Oregon Ducks

It could be a very long time before Oregon loses another Civil War

It could be a very long time before Oregon loses another Civil War

EUGENE - Remember this date: Nov. 26, 2016. 

That was the last time Oregon State won a Civil War game. It wasn't that long ago. Only a year. But that date could have legs. 

Oregon whipped OSU 69-10 tonight in the 121st Civil War at Autzen Stadium. The score very much reflected the disparity between the two programs. So much so that UO coach Willie Taggart dropped some smack talk afterwards by saying that the Ducks, who led 52-7 at halftime, wore raincoats at the end of this game because "it was raining touchdowns."

Taggart was making a reference to statements made during the week by OSU interim coach Cory Hall, who recalled the second half of OSU's victory last year when the rain came and Oregon's players began putting on raincoats while the Beavers welcomed the elements. Hall said he knew then that the Beavers would win. And they did, 34-24, snapping an eight-game losing streak in the 121-game series. It might be a long time before OSU defeats UO again.

The trajectory of the two programs couldn't be anymore contrasting. Oregon has a young, rising star coach in Taggart, who happens to be a recruiting dynamo. Oregon State saw its so-called savior coach, Gary Andersen, quit mid-season and is now scrambling to find its next leader. 

The Ducks (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) rebounded quickly from a 4-8 season a year ago that ended with the loss in Corvallis. The Beavers (1-11, 0-9), whose fans stormed the field following the upset victory, believed that  their fortunes were about to change. Instead, the program regressed in Andersen's third year. OSU last won just one game in 1995 (1-10).

Oregon has a potentially limitless ceiling. The Ducks' 2018 recruiting class ranks No. 1 on Scout.come and No. 6 on both Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.  OSU's class ranks 79th on Rivals.  A new coach could change that but he won't be able to get the Beavers into the top 30, let alone top 10.  The talent disparity between the two programs that was on display tonight will continue to grow. 

Oregon gained 577 yards compared to 211 for Oregon State. 

Of course, strange things could happen.  Maybe a new OSU coach will hit big on an elite quarterback while Oregon is left scrambling after Justin Herbert, four touchdown passes tonight, moves on to the NFL in the next couple of years. Maybe Taggart bolts for another program soon and a new coach falters in recruiting, setting the table for Oregon State to pounce. 

Anything could happen. But after Saturday night's beatdown - the largest margin of victory in this series - it's difficult to walk away not believing that at least another eight-game Civil War winning streak for the Ducks has already begun. 

 

UO RB Royce Freeman breaks Pac-12 TD rushing mark

UO RB Royce Freeman breaks Pac-12 TD rushing mark

EUGENE - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman became the Pac-12's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns after scoring twice in the first half of today's Civil War against Oregon State at Autzen Stadium.

Freeman entered the game needing one rushing touchdown to tie former Oregon State running back Ken Simonton's conference record of 59. Freeman got that in the first quarter from two yards out to give Oregon a 10-0 lead.

Moments ago, Freeman scored the 60th rushing touchdown of his career with a 13-yard run in the second quarter to give the Ducks a 31-7 lead with 10:49 remaining. 

Ducks need Civil War victory more than Oregon State

Ducks need Civil War victory more than Oregon State

The Oregon Ducks should win today's Civil War with great ease. They own virtually every matchup over Oregon State. 

However, these games rarely play out based on matchups and probability. So, the 25-point underdog Beavers do have a puncher's chance of pulling off an upset, or at the very least, making the game close. 

However the 121st Civil War plays out today at Autzen Stadium (4 p.m. on ESPN2), the Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) must win. They cannot afford to blow this. The Ducks need this win even more than the Beavers do. 

Oregon is building toward something strong next season under coach Willie Taggart. Finishing off the year at 8-5 with a win today and then a bowl victory after losing sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert for five games (1-4 during that stretch) would provide a strong catapult into next year with 14 starters returning. 

Plus, on a weekend when it has been announced that former UO coach Chip Kelly has become the new coach at UCLA, Ducks nation might not be able to also endure a humiliating Civil War defeat. 

Oregon State (1-10, 0-8) could use the win, as well. Nothing could sooth such a disastrous season like upsetting the Ducks. But, OSU accomplished that last season at home by winning 34-24 to snap an eight-game Civil War losing streak only to blow that mojo with a follow-up season with only one win coming against 0-11 Portland State. 

