Ducks starting quarterback position up for grabs

EUGENE — If Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has decided who is going to start at quarterback for the Ducks against Washington State on Saturday, he isn't saying.

In fairness to Bellotti, it was really too soon to ask. The Ducks were about to embark on a week where three quarterbacks would be vying for the starting nod after a tumultuous start to the season for Oregon's QB corps.

The Ducks were pleasantly surprised last Saturday by the work of Darron Thomas in a 37-32 loss to Boise State. The true freshman completed 13 of 25 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter, and nearly led Oregon to a comeback.

The Ducks had planned to redshirt him, but circumstances dictated otherwise.

Jeremiah Masoli started against Boise State, but was knocked out with a mild concussion in the first quarter. Freshman Chris Harper, used mostly in scrambling situations, proved ineffective against the Broncos.

Masoli was starting in the absence of Jeremiah Roper, who injured his knee in the previous game against Purdue. Roper was not expected to be available against the Cougars.

Thomas was the fifth-string quarterback on Oregon's depth chart this fall. Projected starter Nate Costa was lost for the season with a knee injury in the final days of fall practice.

Masoli was cleared for practice on Tuesday. He will join Thomas and Harper in competing for the starting job against Washington State.

"It will probably be a game-time decision," Bellotti said. "I'll probably make a decision, but I won't tell anyone."

Thomas was just enjoying the ride.

"This has been fun this week," Thomas said. "I'm getting better, more confident, learning more and getting up to the game tempo by going with the ones."

Recovering from a loss

Part of Oregon's game plan for Washington State is pushing aside the disappointment over the 37-32 loss to Boise State last weekend.

The loss — which was the Broncos' first victory over a BCS opponent on the road — dropped the Ducks out of The AP poll.

"Hungry, embarrassed, anxious, angry," coach Mike Bellotti said in describing the mind-set of his team.

Tight end Ed Dickson noticed the impact of the loss during practice. It was positive.

"There's been a change in people's attitudes starting on Monday. Practices have been about being more hungry and tempo," Dickson said. "We want to pick up the tempo this weekend and go after them."

That does not bode well for the Cougars, who lost to Oklahoma State, California and Baylor by a combined 150-33, before a 48-9 victory last Saturday over Portland State, a Championship Subdivision team.

Hit on QB angers coach

Bellotti was angry over the hit that knocked Masoli out of the Boise State game.

Masoli got a mild concussion because of a helmet-to-chin collision with Ellis Powers. The Broncos received a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.

The issue has been turned over to the Pac-10, Bellotti said, who maintains Powers should have been ejected.

"There's no question it should have resulted in an ejection. That's the new point of emphasis for that," Bellotti said. "It's difficult. It's not an excuse, because we certainly could have played better, but when you lose your starting quarterback, things change."


Bellotti was clean shaven at practice on Monday, apparently having decided the goatee wasn't for him. ... Cornerback Walter Thurmond III, who didn't play against Boise State because of a groin injury, hasn't practiced with the Ducks but did have an injection last week for the pain and was hopeful he could play against the Cougars.

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