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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Helfrich off to a great start

  • EUGENE — Oregon football head coach Mark Helfrich's seat is quite comfortable.
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  • EUGENE — Oregon football head coach Mark Helfrich's seat is quite comfortable.
    No. 2 Oregon improved to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-12 Conference with a 55-16 victory over California on Saturday night at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks offense is averaging 59.8 points per game while the defense is giving up only 10.6 points per game.
    Oregon has opened as a 38-point favorite at Colorado Saturday.
    But Helfrich was reminded of how uncomfortable life in his chosen profession can be when news broke on Sunday that USC athletic director Pat Haden had removed Lane Kiffin from the hot seat and fired him just four games into the season. The Trojans fell to 3-2 after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State.
    "It's kind of a tougher reality, I think, of this whole deal," Helfrich said. "You feel for the person. I think (Kiffin) is a guy with a family and all the things that go along with that. "¦ That's the reality of the business, and that could be you."
    Helfrich will return to Boulder for the first time as a head coach this week. He served as CU's offensive coordinator from 2006-08 during a difficult rebuilding process before taking the same position at Oregon under Chip Kelly.
    "A thousand things," Helfrich said when asked if there were any lessons he learned roaming with the Buffaloes that are helping him at Oregon. "The people of Colorado and living there was a great experience. I wish we would have won more, and a great deal of it is my fault."
    Dan Hawkins, the head coach at CU during Helfrich's time there, was fired during the 2010 season. Jon Embree was fired after only two seasons as the Buffs struggled during their transition from the Big 12 to the Pac-12.
    First-year coach Mike MacIntyre guided the program to wins over Colorado State and Central Arkansas to start the season, but CU was dominated 44-17 at Oregon State.
    "They're definitely a lot better," Helfrich said. "Certainly their first couple games were a lot different."
    CU is 1-8 at home in conference games since joining the Pac-12 (beat Arizona 48-29 on Nov. 12, 2011). Oregon won 45-2 in Boulder during the 2011 season when Helfrich was Kelly's offensive coordinator.
    "This is a learning experience. We just have to forget about this game and move on," CU cornerback Kenneth Crawley said after Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 414 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes against the Buffs at Reser Stadium. "We have the best team in the country coming next weekend, so we have to forget about this game and regroup as a team to get ready for next Saturday."
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    NO DAT UPDATE: The word "circumstances" was not used, but Helfrich still didn't reveal any information when asked about De'Anthony Thomas' ankle injury on Sunday.
    "There are no updates," Helfrich said.
    Thomas was injured returning the opening kickoff against Cal. The nation's most productive running game rolled on with Byron Marshall (130 yards, two touchdowns) and Thomas Tyner (94 yards, one touchdown) carrying the load.
    "Those guys getting experience will helps us down the road," Helfrich said.
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    NO. 2 POLL POSITION: The Ducks remained No. 2 in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls released Sunday.
    Oregon received five first-place votes in the AP balloting No. 1 (Alabama garnered the other 55) and two first-place votes from the coaches (Alabama received 59 and No. 4 Clemson received one).
    Stanford remained No. 5 in both polls. The other ranked Pac-12 teams are UCLA (12/13), Washington (15/18) and Arizona State (22/24).
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    RUNNING BACK COMMITS: The inclement weather on Saturday night did not rain on Tony James' parade. According to 247Sports, the running back recruit from Gainesville, Fla., verbally committed to Oregon after watching Marshall and Tyner run through the Cal.
    James is the ninth known commitment for Oregon's 2014 class. Per NCAA rules, coaches are not allowed to comment on recruits until signing day in February.
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    SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER: The competition should get much tougher for the Ducks in October with a road game at Washington (Oct. 12) and a home game against UCLA (Oct. 26) on the docket.
    But Helfrich has some bad news for upcoming opponents:
    "From a record standpoint, we wouldn't want it any other way. That's part of the bottom line," Helfrich said of the 4-0 start. "But we can play a lot better in every phase, and that's encouraging."
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