Woody Hayes proudly described Ohio State’s offense as “three yards and a cloud of dust” in 1957.
There has been some consternation about No. 13 Oregon’s rushing attack, which ranks 70th in the FBS in yards per game (154.8) so far this season.
The Ducks (3-1, 1-0) don’t seem to be too worried about the ground game after CJ Verdell averaged 3.4 yards as the featured back in the dustup at Stanford.
“We’re right there, man,” Verdell said after Tuesday’s practice. “Each game is different. Sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. We’ll just keep working, and hopefully it will open up this game.”
Oregon, which worked on “fundamental stuff” during the open date, hosts California on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (5 p.m., Fox).
The Bears (4-1, 1-1) are allowing 151.6 rushing yards (68th), 366.2 total yards (55th) and only 18.6 points per game (28th) this season.
Cal senior linebacker Evan Weaver leads the nation with 78 tackles (43 solo). A distant second on the list are San Jose State’s Ethan Aguayo and Akron’s John Lake with 58 tackles each.
“He’s about as special as they come,” quarterback Justin Herbert said of Weaver.
Oregon is expected to have its regular starting offensive line intact with center Jake Hanson back from an injury and Calvin Throckmorton moving back to right tackle.
The possible return of two key wide receivers, Brenden Schooler and Mycah Pittman, could also help the Ducks move the ball.
Herbert has completed 74.4% of his passes for 1,127 yards with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. The 6-foot-6, 237-pound senior ranks eighth among FBS quarterbacks with a passer rating of 183.61.
“A lot of teams see us as a running team, and they really want to stack the box,” left guard Shane Lemieux said. “It’s a two-headed monster. Justin can throw it over their heads.
“I don’t really care how we win as long as we win, whether we’re rushing or passing.”
Offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said the running backs and offensive line were able to spend some extra time in the film room together last week looking for ways to improve.
Verdell has 231 yards on 54 carries (4.3 per carry), and co-starter Travis Dye has 153 yards on 30 carries (5.1 per) this season.
“Getting back into sync in certain things we do, certain looks and certain fronts and certain schemes that may have a chance to give us an impact,” Arroyo said of the focus during the extra preparation time. “I think it’s all collectively seeing it, some of the stuff we are doing now is going to help us, and that has been good.”
Verdell, whose fumble in the final minute of regulation proved costly during the overtime loss to Stanford in 2018, understandably viewed grinding out a 21-6 win over the Cardinal as a significant step forward.
“Oh, it was definitely nice,” Verdell said of his 24-carry, 82-yard performance in the Pac-12 opener. “Definitely good to be out there getting my feet wet just running against that great team out there.
“I’ll keep saying they’re a great team. I think we went out there and did what we could.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email podcast mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.