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October 27, 2009

Ducks bounce back from early nightmare

Chip Kelly's first game as Oregon's head coach was a flat-out nightmare.

Oregon lost to Boise State in unimpressive fashion, saw two potential Heisman campaigns crumbled faster than Howard Dean's presidential bid and had a player punch an opponent in the face- all on national television with 5.5 million people watching.

Oh, and rumors flew that ex-Oregon head coach and current athletic director Mike Bellotti meddled on the sidelines and talked strategy with Kelly and Duck players during the loss.

"It was about as dark of a moment as a new coach could have," USC head coach Pete Carroll said.

It was not a good start, but things have turned almost as quickly. With No. 5 USC coming to town this Saturday, Oregon has a chance to grab hold of the Pac-10 conference and put itself into the BCS discussion.

"We just had a lot of inexperienced players in that first game," Kelly said. "We didn't play up to our standards...

"We had one game to find our season, and we went out to practice the next day."

Of all the opening-night snafus, LeGarrette Blount's was certainly the most publicized. After the loss, Blount connected with a quick right across Boise State linebacker Byron Hout's jaw. Then as he was being escorted off the field, he got into another altercation with Boise State fans.

"They were showing it on SportsCenter all night," USC defensive tackle Armond Armstead said. "I was shocked that it could happen. I've never seen anything like that in a football game."

He was suspended for the rest of the year, but the suspension could be lifted after this Saturday's game.

In addition to the loss of Blount, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's Heisman hopes vanished after going 14-for-27 passing for just 121 yards with an interception and a touchdown.

"It's damaged them a bit," Carroll said. "It's affected the opinion of them obviously."

After such an embarrassing loss, it would've been completely understandable had Oregon just packed it in for the year and called it a day. But instead of allowing their season to be over as quickly as it began, the Ducks have left that loss to Boise State behind them.

"Oregon has really rallied in great fashion and is playing great football," Carroll said.

Carroll and the Trojans have a lot of respect for Oregon, winners of six straight, because of the Ducks' talent and their resilience.

"This team has heart," Armstead said. "They lost a guy who was supposed to be one of their best players, and they lost a game early.

"They didn't quit on the season like a lot of people quit on them."

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