right next to LeGarrette so I was laughing a little bit. He was laughing a little bit," Dickson said "He said, 'They thought he was me!


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