Oregon is getting used to facing backup quarterbacks.
The Ducks just hope they don't find themselves needing to replace starting quarterback Darron Thomas anytime soon.
Top-ranked Oregon heads to California on Saturday with concerns surrounding its backup quarterback position after Nate Costa suffered yet another season-ending knee injury in last week's 53-16 win over Washington.
Costa was the holder on a botched field-goal attempt when he headed toward the sideline and injured the knee while being tackled. It is the third knee injury suffered since he arrived at Oregon, but the first to his right knee.
"We're going to miss him in a lot of aspects," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "It is tough because he has faced a lot of adversity in his career, but he will still be with us and still be a captain. He will travel to every game, but just not be able to play on Saturdays."
Costa, who battled for the starting job in fall camp before Thomas won the spot, has been a valuable backup, as he led the Ducks to a win over UCLA in his only start last year. When Thomas was injured against Washington State last month, Costa came off the bench to complete 13 of 15 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown while also running for a touchdown.
He gave the Ducks a veteran backup quarterback, and his absence leaves the Ducks thin behind Thomas.
True freshman Bryan Bennett moved up to the No. 2 spot, but Oregon hopes to redshirt him this season.
"Bennett is our No. 2 quarterback; if Darron goes down, Bryan is playing," Kelly said.
Daryle Hawkins is the No. 3 quarterback, but he has spent most of his time at running back and receiver this year.
Thomas has been great in his first season as the starter, producing 2,070 passing yards and 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions. He has also rushed for 400 yards and four scores and started popping up on Heisman Trophy watch lists in recent weeks.
Thomas and punter Jackson Rice are among the candidates to replace Costa as the holder on field goals.
Once again this week, Oregon faces a team that has had to go down its depth chart at quarterback.
Oregon beat UCLA this year when Richard Brehaut made his first start for injured Kevin Prince, and last week the Ducks beat Washington when starting quarterback Jake Locker was injured and replaced by Keith Price.
Now the Ducks get Cal quarterback Brock Mansion, who made his first start for the injured Kevin Riley last week in a win over Washington State.
"It is too late in the season for people to drastically adjust what they do on offense," Kelly said. "They will do what they do. I thought Brock did a nice job in the Washington State game, and he has one game of experience under his belt."
NOTES & QUOTES
--Oregon's senior class has equaled the school record for wins with 38, matching the mark of the Class of 2001.
--The 9-0 start is the best in school history, and the nine-game win streak matches the fourth-longest in school history.
--Oregon's 73rd consecutive sellout in the Washington game set a state attendance record for a football game at 60,017.
--Oregon has led for every minute of the fourth quarter this year and has outscored its foes 87-7 in that quarter this year.
--Oregon has scored 50 or more points in three straight games and six times overall.
--Half of the Ducks' 58 touchdowns this season have come on drives of five plays or fewer.
SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads Oregon, 39-31-2 (last meeting, 2009, 42-3 Oregon).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Oregon's offense could be tested this week, as Cal leads the Pac-10 and ranks 12th in the nation in total defense by allowing 299.6 yards per game. Cal is also in the top 20 in the country in pass defense and sacks. The Bears have shut out four of nine opponents in the first half. All those numbers will be put to the test against an Oregon offense that leads the nation with 54.7 points per game and 567.2 yards per game. Oregon is rushing for 305.4 yards per game and throwing for 261.78 yards. Oregon's 492 points through nine games have already broken the school record for an 11-game season.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Oregon's defense continues to be strong late in games, as the Ducks have held eight of nine opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter. Oregon also shut out Washington in the first quarter last week. Oregon's defense is often overshadowed by its offense, but the Ducks rank 13th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing an average of 17.7 points per game. Cal is averaging 30 points per game, led by Shane Vereen, who has 12 rushing touchdowns and three receiving to rank third in the conference and seventh in the nation with 10 points per game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I like his athleticism, he throws a good ball and he has a good grasp of what we are trying to do. He has a great skill set and is a tough kid, but the thing he lacks is experience, and you can't manufacture that." -- Oregon coach Chip Kelly, talking about his new No. 2 quarterback, Bryan Bennett.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL:
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Oregon at Cal, Nov. 13 -- Oregon has hardly been tested this season, and Cal looks like a candidate for another blowout victory. The Bears have lost two of their last four games by at least 28 points, and they beat Washington State, the worst team in the conference, 20-13 last week. Meanwhile, Oregon has won every game by at least 11 points and has an average margin of victory of 37 points.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Winning at Cal has been tough for Oregon in recent years, and no visitor has prevailed there this season. Cal is 4-0 at Berkeley this season, beating UC Davis, Colorado, UCLA, and Arizona State by a combined score of 189-34. The Bears have won three straight over Oregon at Memorial Stadium since Oregon's last win in 2001. Cal is 37-6 at home since October 2003, and all of those losses came against Oregon State or USC.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB LaMichael James -- The sophomore kept himself among the leaders in the Heisman Trophy race with 121 rushing yards and three scores against Washington. He has 1,331 yards rushing yards on the season, making him the only back in the conference to exceed 1,000 yards. He was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, presented to the nation's best player, on Monday. He leads the nation with 166.4 yards rushing per game and his 18 total touchdowns rank him first in the country with 13.5 points per game. James is third in school history with 2,877 rushing yards and has the school record with 16 100-yard games. He ranks second in school history with 31 TDs and has scored in all eight games he's played this season.
DB Cliff Harris -- The sophomore leads the team with five interceptions, nine pass breakups, and 14 passes defended. Last week, he had a 79-yard punt return and 47-yard kick return against the Huskies, both season bests.
WR Jeff Maehl -- The senior, who arrived at school as a safety, broke into the Oregon top-10 for career receiving yards with 71 against the Huskies and ranks ninth with 1,981. Maehl's touchdown against Washington gave him seven straight games with a score and extended his string of games with at least one reception to 30.
--RB Kenjon Barner returned after missing two games with a concussion and ran nine times for 60 yards and a touchdown against Washington. His rushing touchdown was his first since he scored four in the opener against New Mexico.
--Senior QB Nate Costa is officially out for the season after suffering his third knee injury in five years. He is expected to have surgery within the next two weeks.