Oregon: Lame Ducks
Oregon may be flying high after handing Arizona State its first loss of the season and securing a No. 3 BCS ranking, but there are plenty of lame Ducks on this squad. Aside from Dennis Dixon's can't-be-that-bad twisted knee that kept him off the field for the final minutes of Saturday's win, junior middle linebacker John Bacon is the seventh big-time contributor to go down this season, as he tore his ACL on Saturday and will miss the rest of the year. Luckily, the Ducks' talent pool is deep enough to survive the injury barrage, at least for now.
When Bacon went down on Saturday, freshman Casey Matthews did not miss a beat in moving up the depth chart. Matthews registered three tackles in his backup role, including two for a loss and a sack.
"You talk about a freshman, a kid who was playing in high school last year playing against an 8-0 team in a gigantic game and I didn't see any flaws," defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. "Our depth is getting thin there at linebacker, but Casey's got a little moxie to him so I think he'll be just fine."
Through nine games this season, Bacon ranks seventh on the team in tackles, compiling 42, including 1.5 for loss. He has also pulled in an interception, which he returned for 49 yards.
As for Dixon, the official diagnosis from Saturday was a strained left knee. The quarterback will undergo a series of tests on Monday to make sure the injury is not worse than it appears, but he is expected to practice all week. Dixon was sore on Sunday, but team doctors diagnosed a minor strain. Since Oregon has 11 days off before playing at Arizona a week from Thursday (Nov. 15), the team has the day off on Monday, which gives Dixon plenty of time to heal without losing any practice reps.
Even though Dixon should be fine, head coach Mike Bellotti is concerned about the growing number of injuries plaguing his national title contenders.
"We're already at the razor's edge at depth and that's a scary deal," Bellotti said. "Hopefully we get A.J. Tuitele back at some point. Obviously, the sooner the better."
Tuitele, the team's most seasoned linebacker, has been hampered with a foot injury and will have a bone scan on Monday. He may be ready to go in time for the Dec. 1 date against Oregon State, but certainly not before then. Punt returner Andiel Brown's hip injury kept him off the field on Saturday, but Bellotti expects him to practice this week.
The Duck faithful can breathe a sigh of relief about their receiving corps, as receiver Garren Strong's shoulder injury should be "fine," according to Bellotti. The Ducks have already lost two receivers for the season due to injury - Brian Paysinger went down with a knee and Cameron Colvin's ankle is keeping him off the field - and pass-catching running back Jeremiah Johnson's knee is also keeping him out of action for the rest of the year, so the Ducks did not have a lot of wiggle room in their receiver lineup. Keeping Strong healthy is essential, as Strong is the team's third-leading pass-catcher.