No. 6 Oregon looks to rebound against Utah

ANNE M. PETERSON (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- While many ponder the health of quarterback Marcus Mariota's left knee, Oregon's focus is solely on moving on.

The sixth-ranked Ducks are eager to bury last week's loss to Stanford. The first step will come on Saturday when they host Utah.

''One game doesn't define your season,'' Mariota said. ''We're going to keep chopping away and eventually we'll pick up our heads in December and see where we're at.''

There's no doubt that the 26-20 loss to the Cardinal spoiled the Ducks' shot at a spot in the national championship game. Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, it may have also cost them a place in the Pac-12 championship game.

But if the Ducks (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) take care of their own business and win out, they'll still likely play in their fifth straight BCS bowl game, probably the Fiesta or the Orange.

''Yes, we still have a lot to play for,'' running back De'Anthony Thomas said. ''We should still play for that No. 1 spot still no matter where we're at in the standings.''

Mariota wore a brace on his knee during the loss to Stanford and it clearly impacted the sophomore's mobility. He insisted this week that his knee isn't an issue, but wouldn't say if he's 100 percent. As a policy, Oregon does not discuss injuries.

Still a Heisman hopeful, Mariota has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns with no interceptions. And he's second on the team with 495 yards rushing with nine additional TDs.

Ironically, Stanford's lone loss of the season came at the hands of the Utes (4-5, 1-5).

The 27-21 victory was huge for Utah, which installed a new uptempo offense for its third Pac-12 season. But it remains the team's lone conference victory this season.

The Utes have lost three straight games since, including last weekend's 20-19 loss at home to No. 21 Arizona State. Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the fourth quarter for the come-from-behind win.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he sees progress, even if the record doesn't reflect it.

''We're more competitive, but it's not about being competitive. It's about getting W's. That's the next hurdle we got to get over is finding a way to win these games,'' he said. ''But like I said, last year, a lot of the games we weren't even in. We made progress, but nobody cares unless you get the W. Nobody cares what else is going on.''

Here are five things to look for when Utah visits Oregon on Saturday:

DAT TIME?: Slowed by injury that kept him out of nearly four entire games, Thomas is still looking for a breakout conference game this season. After he infamously decreed Oregon would drop 40 on the Cardinal - he had six carries for 30 yards and four catches for 45 yards, but also fumbled at the Stanford 2. Thomas needs two touchdowns to match Derek Loville (45) at No. 3 on Oregon's career list.

NEW KICKER: True freshman Matt Wogan is taking over as Oregon's kicker for the final three games of the season. Wogan unseats senior kicker Alejandro Maldonado, who missed a 37-yard field goal before halftime of the Ducks' game against UCLA. Wogan is 30-of-31 on extra points this season.

STAYING WITH WILSON: Utah QB Travis Wilson dealt with a hand injury for two weeks before struggling against Arizona State, throwing two late interceptions. Whittingham stood by his starter earlier this week. ''He gives us the best chance to win. There's no debate,'' he said. Wilson has thrown for 16 touchdowns this season, but he's also thrown 16 interceptions. He's averaging 203 yards passing and nearly 43 yards rushing a game.

MURPHY'S RECOVERY: Utah may see the return of tight end Jake Murphy, who had surgery on his wrist following the Utes' Oct. 3 loss to UCLA. The junior had 10 catches for 179 yards and one touchdown before he was injured. It was thought that Murphy might miss the regular season, but Whittingham said he's made a quick recovery.

BLUEPRINT FOR A WIN? Did Stanford give Utah the key to beating Oregon? Whittingham, who first watched the game live last Thursday night, had some observations: ''Stanford pounded them with the run game and converted a bunch of third downs. It seemed like every third down they had was 3rd-and-1 because they had done such a good job running the football on first and second down. That's the best way to defend that offense, is to keep it on the sidelines. Stanford did a great job of that and played exceptionally well on defense in addition.''

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