The No. 24 Ducks failed to overcome a 14 penalties and a 17-point second half deficit during a 37-35 loss at Arizona State.
It is the first time in a decade ASU has defeated Oregon (3-1).
The No. 24 Ducks failed to overcome a 14 penalties and a 17-point second half deficit during a 37-35 loss at Arizona State.
It is the first time in a decade ASU has defeated Oregon (3-1).
LAS VEGAS - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman made what had to be a tough decision for him to sit out Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.
He made the wise decision, even though it might appear to be selfish on the surface.
"This is hard for him, now," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said today prior to practice at Bishop Gorman High School. "This is not an easy thing for a guy like that."
Freeman, who practiced with the team on Wednesday, was not made available for comment today.
Freeman leaves Oregon as its all-time leading rusher (5,621 yards) and the Pac-12 Conference's all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (60). He has given 947 carries to the program, a total that's also a record. Going out a winner in a bowl game was probably enticing for Freeman but the risk of injury isn't worth the reward. Few will remember or care who won the Vegas Bowl within days after it ends. An injury could hinder Freeman, projected to go in the third or fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, for the rest of his career.
Senior left tackle Tyrell Crosby would be wise to follow suit. Cristobal said Crosby would announce his intentions on Friday. Projected by many to be a first-round pick, Crosby could literally be risking $10 million or more by playing in the Vegas Bowl. A serious injury could knock him out of the first round and into the later rounds, as it did former Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who tore an ACL during practice prior to the 2014 Rose Bowl. He ended up getting drafted in the seventh round and never fully regained health in his knee. He is now out of the NFL.
NFL-bound players electing to not play in their team's bowl game is a growing trend. Former Last season, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU running back Leonard Fournette sat out their respective team's bowl games.
Cristobal is not in favor of this development.
"I like to see key players play," Cristobal said.
That doesn't mean he isn't with Freeman on his decision.
"Am I disappointed in him? No, I'm not," Cristobal asked. "Do I want to see him play? Absolutely. But I stand by him just like I gave him my word and I don't break my word for nobody."
Cristobal said the entire team backs Freeman, as they should
"They understand that this family thing is not just talk," Cristobal said. "This family thing is real. This family will stick together, support each other and we'll press forward."
Oregon's running game should be just fine on Saturday. When Freeman went down with a shoulder injury in the first quarter against California on Sept. 30 the Ducks still won 45-24 and rushed for 328 yards and six touchdowns.
In 2016, after Freeman went down with a foot injury at Nebraska, the Ducks managed to rush for 336 yards and five touchdowns. Crosby was lost for the season in that game.
Interestingly, following practice offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo met with the media and when asked about Freeman's decision said that he was unaware of the situation.
"It's unfortunate," he said. "Obviously, Royce is such a big part of who we area. But guys are going to made decisions based on the betterment for their life. Royce has done an awesome job for us. We're going to miss him...but just like when he went down, we have to find a way to pull together."
The Ducks will lean on senior Kani Benoit, redshirt junior Tony Brooks-James, who will likely be next year's top back, junior Taj Griffin and freshman Darrian Felix.
There is plenty of talent there to win with making Freeman's decision ever more on the mark as being the right move for his future.
LAS VEGAS - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman and left tackle Tyrell Crosby will play their final game as Ducks in Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State.
Or will they?
Both players practiced with the team today at Bishop Gorman High school, but there is a strong chance that each played their final games as collegiate players during the Ducks' 69-10 victory over Oregon State on Nov. 25.
"We will be having more extensive discussions some time between tonight and tomorrow," UO coach Mario Cristobal said.
Freeman and Crosby were not made available to the media today. Crosby said last week that he hadn't yet decided if he would play. Freeman when asked in the past has also not stated definitively either way.
Those discussions will undoubtedly involve the risk-reward factor of playing and not playing.
On one hand, both must eagerly want to end their careers with a bowl victory. As freshmen, they were vital parts of the 2014 team that won the Pac-12 Conference title, defeated Florida State in the first college football playoff game ever played that just so happened to take place in the Rose Bowl, and they participated in the national title game.
Those were the good old days. Since then, Oregon has blown a big lead in the Alamo Bowl and went 4-8 last year when Crosby missed 10 games and Freeman missed some time while being banged up for the entire season. Going out with a bowl victory, any bowl victory, would certainly give both young men something to smile about on the way out the door.
