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Focus questioned, Ducks look to respond
Release Date: 11/23/2013
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by Rob Moseley

TUCSON, Ariz. — On a team that looked in desperate need of leadership Saturday, Keanon Lowe and Avery Patterson were willing to oblige.

Following Oregon's 42-16 loss at Arizona, Lowe and Patterson were two of several players who made the rounds of the locker room, trying to lift the spirits of teammates. Lowe hit on two silver linings: The Ducks play Oregon State next, and do so on Friday, meaning they'll be right back to work Sunday.

"It's the Civil War," Lowe said. "We all know what the Civil War is and what that means. So we have no time to dwell on that.

"I think it'll be easier to bounce back from this one, because we have practice (Sunday). We hate the feeling and the taste of a loss, and I'm sure guys are going to be eager to get back out there and show what we're all about. Make this not a defining moment of our season."

Patterson's message wasn't so much about schedules or opponents. It was about heart.

"We've still got something to play for," Patterson said. "Play for yourself, if anything."

Oregon needs to find its focus quickly, after a week in which that focus was questioned — and the Ducks followed up with Saturday's flat performance. Regardless of their context, comments by Josh Huff and De'Anthony Thomas last Monday were interpreted to mean that Oregon had lost its motivation in the wake of a loss to Stanford, and that not even a potential Rose Bowl berth could sooth that.

UO coach Mark Helfrich called those comments "part ignorant, part out of context." The bottom line is, many thought the Oregon football team didn't sound ready to play entering Saturday. And what ensued at Arizona Stadium didn't serve to change any minds.

"We've got a bunch of guys that are very hurt in that locker room right now, that care a great deal about each other, about the team, about the outcome," Helfrich insisted. "We didn't represent that very well today."

Compounding the concerns, Helfrich said the Ducks experienced some mental "lapses" during Friday's walk-through. Both the coach and several players acknowledged as much, but said meetings Friday night and Saturday morning were much better.

"Obviously that happens once in a while," senior defensive end Taylor Hart said. "But we fixed it. But, going against a good team like this, you can't have days like that. Obviously it hurt us a little bit."

Patterson agreed.

"It's a reflection of practice," Patterson said. "We didn't have the best practices this week. So we've got to come back out and have a great practice tomorrow, so we don't get embarrassed when we play Oregon State."

In postgame interviews Saturday, Huff and Thomas addressed their pregame comments. Huff's point might have been that being in Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl while BCS title game preparations also were ongoing there would be bittersweet. But he knows that's not how they were interpreted.

"I would be more than happy to play in the Rose Bowl," Huff said. "Play for my teammates and coaches, and more importantly the program. There's no doubt in my mind I would have played for those guys. But unfortunately we didn't take care of business today."

Added Thomas: "I'm always ready to play. I'm just out there trying to give my best and contribute to the team."

Thomas' play Saturday seemed to back that up. He had an early drop, but followed it up with a freakish one-handed catch. He finished as Oregon's leading receiver with six receptions for 74 yards, and also was the primary tailback after Byron Marshall's early injury, running 16 times for 83 yards.

But the only numbers anyone will remember from Saturday — because they're the only ones that matter — are those in the final score. Arizona 42, Oregon 16.

"We just got beat," Lowe said simply. "We didn't have a good day, offensively or defensively. Give credit to Arizona — they executed their game plan."

Sunday, the Ducks go about trying to fix that.

"Tomorrow's a Monday," Mariota said. "So we've got to come back and just fight."

"I don't have any question," Hart said. "I'll lead them, and we'll get going in practice tomorrow."

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