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Ducks will count on experience vs. Huskies

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Oregon Ducks have their biggest game of the season coming up this week. They'll play Washington at Husky Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday.Coach Mark Helfrich says experience should help the Oregon Ducks ramp it up on Saturday and cope with the presence of ESPN College GameDay, the fervent Washington crowd at newly renovated Husky Stadium and, mostly, the nationally ranked and hungry Huskies in a huge Northwest rivalry.

"We have a bunch of guys who have been in a bunch of big games," Helfrich says.

For the younger Ducks who haven't had that luxury, "you package that (national attention) with the new stadium and the history of the rivalry, it will be a new flavor," Helfrich says.

The No. 2 Ducks (5-0) play the No. 16/19 Washington Huskies (4-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Seattle (Fox Sports 1).

The Huskies are coming off a near-upset of No. 5 Stanford (5-0), which survived visiting UW 31-28 on Saturday night.

Washington has picked up on Oregon's up-tempo style of offense, and is led by Bishop Sankey, the No. 4 ground gainer in the country (732 yards and seven TDs rushing in five games) and quarterback Keith Price, a mobile, multiple threat with 1,394 yards passing and 11 TD tosses.

"They're playing really well, in all three phases," Helfrich says of the Huskies. "They had a couple breakdowns special-teams wise (at Stanford) that I think they'll get cleaned up. They played really hard, played really well."

The Stanford-UW game featured "two really good football teams," Helfrich says. "It was a hard-fought game, (with) some big plays by each team in every phrase."

Helfrich says Colt Lyerla, the Ducks tight end who was suspended for Saturday's 57-16 win at Colorado, got treatment Sunday.

And the coach had praise for one of Lyerla's normal backups, Pharoah Brown, a 6-6, 240-pound sophomore who grabbed a 24-yard pass against the Buffaloes. It was his first catch of the season.

"Pharoah has all the tools — size, speed, good hands," Helfrich says. "He's physical at the line of scrimmage, so he can be a complete player. Just one of those guys who needs to play. He played some last year as a true freshman. His ability and his desire are going in the right direction."

The Ducks' arsenal includes a bevy of receivers and running backs who got playing time in the rout at Boulder. That includes sophomore Bralon Addison, who hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Marcus Mariota in a back-and-forth first quarter, then scored on a 44-yard Mariota pass to open the second-half scoring. Addison finished with five catches for a career-high 158 receiving yards.

"He had an excellent fall camp of being a more versatile player, moving around inside, outside, as a return guy, as a special teams player off the ball, so to speak," Helfrich says. "Just a guy who is really developing into a threat.

"He, Josh (Huff) and Keanon Lowe and Daryle Hawkins have really upped the output at this position. We're going to have a huge challenge this weekend, because Washington's secondary is outstanding."

Mariota starred at Colorado with a hand in seven TDs, five passing, two rushing. The previous school record of six had been achieved six times, including by Mariota last year at Cal, where he threw for six scores.

Mariota has passed for at least one touchdown in all 18 of his career games, and he has rushed for a TD in his last seven. He also has gone 202 pass attempts without an interception, snapping the UO mark of Kellen Clemens (178 in 2004). Mariota's last pick came in the first half of the 2012 game with Stanford.

After rolling up 755 yards of offense at Colorado without injured back De'Anthony Thomas— the second best total in school history, just behind the 772 in this year's opener against Nicholls State — the Ducks rank second in the nation in total offense with 630.4 yards per game. Baylor, led by former UO running back Lache Seastrunk, is No. 1 at 779.5.

Mariota is eighth in the nation in passing efficiency (176.3). He is tied for 86th in completion percentage (56.7), tied for seventh in TD passes (14), 29th in passing yards (1,358), 26th in passing yards per game (271.6) and third in yards per completion (17.87).