Then there is the risk factor. Both can start getting paid soon after the Vegas Bowl in endorsements and card signing contracts. The NFL Draft is about four months away. Many draft sites project Crosby to be a first-round pick. Freeman should go off the board somewhere between the second and fourth rounds.
An injury suffered in the Las Vegas Bowl could damage their draft status and cost them money. Most recently, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu severely injured his knee while practicing in preparation for the 2014 Rose Bowl game against FSU. Once a potential first-round pick, Ekpre-Olomu went in the seventh round to Cleveland and is no a free agent.
The odds of something like that occurring to Freeman and/or Crosby are long. But it does happen. Any injury that holds them back from working out for the NFL Scouting Combine or provides NFL teams with questions regarding their durability could cost them money in both the short and long terms.
Is winning the Las Vegas Bowl worth that risk? Each player must decide that for himself.
My vote: Sit it out. Both have given plenty to the program. They will have gone out as winners against Oregon State and Arizona and helped get the program back on track. Nobody is going to remember this bowl game beyond next year. Heck, UO fans barely cared the day Oregon defeated Texas in the 2013 Alamo Bowl.
Protect your bodies and get ready for the next chapter in your careers.
Then again, it sure would be great to see both play just one more time.
Oregon returned to the business of football over the weekend in preparation for Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl as if nothing ever happened last week.
During a seven-day stretch crazy emotional swings, Willie Taggart left Oregon to become the coach at Florida State on Tuesday leading to Mario Cristobal being elevated from co-offensive coordinator to head coach on Friday.
Once the madness had subsided, the Ducks got back to playing football and preparing to face formidable Boise State on Saturday.
"I feel like we're very dialed in, especially with everything that has been going on, I still feel like we have our heads on straight," redshirt junior defensive end Jalen Jelks said.
Cristobal said he didn't expect his team to display any adverse impact from going through such a tough week, nor did he believe that the trappings of Las Vegas would distract his team from the job at hand.
"I'm confident about the mindset of our guys," Cristobal said. "During the bowl season a couple of things happen; you have a mindset to go perform or you have a mindset to kind of go have fun. Our guys want to perform well. And to perform well, the investment has to be done during the course of the week."
The last time Oregon played in the Las Vegas Bowl not only did the city's environment get to the Ducks but Brigham Young laid a 38-8 butt-whoopin on Oregon. That Ducks team, however, was a mess. They had experienced a disappointing season after going 10-2 the previous year, and headed to Las Vegas as a fractured bunch.
This time around, despite losing their head coach, these Ducks are strongly united and excited for the challenge ahead. Very rarely does a team's voice get answered when it comes to the hiring of a coach. But certainly the fact that 70-plus players signed a petition asking athletic director Rob Mullens to elevate Cristobal didn't go unnoticed.
The result is an Oregon team that got what it wanted in a head coach. Now the team must go out and prove that it will perform at a high level for Cristobal in a big setting.
Oregon vs. Boise State
When: 12:30 p.m., Saturday, Sam Boys Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
Betting line: Oregon by 7 1/2.
Records: Ducks (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12), Boise State (10-3, 7-1 Mountain West).
Last game: Oregon won the Civil War two weeks go then had the past two Saturday off. Boise State won its conference championship game over Fresno State, 17-14 on Dec. 2.
Coaches: Ducks' Mario Cristobal (27-47, 0-0 at Oregon); BSU's Bryan Harsin (48-17, 41-12 at Boise State).
Fear factor (five-point scale): 3.5. The Ducks with sophomore Justin Herbert at quarterback are a force that Boise State will have a tough time defeating.
Boise State has a solid offense led by quarterback Brett Rypien, who has passed for 2,515 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions.
"He's efficient, he's tough, he's athletic," Cristobal said. "He knows exactly what to do. He's a very well-coached individual."
But the Broncos' 32 points per game shouldn't scare the Ducks, who averaged 52 with Herbert in the lineup.
Boise State's defense has being strong, giving up just 22.5 points per game. But Washington State put up big numbers during a 47-44 triple-overtime win over Boise State and Virginia took down the Broncos, 42-23.
The odds of Boise State keeping the Ducks under 40 are not strong while nothing about the Broncos suggests that they are capable of winning a shootout against Oregon.
The wild card in play, however, could be the status of senior running back Royce Freeman. Should he elect to sit out the game in order to prepare for the NFL Draft, the Ducks would be in for a closer outing. Senior left tackle Tyrell Crosby said on Friday that he wasn't sure if he would play in Las Vegas.
If both sit out, the Ducks would certainly face a much tougher challenge in Las Vegas.
