by Rob Moseley
Mark Helfrich has already been Oregon's head coach for one-third of the regular season, in the wake of the Ducks' 55-16 win over California on Saturday.
It's been quite a four games. The Ducks have scored at least 50 points in all four, for the first time in school history. Helfrich is the first UO coach since C.W. Spears, all the way back in 1930, to win his first four games with the program.
Oregon continues to be ranked No. 2 in both major polls currently being compiled. The Ducks picked up another first-place vote in The Associated Press top 25 poll of media today, giving them five of a possible 60; No. 1 Alabama has the other 55. In the USA Today coaches' poll, the Ducks lost one of the three first-place votes they drew a week ago.
"Obviously from a record standpoint we wouldn't want it any other way," Helfrich said Sunday on a teleconference with reporters. "But we can play a lot better, and that's encouraging, in every phase. … Certainly we think our best days are ahead."
The Ducks next take the field Saturday at Colorado (3 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks), which fell to 2-1 this weekend with a loss in its Pac-12 opener to Oregon State. It will be a homecoming of sorts for Helfrich, who was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Buffaloes from 2006-08.
"The people of Colorado, and living there, it was a great experience," Helfrich said. "Obviously wish we would have won more, and a great deal of that is my fault. But I learned a thousand things."
The Buffaloes, who beat Colorado State and Central Arkansas to open the season, are the second straight UO opponent with a new head coach, in this case Mike MacIntyre.
His leadership was tested when Colorado had a nonconference game with Fresno State cancelled by flooding in the Boulder area, giving the Buffs a three-week layoff prior to facing the Beavers.
"They're definitely a lot better," Helfrich said. "The first couple games were a lot different; they played really, really well. Defensively they're doing some different things, very sound, creating some pressure.
"And then it's almost like they had another first game, with the circumstances of their weather."
The downpour Oregon played in Saturday night was nothing compared with the flooding that affected the Boulder region. But it did provide a chance for the Ducks to test their resolve, and perhaps get comfortable should wet weather strike again later in the year.
"That's a great unknown," Helfrich said. "We just tried to not let it be a factor psychologically. We hadn't had one day of practice in any kind of weather, so it was new for them and new for us. But winning a game in those conditions I guess can do nothing but help your confidence."
Saturday's forecast for the Boulder area calls for sunny skies and 60-degree temperatures.
The Ducks beat Cal without the services of De'Anthony Thomas after his ankle injury on the opening kickoff. Helfrich said Sunday that "there are no updates" on Thomas' status.
Defensively, Helfrich addressed a couple of plays that affected the final score, including a "needless" pass interference penalty that took an Avery Patterson pick-six off the board, and a substitution error that helped Cal on its final touchdown drive.
"But all in all, wide-angle lens, they've played really, really well," Helfrich said.
Bralon Addison's two punt-return touchdowns Saturday put him atop the national leaderboard in punt-return average, at 36.5 yards per return. Marcus Mariota is first in yards per carry -- among all players, not just quarterbacks -- with 14.05 yards per rushing attempt, and his 10.14 yards of offense per play are seventh nationally.
As a team, the UO offense ranks first in rushing (332.50 ypg), second in scoring (59.8) and third in total offense (599.3 ypg). The UO defense is fourth in scoring (10.8), is allowing the fourth-fewest yards per play (3.83) and the ninth-lowest pass efficiency rating (90.05).
The Ducks are second in turnover margin, at plus-2.5 per game, and next to last in time of possession, at 23:43 per game.