Roper Working His Way Back

Justin Roper (eDuck file)

When Justin Roper grabbed for his left knee on the turf at Purdue three weeks ago, it was the first time he had ever been injured in his football career. The knee injury turned out to be relatively minor, but to complicate things for the Duck sophomore, a case of viral tonsillitis caused him to miss the USC game plus lose eight pounds in a week's time.

This week, Roper is feeling better after regaining half the weight lost and looking to fit back into the Oregon line up.

The Oregon Ducks (4-2, 2-1) could use Justin Roper's presence on the playing field this Saturday night as they play the UCLA Bruins (2-3, 1-1) at Autzen Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 7:26 p.m. Depending on how Roper responds this week in workouts will determine exactly how much he'll play against the Bruins. For Roper, the break in action isn't something he's happy with even though he understands why he is now running with the second team in practice.

"It's tough, I want to play," said Roper to the prospect of having to watch the action from the sideline. "I want to be out there."

Roper began the season as the starter for the Ducks. He is 40-for-76, 484 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also rushed for 76 yards net on 12 carries and has crossed the goal line once running the ball.

Right now though he is watching sophomore Jeremiah Masoli take the first-string snaps. Masoli had the benefit of gaining experience early on in the season in the games where Roper was the starter. The Ducks had built sufficient cushions to allow for the backups to play early on. Masoli has similar statistics to Roper, although Roper has played in three games while Masoli in five. Masoli is 46-for-77 for 537 yards, with four touchdowns and an interception. Masoli has a net 72-yards rushing on 24 carries.

All week long, Oregon Head Coach Mike Bellotti has indicted that when Roper is fully healthy the starting quarterback role will be won by competition, and when anyone asks Roper about how he feels looking forward his response is simple. He says in a quiet manner that whomever wins the starting job, "will have to earn it."

One thing Roper has done that Masoli has not in regards to the upcoming game -- he's actually been on the field against the Bruins. Last year Roper was called into action after starter Brady Leaf left the contest with a broken ankle. While the outcome was something that is a sore subject with the Ducks (Oregon lost 16-0) Roper hopes that his teammates will come out against the Bruins bearing an attitude.

"Hopefully, everybody has a chip on their shoulder," indicated Roper as to what the Ducks mood should be like.

Last week the viral tonsillitis knocked Roper for a loop. He lost eight pounds but he thinks most of the weight has come back, still though earlier in the week he was knocking out cobwebs as he was back on the practice field. He feels fine and certainly a win over the Bruins this weekend could be the best cure of all for Roper and his teammates.

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