EUGENE - Jeff Maehl has a connection with quarterback Darron Thomas.
You need only to look as far as the senior receiver's numbers, which show Maehl is having one of the best seasons in Oregon history.
That connection picked up steam in fall camp, as Thomas, a sophomore, battled senior Nate Costa for the starting QB spot.
"We continue to get better," Maehl said. "Just trying to get a better feel of where I'm going to be and where he's going to put the ball. It's just a timing thing and it gets better as we go along."
It certainly has.
Maehl, a sociology major from Paradise, Calif., has 12 touchdown receptions and a nine-game streak of catching a touchdown, both school records.
His 24 career touchdown receptions entering Saturday's 114th Civil War at Reser Stadium tie him for first in school history with Keenan Howry (1999-2002) and Cristin McLemore (1992-95).
With two games remaining, Maehl's 61 receptions (for 859 yards) put him within range of Samie Parker's single-season school record of 77 set in 2003.
A 1,000-yard receiving season would be only the eighth in Oregon history.
"Jeff Maehl is one of the go-to guys in the offense," Thomas said. "Jeff is one of the guys that wants the ball, and we've given him the ball all year. He's not only one of the big-time players on the team, but in the conference."
Maehl was Oregon's leading receiver in 2009 with 53 catches for 696 yards and five scores and earned an honorable mention all-Pac-10 selection.
But he's taken on an increased role in the Ducks' fast-paced and high-powered offense in 2010.
He's tied for second in the conference in receptions and third in receiving yards.
Maehl was named the conference player of the week after catching eight balls for 145 yards and three touchdowns in a win at USC.
"You could put Maehl at safety and he'd make plays," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "You could put him on the kickoff team like he's been and he'll make plays.
"He's just a football player and he's got that athleticism and that kind of fearless play that allows him to just always be a factor."
Maehl has been a factor in each of his Civil Wars.
He has caught a touchdown pass in all three games, all in the first quarter.
His scores in 2007 and 2008 were the Ducks' first of the game. Last year, his 73-yarder from Jeremiah Masoli put Oregon ahead 14-10.
Maehl finished the 2009 game with six catches for 138 yards. In three games against the Beavers, he has 15 catches for 303 yards and the three scores.
"Very savvy. That's one thing that comes to mind when I see Jeff Maehl," Oregon State cornerback James Dockery said.
"Very elusive off the line, has great hands, a playmaker. We've got to know where he is on the field."
Scott Frost, Oregon's receivers coach, says Maehl's overall performance comes from hard work and repetitions with Thomas.
"The ones that are excelling are the ones that were willing to do whatever we asked them to do, and it's paying off," Frost said.
"Jeff really is pretty reliable. He's always in the right spot. When you execute and you're that precise you develop a connection with the quarterback."