The Beavers reportedly already have a new direction in place and will hire Cal offensive coordinator and former Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin to run the program. Hiring the quarterback guru is a great move for OSU. So, even if the Beavers get blasted today they will have something to celebrate very soon when Baldwin takes over for interim coach Cory Hall. 

What needs to happen today for Oregon is that it makes easy work of the Beavers. End it early. Get in about 10 Swag Surfin' moments. Play a lot of guys. Have fun with no trepidation. 

The UO players have been reminded of last year's Civil War loss in almost torturous fashion. Taggart has had the "low-lights," as he calls them, played over and over for his team to view and remind them of how bad things got last season. 

A dominant win today could remind the Ducks of how good things could be in the future. 

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Oregon vs. Oregon State

When: 4 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium, Eugene.  

T.V.: ESPN2. 

Betting line: Oregon by 25.

Records: Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12), Oregon State (1-10, 0-8).

Last week: Oregon took down Arizona (7-4, 5-3), 48-28. OSU lost 40-24 at home to Arizona State (6-5, 5-3) 

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (46-50, 6-5 at Oregon); Oregon State's Cory Hall (0-5).

Fear factor (five-point scale): 0. Oregon has the advantage in just about every imaginable facet of the game. A loss would be disastrous for Oregon and put a major damper on an otherwise promising season. 

The Beavers won last year behind a punishing running game led by Ryan Nall that no longer exists. However, one must consider the fact that OSU took Stanford to the wire in a 15-14 loss while the Cardinal destroyed Oregon, 49-7. Then again, Stanford played OSU without running back Bryce Love and Oregon played Stanford without Herbert, so scratch all of that nonsense. 

Today's game is all Oregon. 

Game prediction: Oregon 57, Oregon State 27.  

Royce Freeman exits as a true 'man of Oregon'

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USA Today

Royce Freeman exits as a true 'man of Oregon'

The legend of Royce Freeman began in August of 2014 with whispers escaping Oregon's closed practices about a freshman running back laying waste to Ducks defenders. 

Witnesses described his exploits as something akin to Bo Jackson running amok on the Tecmo Bowl video game. Big. Fast. Unstoppable. Defenders bounced off of Freeman's rumbling 235-pound frame like bowling pins. 

When unveiled to the public, Freeman lived up to the hype. He was, and remains, a similar package to that of former Ducks legends, Reuben Droughns and Jonathan Stewart. Fast but punishing. Powerful, yet nimble. 

Simply put: unfair. 

Three years, thousands of yards and many flat-backed defenders later, Freeman will play his final game at Autzen Stadium during Saturday's Civil War against Oregon State. It could actually turn out to be his final game should he elect not to play in UO's bowl game. More on that later.

Freeman will leave Oregon as the most prolific offensive player in the history of the program. More importantly, he will also leave Oregon as one of the most stoic and treasured people to ever wear the green and yellow. 

UO has had its share of legends. There's no need to decide where Freeman ranks among them. Time will gradually decide where he rates among the pantheon of great Ducks. But it should never be forgotten that last year when the program was at its lowest point in recent memory, when Freeman had every reason to leave for the NFL and become an instant millionaire, he stuck around to help make things right. 

Freeman also did everything the right way. One has never heard a negative word about him. Nobody, of course, is perfect. But, according to teammates, they've never really seen him even get angry. He's always even-keeled. Stoic. Thoughtful. He smiles and laughs, but rarely frowns. Freeman simply goes about his business of working hard, churning out yards and being a great teammate.

"He’s a War-Daddy," UO coach Willie Taggart said following Saturday's 48-28 win over Arizona. "He is everything to this football team. I told Royce afterwards how proud I was of him and how much I appreciate of him. I know one thing he wanted to do and a big reason for him to come back was to make sure that this program was going back in the right direction. He can say that now.”

The Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) haven't had the season Freeman had hoped they would enjoy. That's primarily because sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert missed five games with a broken collarbone. During that 1-4 stretch, however, is when Freeman demonstrated his true warrior nature. 

With virtually zero threat of passing game to keep defenses honest, Freeman rushed for 626 tough yards but never found the end zone. He made up for that with four touchdowns against Arizona on the night Herbert returned to action. 

Keep in mind that Freeman has been playing with pain most of the season. He left the team's win over California on Sept. 30 with a shoulder injury and hasn't been 100 percent since. 

Taggart said that he has taken precautions to help Freeman work through his pain. Freeman takes mostly mental reps on Tuesday to give him a day off from any pounding his body might take during a regular practice. His body has taken a lot of punishment over his 928 career carries. 

“He’s everything," Taggart said. "I’m proud of him and I love him. I’m so appreciative to him for coming back. He does it all for the love of the University of Oregon.”

Freeman has amassed 5,499 rushing yards, tops in Oregon history and ninth all-time in college football. His 62 total touchdowns and 58 rushing touchdowns are both program records. He needs one more rushing touchdown to tie former Oregon State Ken Simonton's career Pac-12 mark of 59. 

Freeman could tie and break that record against Oregon State on Saturday. 

"It's going to be a special one," Freeman said. "I'm excited to be out there. I've played here for quite awhile. The fans have been nothing but supportive. And, it's a rivalry game so it's going to be fun."

Following the game, Freeman will exit Autzen Stadium for the final time as a player. The only question remaining will be if he will play in the team's bowl game. Freeman was asked about that on Tuesday. His answer was unclear. 

"I'm just focused on this week," Freeman said. 

In reality, Freeman would be better off making Saturday his Oregon swan song and not playing in a bowl game. There is no point for him to do so. He is already battling injuries and has done his part to help UO return to winning after going 4-8 last year. Oregon has plenty of good running backs to turn to and would do just fine in a bowl game without him. Nobody could blame him for choosing to rest his body and start preparing for the next chapter in his life. 

Either way, make sure to take in the awe of No. 21 running at Autzen one more time on Saturday. He's been a site to behold and one to remember long into the future. 

Dana Altman raises bar on recruiting with addition of Bol

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USA Today

Dana Altman raises bar on recruiting with addition of Bol

Oregon coach Dana Altman added another jewel to his 2018 recruiting class today with the addition of 7-foot-1 Bol Bol, a five-star recruit and the No. 1-rated center in the nation, according to 247Sports.com

Bol, the son of former NBA center Manute Bol, announced his decision today in an article on the Players' Tribune

Bol, when he officially signs, will join a recruiting class that already includes five-star forward Louis King, four-star forward Miles Norris and four-star guard Will Richardson. This is the first time Oregon has ever had two five-star recruits in the same class. 

Oregon's class was ranked No. 8 by 247Sports based on the three signees. Bol's committment raised UO's class to No. 1 in the nation. This comes on the heels of last year when Altman landed the No. 12 class in the nation led by five-star wing Troy Brown. 

The caveat to bringing in such high-end talent is that some could bolt for the NBA after one season. But that would only happen if such a player had delivered one hell of a season. Mixed in with the potential one-and-done talents of Brown, King and Bol are plenty of high-end four-star recruits that will need at least two years to become NBA ready. 

This season's team is loaded with depth thanks to transfers and recruiting despite the Ducks losing seven of their top 10 players from last season's Final Four team. The Ducks (4-0) have been destroying lesser competition with eight players averaging 8.5 points or more. It's an impressive collection of athletes that might not return to the Final Four but certainly will play an entertaining brand of basketball and could grow into a national contender by next season. 

If Altman can maintain a strong mix of transfers such as forward Paul White, who is off to a strong start after sitting out last season following transferring in from Georgetown, and four-star players who will be around two or three years, then the addition of the five-star talent will serve to provide icing on an already championship-caliber cake. 

Of course, it must be pointed out that not all of these high-end recruits will pan out. Former 2015 four-star recruits, Kendall Small and Trevor Manuel, ended up transferring. Forward M.J. Cage, from the 2016 class, redshirted last season and so far this season has received just 7.3 minutes per game. Transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams, from the same class, certainly didn't live up to expectations last season as the top-rated junior college transfer in the nation, and has since transferred. 

Still, Altman only needs to hit on a couple of high-end players from each class in order to piece together a great team. What Altman has done by raising the recruiting levels to match is ability to identify, recruit and properly use transfers is that he has created two flowing pipelines of players that should continue to fill any talent void from year to year and lead to run of consistency that the program has never experienced.

 

Taggart shoots down speculation that he wants out of Oregon

Taggart shoots down speculation that he wants out of Oregon

EUGENE - Oregon coach Willie Taggart hasn't been able to escape the rumors that he could be headed to Florida or that he simply wants out of coaching the Ducks. 

The latter was posed to him following UOs 48-28 win Saturday over Arizona at Autzen Stadium and the first-year UO coach immediately shot it down. 

"Do I look unhappy?" he said with a smile. "I'm not addressing anymore rumors. You might have to ask that guy who put that rumor out there."

"That guy" is ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski, who on television stated that he was hearing that Taggart wanted out of Oregon. 

Taggart has stated repeatedly that he isn't going anywhere. At least not this season. Rumors swirled last week within the college football world that Taggart could land at Florida after the Gators fired coach Jim McElwain. Taggart is from Palmetto, Fla., and coached at South Florida before taking the Oregon job last December. 

While it must be noted that virtually every coach that has ever left a program at some point avoided a question regarding his plans or flat out said he wasn't leaving and then did in fact leave, the reality is that there has been no concrete evidence or reporting that indicates that Taggart is a prime candidate at any program that could be viewed as being more desirable than Oregon. 

Herbert returns, but it's Oregon's defense that shines in win over Arizona

Herbert returns, but it's Oregon's defense that shines in win over Arizona

EUGENE - Oregon finally did something on the football field worth talking about this season by defeating Arizona 48-28 Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.

The Ducks needed a big win in the worst way. They needed the type of victory that would truly signal the program's turnaround under new coach Willie Taggart in a season filled with disappointing performances and yawn-inspiring wins. They needed a win like Saturday's to validate the existing belief by many that the Ducks' future is bright under Taggart. 

For that victory to occur, the Ducks needed sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert to return to action for the first time since breaking his left collarbone seven weeks again against California. But while he certainly did his thing, by far the most important entity on the field Saturday was the Ducks' defense, which devoured Arizona's emerging superstar quarterback, Khalil Tate. 

The win, something Oregon was favored by odds makers to pull of, wasn't supposed to go down like it did. Tate, who in just seven starts had amassed more than 1,252 yards rushing, more resembled a kitten trapped in a box against Oregon than the dynamic Wildcat quarterback that saved Arizona's season, and maybe coach Rich Rodriguez's job, with one show-stopping performance after another. 

When Saturday's game ended, Tate sat at 32 yards rushing, Taggart flashed his victory smile and Oregon had by far its best win of the season.

The Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) are now bowl eligible with feeble Oregon State (1-10, 0-8) up next in the Civil War. Oregon has a great chance to finish the season 8-5 with what should be an easy win over the Beavers followed by likely victory in a bowl game against what likely will be an inferior opponent. But when this season is in the history books, the victory that should be remembered most will be the night the Ducks denied a superstar in the making to make fools out of them and defeated a team that had a real shot at winning 10 games before the Ducks got done with them. 

"It means a lot," Taggart said of the victory that came after five games of mostly turmoil. "It shows the progress in our football team and that we're headed in the direction that we want to go."

With Herbert out, the Ducks lost four out of five games and scored just 34 combined points in those four losses with freshman Braxton Burmeister starting at quarterback. But Oregon team righted itself by realizing that it couldn't lay blame at the feet of the freshman when the entire team had contributed to the team's follies. 

A renewed attention to detail led to a better team on the field when Herbert returned. Especially on defense. That proved true on Saturday. 

Taggart said the plan for Tate was simple: Force him to hand the ball off on zone read and contain him in the pocket. 

Tate looked unstoppable on Arizona's first drive in which the Wildcats never faced a third down and scored after 11 plays covering 83 yards. After that, the Ducks made life miserable for Tate. A defender ran at him every time he showed an inside hand off in order to force him to give the ball to the running back. On passing plays, outside edge rushers committed more to containing him the pocket then going all out for sacks. 

"We tried to keep him in a box," dye said. "We tried to keep him from getting out in space."

That strategy only worked because the Ducks did a great job of stopping the inside and outside zone plays. Many a defense has focused on eliminating running quarterback only to get gashed by inside runs. See virtually every team that ever faced former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota while he operated Oregon's zone read run game from 2012 through 2014. 

Arizona finished with just 171 yards rushing after entering the game averaging 347.7 and even more than that since Tate took over as the starting quarterback. 

"It was just a collective team effort," Dye said. 

The combination of bottling up the inside run game and keeping Tate from finding any creases doomed Arizona's running game, which in turn did a number on the Wildcats' passing game. Tate has a strong arm and throws a good ball but he has yet to prove to be skilled enough to carry a team with his arm. Arizona's previous passing success with him had come about through forcing opposing defenses to focus heavily on the run and thus become susceptible to big plays over the top. Tate entered the game averaging just over 10 yards per pass attempt. Oregon held him to 4.5 on Saturday. 

“We didn’t block them well, we didn’t read them well, and they did a good job," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The frustrating part is we’ll probably watch the film, and they were playing the exact way we thought they’d play, but they were better than us.”

Truth be told, Taggart said he was nervous about how his defense would perform early on in the preparation process because scout team quarterback Demetri Burch, a three-star wide receiver recruit who played quarterback in high school, had been routinely destroying the Ducks' defense in practice.

"They were so frustrated at times they tackled Demetrius when they could," Taggart said. "Sometimes they couldn't."

Having an off week, Taggart said, proved vital in preparing the defense for Tate. By the end of game week, UO's defense had demonstrated greater success against Burch in practice.

"Without Demetri Burch I don't think we would have played the way we played tonight," Dye said. "He gave us a tremendous look these past 10 days."

Oregon cornerback Ugochukwu Amadi said Burch proved to be tougher to defend against than Tate.

The victory made the Ducks bowl eligible a year after going 4-8. Taggart said that he had one question for Nike founder and Oregon mega-booster Phil Knight: "Does Nike make bowling shoes?" 

Corny, to be sure. 

But what's not corny is that the Ducks have clearly made great strides this season, something Taggart traces back to team camaraderie. 

"We've got a group of young men that believe in each other and that care about each other," he said. "I think we saw that throughout the season when we could have easily folded."

Watch: Rapid Reaction- Ducks defense devours Khalil Tate

Watch: Rapid Reaction- Ducks defense devours Khalil Tate

BOX SCORE

Oregon made Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate look quite ordinary during a 48-28 win over Arizona Saturday night at Autzen Stadium. 

UO held Tate to 32 yards rushing after he had amassed 1,252 on the ground in just seven starts. That performance by the Ducks (6-5, 3-5 Pac-12) overshadowed the return of quarterback Justin Herbert from a broken left collarbone that forced him to miss five games. He looked a bit rusty while completing 14 of 21 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown with one interception. 

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman rushed for 135 yards on 19 carries and scored four touchdowns to give him 62 total touchdowns for his career, breaking LaMichael Jame's former team record of 58. 

Sources: Herbert cleared to play against Arizona following X-ray

Sources: Herbert cleared to play against Arizona following X-ray

Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert, who missed five games with a broken left collarbone, has been cleared to play Saturday against Arizona, according to multiple sources. 

A source told NBC Sports Northwest on Tuesday that Herbert was taking first-team reps and would likely start, as reported that night on Talkin' Ducks. However, Oregon coach Willie Taggart that same day said during an interview that Herbert would undergo an X-ray later in the week to determine his availability. 

On Thursday, Brett McMurphy tweeted that sources had told him that Herbert would start against the Wildcats (7-3, 5-2). However, according to a source, Herbert's availability wasn't 100 percent certain until Friday when an x-ray revealed that Herbert's collarbone had indeed fully healed. But, it was pretty much a done deal that he would return this week unless he suffered a set back. In fact, Herbert, a source said, might have been able to play last Saturday had the Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) not been on an off week.  

The injury was believed to require six to eight weeks to heal. Saturday will mark seven weeks since Herbert injured his collarbone while rushing for a seven-yard touchdown in the first quarter against California. That score gave the Ducks a 17-0 lead. They went on to win 45-24. 

However, in the five weeks without Herbert the Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) went 1-4 with freshman Braxton Burmeister starting at quarterback. In his six appearances - counting the Cal game - Burmeister completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns with six interceptions. Oregon defeated Utah 41-20 two games ago but found it very difficult to score in four losses, falling 33-10 to Washington State, 49-7 at Stanford, 31-14 at UCLA and 38-3 at Washington.  

Herbert's return makes it quite possible that the Ducks could win their final three games and finish the season with an 8-5 record. 

Royce Freeman named Doak Walker Award finalist

Royce Freeman named Doak Walker Award finalist

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman has been named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award given annually to the nation's top running back.

With two regular season games remaining, Freeman has rushed for 1,218 yards and 10 touchdowns on 206 carries. Freeman ranks fifth in the Pac-12 with 121.8 rushing yards per game. 

The Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) host Arizona (7-3, 5-2) on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. 

Earlier this season, Freeman became the program's all-time leading rusher surpassing LaMichael James (5,082). Freeman has rushed for 5,364 in four seasons.