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Ducks' defense is in the spotlight again

EUGENE — For the second week in a row, the tone for Oregon's rout was set by its defense.

The No. 16 Ducks dominated Washington State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium, winning 52-6 to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Pac-10 Conference play.

One week after holding then-No. 6 California to one score in a 42-3 win, the Oregon defense did it again, as the Cougars reached the end zone just once.

"We wanted the shutout real bad, but in this type of game it doesn't really matter as much as the win," said Oregon rover Javes Lewis, who had four tackles and an interception.

Oregon held the Cougars to 158 yards of offense — 51 in the first half — recorded three turnovers and knocked true freshman starting quarterback Jeff Tuel out of the game in the first quarter.

"Our defense has been tremendous since the beginning of the season," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "I've said we're going to rely on them, and that's the key to our football team right now."

Washington State's best starting field position during the first half was its own 40-yard line when Oregon kicker Rob Beard sent a kickoff out of bounds following the Ducks' fourth touchdown of the day.

It didn't result in anything good for the Cougars, as Washington State quarterback Marshall Lobbestael was intercepted on the first play of the drive by Lewis.

WSU didn't make it past midfield until its second drive of the second half and its ninth possession overall. But even that series ended with a punt after the Ducks sacked Lobbestael on third down for a 7-yard loss that moved the ball back into Cougar territory.

The shutout was lost when Oregon reserve punt returner Scott Grady fumbled a kick at the Oregon 1-yard line. Lobbestael capped a three-play drive with a 1-yard plunge with 2:08 left in the third to make it 45-6. The extra-point attempt failed.

"It's awesome," defensive tackle Brandon Bair said. "We're doing so good and performing real flawless out there, but there's still room to improve."

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GLASPER FILLS IN: Saturday's game was the first without senior cornerback and team co-captain Walter Thurmond III, who tore three ligaments in his right knee on the opening kickoff against California last week and is out for the season.

Willie Glasper assumed Thurmond's starting spot on defense for what was just the second career start for the fifth-year senior, who was once a highly regarded recruit for the Ducks.

Glasper, a Pittsburgh, Calif., native, was a Parade Magazine, SuperPrep and Prepstar all-American as senior at De La Salle High School in 2003 when he was also rated as the sixth-best cornerback prospect in the nation.

But his time at Oregon has been primarily spent on special teams and as a nickel back. Still, he has appeared in all 44 games since the 2006 season — more than any other member of the Oregon defense.

He finished with three tackles, including one for a loss of two yards.

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RECORD KEEPING: Ed Dickson set the school record for career receptions by a tight end with his seven-catch, 103-yard performance. The senior now has 104 career receptions, breaking the previous mark of 103 set by Josh Wilcox (1993-96).

"A lot of credit goes out to the (offensive line) and (quarterback Jeremiah) Masoli for finding me," said Dickson, who has 18 catches for 251 yards and four touchdowns the last two weeks.

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A FIRST FOR COSTA: Backup quarterback Nate Costa scored his first career touchdown — and first since high school — on a 4-yard run with 1:11 left in the first half to put the Ducks up 42-0. The redshirt junior missed the previous two seasons with knee injuries.

"I kind of got hit in the face a little bit and it woke me up," Costa said. "I realized I crossed the plane, and it was a feeling of exhilaration."

Costa came in for the final series of the first half and played the rest of the game. He finished 7 of 9 for 80 yards. He also rushed six times for 26 yards.

"I really feel back now," Costa said. "It's been a long road for me, as far as injuries go. I feel back and ready to go."

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IT'S A TREND: The blowout win for the Ducks shouldn't have come as a surprise.

Oregon has now won three straight against Washington State by a combined score of 168-27.

That includes a 63-14 win in Pullman last season and a 53-7 victory at home in 2007.

It got so bad for the Cougars on Saturday that Oregon surpassed the point spread of 34 points with 6:40 left in the first half when Andre Crenshaw scored on a 6-yard run to make it 35-0.