EUGENE, Ore.,- Nearly two weeks after their fifth consecutive Civil War victory the Oregon football team returned to the Moshovsky Center to begin preparation for their Fiesta Bowl Showdown with the Kansas State Wildcats.
The team will practice Friday through Monday each week, with a few days of weight lifting and conditioning incorporated throughout. This week, head coach Chip Kelly says, they'll be back to basics, working on fundamentals.
With nearly a month of preparation before the January 3 match-up, Kelly and staff will begin installing their game plan for the Wildcats sometime next week, sending the team off to Christmas break with a complete package before reuniting in Glendale.
While the team focused on their academics the past two weeks, the coaches turned their attention to recruiting. With most of the staff on the road recruiting, coaches took Kansas State game film with them. What seemed to be the overriding impression amongst them were the Wildcats' propensity for disciplined play.
"They look they're controlled by remote," offensive coordinator Mark Helrich said of the Kansas State's defense's ability to respond to pre-snap shifts. "Four guys move simultaneously to the right spot.
Their discipline is particularly evident in how rarely they turn the ball over. In the regular season, the Wildcats did so just ten times, fumbling a national-best three times.
"I'd like to sit here and say that we're playing a bunch of stumblebums, but in these kind of games you don't," defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said.
In many ways, Kansas State and Oregon are like teams, Aliotti said, pointing out the offensive schemes they run as well as their personnel.
"Maybe if you had them standing out there next to Oklahoma or Texas, you wouldn't pick them as the team that won the league. A lot like us, sometimes," he said.
That can even be said of their starting quarterback and Heisman finalist Collin Klein. Despite scoring a total of 38 touchdowns and finishing third in the conference in quarterback rating, Klein doesn't overwhelm you with his physical traits, Aliotti says.
"He doesn't look super fast, he doesn't look unbelievable, he doesn't look this, doesn't look that. But, I'm telling you, he gets the job done," he said.
Klein and the rest of the country will learn the winner of the sports most prestigious award tonight, one that Aliotti hopes he wins, but Klein isn't the only Glendale-bound player up for a major award. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner was a Doak Walker-finalist, coming up short, however, to Wisconsin's Montee Ball.
"Just to be mentioned with those other two guys is a real honor for him," Kelly said. "You never know who's going to win those things. We're still really really proud of him."
Barner was not in Eugene Friday, as his return trip from New York had been delayed by a stoppage in Salt Lake City, although he is expected back Saturday, Kelly said.