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Originally published Sunday, August 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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College football | Ducks' coaches not impressed

Oregon football coaches have been emphasizing that their quarterback competition hasn't ended, and Saturday, in a hot afternoon scrimmage...

Seattle Times staff writer

EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon football coaches have been emphasizing that their quarterback competition hasn't ended, and Saturday, in a hot afternoon scrimmage at Autzen Stadium, the quarterbacks went out and seemed to amplify the point.

Nate Costa, believed to be the guy who will take the first snap when Washington visits the Ducks on Aug. 30, struggled in his first live action since injuring a knee last October, completing only 2 of 10 pass attempts and failing to get the Oregon offense into the end zone.

But Justin Roper, the 6-foot-6 sophomore from Georgia who has been running with the No. 2 unit, was as resourceful as Costa was ineffective, completing 7 of 8 for 155 yards, one a 49-yard Hail Mary.

The day didn't leave the coaching staff happy, although the lack of crispness wasn't uncommon for a first major scrimmage of fall camp.

"Not very pleased," said Oregon coach Mike Bellotti. "I didn't think we were very sharp today. The defense made some good plays, but I don't think the offense pressed them enough.

"We need to play faster across the board."

Bellotti conceded that Roper, who threw four touchdown passes against South Florida in Oregon's Sun Bowl rout, made up ground on Costa, a third-year sophomore.

"[Roper] was the most impressive quarterback today," Bellotti said. Noting too many mistakes overall by the quarterbacks above and below Roper, Bellotti added, "We have to come of age pretty quickly at quarterback.

"I think we're a great football team if we don't turn the ball over."

Roper had missed some practice time last week with a sore arm while Costa had generally been impressive. On this day, they flip-flopped.

Roper "had one series where we went in a negative direction," Bellotti said. "But on the others, he made some nice passes, made some great reads and audibled at the appropriate time."

Costa quarterbacked most against the No. 1 defensive unit, while Roper faced the backup defense. In three series starting in offensive territory, plus a variety of other situational starts, Costa didn't lead the offense to a touchdown. Roper had three.

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Leading rusher was 240-pound JC transfer LeGarrette Blount, seen as the back who could carry some of the load vacated by Jonathan Stewart's move to the NFL. Blount (8 for 37 yards) made a big splash in spring drills but had leveled off in camp.

"Fall camp is a lot harder," Blount said. "We have two-a-days, it's really hot and you're in full gear. You have to go out and get everything done."

Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti echoed the call for improvement, saying, "The bottom line is, I'm not very happy with where we are with our backup tackles right now."

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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