For Ducks, rest is history

EUGENE, Ore. — Chip Kelly likes to shave time. "Gone With The Wind," under his direction, might have won the Academy Award for best short film.

"Get right to Atlanta," he joked in his office Monday, "burn the buildings and yell 'Time!'"

The objective is to get Oregon to play football as fast as its second-year coach talks, and he's already machine-gum Kelly.

Oregon played up-tempo last year, when it ended USC's seven-year reign as Pac-10 champion. But that was a waltz compared with now.

Monday practice started at 8:50 a.m. and was over at 10:30. It wasn't a walk-through as much as a sprint-through, in full pads, a cacophony of boom-box sounds and Ziegfeld Follies choreography.

"I don't mind saying this, it's almost ridiculous," Nick Aliotti, Oregon's longtime defensive coordinator, said as he walked off the field, his voice raspy from trying to scream over music from "The Lion King" (seriously).

There are few lulls in the action and no coaches droning on about gap responsibilities — all that's done in film study.

"I think we're the new age of college football," senior quarterback Nate Costa said. "I think you're going to see more teams do what we do."

Opponents have had a hard time keeping up. Oregon is No. 1 in the polls for the first time in the school's 115-year history and on a fast track toward the national title.

The Ducks run an average of 78.3 plays per game and lead the nation in scoring at 54.3 points per game — all while ranking 108th out of 120 in time of possession (27 minutes, 31 seconds).

Army, by comparison, leads the nation in time of possession at 34:16 but averages only 69.9 plays.

Oregon's theory is teams ultimately will get tired of giving chase, and so far it's working. The Ducks have outscored opponents 128-13 in the second half.

Efficiency is key. This season's entire practice schedule was blocked out last summer — down to the minute.

"I can tell you what we're doing the Wednesday of the (Nov. 26) Arizona game," Kelly said.

Wind sprints are not a part of conditioning because practice is a sprint.

"There are freshmen who when they come in here, they just blow a gasket," Kelly said. "They can't keep up. They just have to catch up."

Practice is divided into five-minute segments of revolving action in every nook and cranny. The music varies from rock to rap to country.

At 9:25 a.m. Monday, scrimmaging began.

The first-team defense practiced against the scout team, dressed in UCLA "powder blue" jerseys in anticipation of Thursday night's game.

The scout-team defense featured student managers with giant fly swatters taped to their bodies to offer visual obstructions to passing lanes.

The first-team offense moved at whirlwind pace, taking play-call cues off of large cardboard cutouts cut into quadrants. The pictures vary from a snapshot of the state of Louisiana to a photo of ESPN host Neil Everett (an Oregon grad).

In one drill, the ball went from one hash mark to the next, 10 yards down field, and the next play began five seconds after the ball was ruled dead.

"At first it was very frustrating," Aliotti said, "because I couldn't get a call in."

Several coaches have visited Oregon to study this speed symphony. ESPN's Jon Gruden recently told the New York Times he wanted to move to Eugene and spend a season watching Kelly's offense, though Gruden's wife was not sold on the idea.

The goal of Oregon practices is to make the game, by comparison, seem like shuffleboard.

"When you practice that fast, it's easy to slow down," Kelly explained. "But it's hard to speed up."

Kelly says he's going to keep pushing until he reaches the breaking point.

How much faster can he go?

"I think that," Kelly said, "is what you're trying to find out."

cdufresne@tribune.com

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