Oregon Ducks

Oregon's defense improving in time for Wyoming QB Josh Allen

Oregon's defense improving in time for Wyoming QB Josh Allen

EUGENE - The best thing to come out of Oregon's 42-35 win Saturday over Nebraska at Autzen Stadium was that the Ducks' defense demonstrated legitimate signs of being - gasp - decent. 

The Ducks held Nebraska to 361 yards of total offense, and more importantly, 102 yards rushing. The fact that the Cornhuskers converted on just 2 of 14 third down attempts proved even more impressive.  

“It was great to see our defense step up and make plays,” UO coach Willie Taggart said. 

The defense did so time and time again while the Ducks' offense fell to pieces in the second half after getting the team out to a 42-14 halftime lead. 

Oregon's offense turned over the ball twice in the second half and couldn't muster up much in the way of any offense. That helped put Nebraska in position to score 21 points in the second half. That's still a high number for UO's defense to choke down but the Ducks came up with with numerous stops and key interceptions in the second half (four on the day) to help protect the lead. 

This is a defense that was much maligned the previous two seasons, and deservedly so. One consistent presence on the defense since 2015 has been senior cornerback Arrion Springs, who said Saturday that he hoped the way the defense's performance earned some appreciation from the fans. 

“I guess it was fun that it had to be on the defense’s shoulders this game toward the end,” Springs said. 

The game-clinching play came when senior linebacker Jonah Moi blitzed, ran through a tight end and then forced Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee into a bad pass that lofted into the hands of junior cornerback Ugochukwu Amadi. 

“(Outside linebackers coach Raymond Woodie) always preaches that we have to win one-on-ones with the tight end," Moi said. "I just drove him back and I saw the quarterback’s arm come up and I just hit his arm."

The Ducks weren't making such plays last season when they allowed 41.7 points per game. This, of course, is a more experienced defense in many spots but does have its share of youth, including freshman cornerback Thoma Graham who intercepted two passes on Saturday. 

“I’m more proud of our defense for stepping up when we needed them to,” Taggart said.

Oregon is going to continue to surrender yardage. Anything under 400 in this day and age is pretty darn good, especially considering the pace of the Ducks' offense. If you're going to score, or not score, in possessions that last two minutes, one can't expect the defense to completely shut down teams.

“Nowadays in football people are going to get yardage," Taggart said. "I think what’s important is to take the ball away from them.”

Oregon forced just 12 turnovers last season (nine interceptions and three fumbles). So far this year, the Ducks' have taken the ball away six times (all interceptions). 

Next up is Wyoming  (1-1) and junior quarterback Josh Allen. He is being touted as a potential high first-round NFL Draft pick but so far this season has been unimpressive. 

He did light up Gardner-Webb University (Big South Conference) on Saturday for 328 yards and two touchdown passes during a 27-0 win at home. However, The week before he passed for just 174 yards and had two passes intercepted during a 24-3 loss at Iowa.

Allen might certainly be headed to the NFL but he doesn't have much NFL-level talent around him and could experience another tough day against what appears to be a solid Oregon defense. 

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Oregon at Wyoming

When: 4 p.m., Saturday, War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyo.  

T.V.: CBS Sports Network. 

Betting line: Oregon minus 13.

Records: Oregon (2-0), Wyoming (1-1).

Last week: Wyoming won 27-0 at home over Gardner-Webb. Oregon won 42-35 at home over Nebraska.

Past meeting: Oregon defeated Wyoming 48-14 at home in 2014. Saturday's game will complete the home-and-home contract. 

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (42-45, 2-0 at Oregon); Cowboys' Craig Bohl (119-57, 15-25 at Wyoming). Bohl is the former coach of North Dakota, where he won three consecutive FCS national titles (2011-2013).

Cowboys' impact players: Allen's top two targets are Austin Conway (186 yards) and C.J. Johnson (152 yards). The running game is iffy, at best. The Cowboys have just 124 rushing yards on the season at 2.1 yards per carry. Wyoming gained just 59 yards on 30 carries against Iowa.

Defensive end Kevin Prosser has seven tackles with four for loss, including two sacks.

Fear factor (five-point scale): 2.5. Other than this being a road game, the Ducks shouldn't encounter many difficult obstacles on Saturday. Wyoming lacks the firepower on offense to hang with Oregon. The Cowboys' defense has played well, but hasn't seen anything like Oregon's offense. 

Final pick: Oregon, 44-24. Allen will make enough plays to keep the game entertaining but the Ducks' overall team speed will overwhelm the Cowboys. 

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. 

 

Oregon releases undaunting 2018 football schedule

Oregon releases undaunting 2018 football schedule

Oregon released its 2018 football schedule and, on paper, it has 10 wins written all over it. The Ducks will play three non-conference games with none of the opponents coming close to being on Oregon's level. 

Bowling Green is 2-9 this season, Portland State is 0-10 and San Jose State is 1-10.  On top of that, Oregon will host Pac-12 North Division rivals Stanford and Washington in 2018. The toughest road game at this time appears to be at at Arizona, which will return quarterback Khaill Tate.

Oregon (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) hosts Arizona (7-3, 5-2) on Saturday

As long as the Ducks remain healthy next season, they should win nine games without breathing hard and will have a legitimate shot at winning 10, or more. 

Oregon could return as many as seven starters on offense and seven on defense, plus a host of young backups that gained valuable experience this season. The Ducks also will likely welcome in a top 10 recruiting class. 

2018 OREGON DUCKS SCHEDULE

Sept. 1                 Bowling Green

Sept. 8                 Portland State

Sept. 15               San Jose State

Sept. 22               Stanford

Sept. 29               at Cal

Oct. 6                   OPEN

Oct. 13                 Washington

Oct. 20                 at Washington State

Oct. 27                 at Arizona

Nov. 3                  UCLA    

Nov. 10                at Utah

Nov. 17                Arizona State

Nov. 23 (Fri.)       at Oregon State

 

Arizona presents Oregon with a chance to finally 'do something'

Arizona presents Oregon with a chance to finally 'do something'

The Oregon Ducks have a chance to finally "do something" of substance this season when they host Arizona on Saturday. 

Oregon (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) not only needs a win in the worst way, but the Ducks could use a victory against a strong opponent in order to validate this uneven season in some capacity. To date, coach Willie Taggart's first year at UO has seen a hot start fueled by taking down weak opponents morph into a hot mess after sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert - expected back this week - went down with a collarbone injury.  

Oregon's best victories this season have come against Utah (5-5, 2-5), California (5-5, 2-5) and Nebraska (4-6, 3-4 BigTen). That's hardly a lot to brag about having defeated. Following the Wildcats (7-3, 5-2) on the schedule will be Oregon State (1-9, 0-7) in the Civil War then, assuming UO qualifies for the postseason, a likely inferior bowl game opponent awaits in December. 

A bowl victory would certainly be sweet for Taggart, who has yet to win a bowl game. But the signature victory of the season would still ben a win over the Wildcats, who have won five of their last six games since sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate became the starter.

The trajectories of both teams have been vastly different since Tate replaced injured starter Brandon Dawkins against Colorado on Oct. 7 and Herbert went down with his injury during a win over Cal the following week.

While Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez discovered that he could have a future Heisman Trophy candidate on his hands, Taggart discovered that his freshman backup, Braxton Burmeister, wasn't close to being ready for Pac-12 play. Consequently, not only did the Ducks go 1-4 in Herbert's absence, but aside from a 41-20 win over the Utes, the Ducks scored just 34 points in four defeats. 

Young quarterback, or not, generating just 8.5 points per game in four losses is a poor reflection on the offensive coaching staff armed with a strong offensive line and a stable of good to great running backs led by Royce Freeman. They couldn't average at least 17 points per game despite poor quarterback play? Oregon still would have still lost all four games but at least the Ducks would have shown a pulse. 

With Herbert expected back this week - Taggart said x-rays later in the week would determine his quarterback's availability - Oregon has a chance to erase the madness of the season by closing strongly with three consecutive wins, highlighted by a victory over Arizona. 

Ironically, Taggart swiped Burmeister from Arizona where he had originally committed. Taggart also flipped freshman receiver Darrian McNeal, who has two receptions for 10 yards. So far, that hasn't worked out so well for UO.

But Taggart and the Ducks can make everything right with a win on Saturday. It is likely to be a shootout. Taggart said the Ducks would have to "pray" in order to defend against Tat. Taggart isn't lying. Oregon has zero chance of "stopping" Tate. But, the Ducks' defense could be good enough prevent Tate from eclipsing the volume of offense Oregon should generate with Herbert back in the pocket. 

He will return to find a better team than the one he left. Senior receiver Charles Nelson hasn't caught a pass from Herbert since the first half of the team's win at Wyoming in game 3. When Nelson returned to action at UCLA, Herbert was already down and out. Now they will be reunited in the passing game that will only be helped by a running game that maintained a high level of production despite the lack of a passing threat to keep defenses honest. 

By any measure, this has been somewhat of a disappointing season for Oregon when one considers what might have been had Herbert remained healthy. Now the focus must be to go 3-0 the rest of the way and ride into the offseason with a win over Arizona, a bowl victory and an 8-5 record. 

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Oregon vs. Arizona

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

T.V.: Pac-12 Networks. 

Betting line: Off

Records: Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12), Arizona (7-3, 5-2).

Last week: Arizona won 49-28 vs. Oregon State. The Ducks were off.  

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (45-50, 5-5 at Oregon); Arizona's Rich Rodriguez (163-116-2, 43-32 at Arizona.

Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. Rodriguez is the inventor of the zone read play that he made famous during his days at West Virginia. Now he has an even better running quarterback in Tate than Pat White, who became a dominant force for the Mountaineers 10 years ago under Rodriguez. Tate is doing things from a rushing standpoint that had never been done before in the Pac-12.  Tate is so good as a runner that he makes former Oregon quarterbacks; Marcus Mariota and Dennis Dixon look ordinary. 

Arizona leads the Pac-12 with 347.7 yards rushing per game. Of that, 161.6 has come from Tate. He is the first Pac-12 quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season (1,293 on 11.3 yards per carry). 

Arizona doesn't throw much but when it does, Tate is more than capable of producing big plays, but he has thrown six interceptions. 

Where Arizona is weak is on defense. It ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in total defense. For that reason, it's a good bet that Oregon's more balanced offense, matched against a vastly inferior defense, will prove to be too much for Tate to overcome. 

Game prediction: Oregon 47, Arizona 40.

Top-rated basketball recruit, R.J. Barrett, chooses Duke over Oregon

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USA Today

Top-rated basketball recruit, R.J. Barrett, chooses Duke over Oregon

The nation's top basketball recruit, R.J. Barrett, just moments ago announced that he will attend Duke over Oregon and Kentucky.

"I can't wait to get there next year," Barrett said during a live stream broadcast. 

Oregon is still in play for Bol Bol, the No. 3-rated center in the nation. 

Barrett said he hopes to be one-and-done at Duke and enter the NBA Draft. 

Even if Oregon also misses out on Bol, it has been a strong week for Oregon. The Ducks earlier this week landed five-star forward Louis King out of Burlington, N.J., and four-star forward Miles Norris out of Chula Vista, Calif. near San Diego. Both are seniors and will join Oregon's team next fall. 

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King, the 23rd-rated players in the nation according to Rivals.com, is listed at 6-foot-8. He averaged 13.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game for Hudson Catholic High School during his junior season. The 6-10 Norris has played for Mater Dei Catholic High School,  Helix High School and will play his senior season for Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. 

Oregon begins play this season tonight against Coppin State