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EUGENE — Mark Helfrich walked into his weekly Sunday night press conference inside the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex and sat down without experiencing any noticeable discomfort.

Oregon’s fourth-year coach, while disappointed with his team’s 2-2 start, isn’t feeling any extra warmth on his seat.

Helfrich, whose overall record is 35-10 after consecutive three-point losses to Nebraska and Colorado, remains optimistic the Ducks can dig out of their 0-1 hole in Pac-12 play.

“I told the team last night, and I believe it 100 percent, this team can be special. This team, this year,” Helfrich said. “We have a tough schedule, a tough road ahead of us, but this team can be great. There is zero doubt in my mind.”

Oregon started 3-3 last season before winning the final six games of the regular season. The turnaround correlated with the return of a healthy Vernon Adams Jr.

The solutions to this year’s problems are a little more complicated.

“Not enough time to make that list right now,” Helfrich said. “In essence, we have to coach them to play relentlessly disciplined and in attack mode.”

Even though Oregon finished with 508 yards of offense during the deflating 41-38 loss to Colorado, Helfrich said the offensive line, which includes four redshirt freshmen, was still hesitant at times.

Dakota Prukop, who was sacked three times, was 22 of 33 for 293 yards and two touchdowns. The senior graduate transfer’s first interception of the season was costly, coming on first-and-goal in the final minute with a chance to win or at least tie the game.

Helfrich said the coaching staff is not considering making a change at quarterback. True freshman Justin Herbert has taken only one snap this season.

“Obviously, you’d like to get your backup guy in more, certainly,” Helfrich said. “But it hasn’t happened, and right now Dakota is the best quarterback on our team, and we believe in him.”

Starting running back Royce Freeman missed his first game as a Duck due to a leg injury. Tony Brooks-James took advantage of more playing time with 16 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown.

“Tony had a great fall camp and to this point has probably performed, quote, unquote, the best,” Helfrich said of the rotation behind Freeman, which also includes Kani Benoit and Taj Griffin. “But we need all those guys … we believe in all those guys, absolutely.”

Oregon’s glaring weakness remains its generous defense, which ranks 99th nationally in yards allowed (450.3 ypg) and 97th in points allowed (32.5 ppg).

Colorado redshirt freshman Steven Montez, the team’s second-string quarterback, became the first player in the program’s 126-year history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in the same game.

The Ducks gave a collective tip of the hat to Montez after his stunning performance filling in for injured four-year starter Sefo Liufau.

“I think he kind of surprised me as far as him compared to the first dude that we were watching film on,” defensive tackle Austin Maloata said. “Hat’s off to him for having a great game.”

Defensive coordinator Brady Hoke said his players were prepared to see Montez, who was 0-for-7 passing against Michigan and 23 for 32 for 333 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions against Oregon.

“I don’t know if he surprised us,” Hoke said. “You have to give him credit for how he handled things.”

The other issue keeping Helfrich up at night is the team’s penalty woes.

Oregon was called for eight more infractions totaling 75 yards against Colorado. The Ducks rank 127th our of 128 FBS teams in penalty yardage per game (97.3).

“The coaches did a great job preparing us. It’s us,” cornerback Tyree Robinson said. “They can’t go out and play for us. We just have to execute, limit our mistakes and finish.”

The Ducks’ game at Washington State on Saturday will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

The Cougars (1-2), coming off a bye week, opened the season with a 45-42 loss to Eastern Washington of the FCS, lost 31-28 at Boise State and crushed neighboring Idaho 56-6 during nonconference play.

The respective fan bases aren’t thrilled that Oregon and Washington State, picked to finish third and fourth, respectively, in the Pac-12 poll, have been living up to their mediocre preseason billing.

“Right now, a lot of negativity, and that’s not what we can be consumed with,” Helfrich said. “We can be consumed with the solution and how we can train better together and work to turn it.”

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, left, greets Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre after their game Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Colorado beat Oregon, 41-38. THOMAS BOYD/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS