Oregon Ducks

Oregon won't 'feel sorry' for itself with No. 11 WSU on the way

The Oregon Ducks in one week went from long-shot PAC-12 North Division contender to a team that could be scraping just to become bowl eligible thanks to a long list of injuries.

Yet, Oregon coach Willie Taggart approached Monday's press conference with a smile and appeared bubbly and excited about the challenges his team faces entering the meat of its schedule starting with No. 11 Washington State on Saturday at home. 

"We're not going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves," Taggart said. "Washington State or anyone else is not going to feel sorry for us."

Taggart confirmed that sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert fractured his collarbone Saturday during the team's 45-24 win over California at Autzen Stadium while scoring on a seven-yard run late in the first quarter. A source said that Herbert could be out 4-to-6 weeks. 

With a bye week on Nov. 11, the seven-week mark would be the Ducks' home game against Arizona (2-2, 0-1) on Nov. 18.  However, a source said that the team is hopeful that Herbert could return closer to the four-week mark. Five weeks out is the Ducks' Nov. 4 game at No. 6 Washington (5-0, 2-0). 

The Ducks (4-1, 1-1) will have to turn to redshirt senior Taylor Alie, who left Saturday's game with a concussion, and freshman Braxton Burmeister until Herbert returns. That situation in itself is going to make it very difficult for the Ducks to win very many, if any, of the team's next five games. Alie has never proven to be a Pac-12 caliber quarterbacks while Burmeister is too inexperienced to be expected to navigate the upcoming series of games. 

Still, Taggart said he believes in both. 

"We have some guys that have played the position and can run the offense," Taggart said. "We feel good that they will do a good job for us."

Other injuries will hurt, as well. Senior running back Royce Freeman injured his shoulder against Cal but isn't expected to miss much, if any time. Sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell falls into the "day-to-day" category, according to Taggart.
Junior inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu is out for the season with a fractured ankle. Senior inside linebacker A.J. Hotchkins missed the Cal game with an ankle injury and is day-to-day, according to Taggart. Expect more time for senior Jimmie Swain, who made starts last year, and redshirt sophomore Blake Rugraph.

Redshirt sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland missed the Cal game, as did senior slot receiver Charles Nelson, who hasn't played since spraining his ankle at Wyoming. 

Breeland practiced on Tuesday. Nelson was seen walking to practice with full gear and no noticeable limp. 

But with Herbert out it almost doesn't matter which combination of other players will be available. Herbert's passing ability is irreplaceable. Without him, the Ducks will likely become a one-dimensional team that opposing defenses will take advantage of. 
After WSU, the Ducks will play at No. 24 Stanford (3-2, 2-1), at UCLA (3-2, 1-1), home against No. 20 Utah (4-0, 2-0) and then at No. 6 Washington (5-0, 2-0). 

The Cougars will be a different animal than any team UO has faced this season. WSU is averaging 41 points per game compared to 27.8 for Cal and 32.6 for Arizona State, which won 37-35 over Oregon. 

WSU senior quarterback Luke Falk has passed for 1,718 yards and 16 touchdowns with just two interceptions. 

"I think our guys will be fired up about it," Taggart said of Falk. "Another great opportunity to go against a guy like that."

Oregon leads the conference with 20 sacks so the Ducks should be able to get after Falk a bit. The problem is that WSU has allowed five sacks and runs a very quick passing offense. 
"It's going to be important that we get to the quarterback because they are dangerous," Taggart said.

On the other side, Oregon must contend with a WSU defense that ranks second in the PAC-12 in total offense (275.2 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (20.2). How UO puts up enough points against WSU to keep pace with its offense without Herbert is something Taggart is going to have to figure out.  

It won't be easy. But at least he entered the week in a good mood and with a positive attitude. 
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Oregon vs. Washington State
When: 5 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium. 
T.V.: FOX. 
Betting line: Oregon minus 2.
Records: Oregon (4-1, 1-1PAC-12), WSU (5-0, 2-0).
Last week: WSU won 30-27 over USC (4-1, 2-1). Oregon defeated Cal, 45-24.
Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (44-46, 4-1 at Oregon); WSU's Mike Leach (118-77, 22-25 at WSU).
Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. This is a bad matchup for UO all the way around, especially with Herbert out. We will find out if the Ducks' defense is truly good or if it has been living off of playing bad offenses. There is zero reason to believe that the Ducks can keep pace with WSU's offense. 
Final pick: WSU 41, Oregon, 27.