Game prediction: Oregon 44, Boise State 30. The Ducks are fired up. Keep in mind that this program has not won a bowl game since the 2014 Rose Bowl and not many players on the team saw the field that day. They have something to prove having supported Cristobal ball or the head job. Letting him down with a poor performance would be a bad look for all involved.
How Oregon won: The Ducks got back to how Oregon wants to play basketball: gritty defense that turns into fast break opportunities. And that's exactly what we saw on the court of Matthew Knight Arena this evening. Oregon's smothering defense caused 16 Colorado State turnovers that lead to 26 points. It's that quick transition offense that the Ducks find their identity, always aiming to push and control the tempo off either a turnover or defensive rebound. This defensive-lead momentum, along with redshirt senior guard Elijah Brown's team-high 20 points, lead Oregon (6-3) past the Colorado State Rams (4-6) 95-65.
In a post-game press conference, Oregon head coach Dana said, "Second chance points 23 to four, points off turnovers 26 to seven... Those are stats we haven't seen. Out-rebounded them by 14 and this is a team that out-rebounded Florida State, Arkansas, and Colorado, so board-play was good."
Not to mention the Ducks also capitalized off those Colorado State turnovers with 12 fast-break points compared to the Rams' two.
"Payton Pritchard set a heck of a tone defensively," said Altman. "When that point guard is out there setting the tone, then Troy [Brown] and Elijah [Brown] really picked it up. I just thought our defensive effort was better tonight. I thought we gave up fewer good looks."
What it means: This was a better showing of Oregon basketball then the previous four games. Altman and his staff made good adjustments in the second half and relied more on the Ducks bench who outscored Colorado State's bench 30 to 11.
High flying Ducks: Including Brown, six total Ducks scored in double figures tonight: Elijah Brown (20), Kenny Wooten (13), Paul White (12), Troy Brown (12), Payton Pritchard (11), and Mikyle McIntosh (10). This shows the ball movement trending in the right direction for Oregon.
"Tonight was big for him," said Pritchard on Elijah Brown following the game. "He hasn't been shooting it like Elijah normally has been. I'm hoping tonight is how it is every game because that's going to be a big help for us. He can catch fire, so that's big for our team."
Foul play: Both Troy Brown and Mikyle McIntosh finished the game with four fouls each.
Up next: Oregon will host Texas Southern (0-8) at 7 PM (PT) on Monday, December 11 at Matthew Knight Arena.
Aaron Fentress scooped the college football world this morning with the first report that assistant coach Mario Cristobal will be named Oregon's next head coach.
The one thing that sticks out for me about this hire is that the Ducks are getting a big-time recruiter as their head coach -- which may well be the biggest part of Cristobal's resume. To win big in college football -- and Oregon is firmly in that group of schools that thinks winning a national championship is possible -- you need players. Big-time, blue-chip, NFL-first-three-rounds-of-the-draft players. And Willie Taggart aside -- because he cast himself aside so quickly -- the Ducks haven't really had a recruiting dynamo as the leader of the program. Ever.
Again, excluding Taggart, who departed prior to actually landing his first highly regarded class.
It's about time the Ducks brought in a premier recruiter, isn't it? For years, all I've heard is how difficult it is to bring top players to Oregon, which is so far from where all the top high school players live. So why not seek out one of the best recruiters in the country? Once you realize a top-flight sales job is needed, why not hire a very good salesman?
The Ducks have come close to a national championship a couple of times in recent years and I don't think they lost title games because of on-field coaching mistakes. I'm not saying the strategy and hands-on work with players isn't important. But I do think there are plenty of coaches capable of getting a team through a season without messing up the weight-room requirements, who to start at safety, defensive sets and third-down play calls.
Where the Ducks have usually fallen short is in the talent area. Frankly, they just haven't quite been good enough. Chip Kelly's schemes were great and I think his teams were disciplined, played hard and were well-coached. But they were always just a few big-time players shy -- especially up front on both sides of the ball -- from climbing all the way to the top of the college football world.
Cristobal may be able to rescue a majority of the recruiting class that Taggart put together this year. But if he doesn't, that's not the end of the world. The Ducks need big-time recruits EVERY season. And ie appears to me Cristobal is someone with the credentials to make that happen. At least it's worth a try. My only real concern about the hire is that he's another guy from the opposite corner of the country who may be, like Taggart, another candidate for an early exit.
Oh, his record as a head coach leaves something to be desired at first glance. But if you dive deeper into his situation at Florida International, you will find extenuating circumstances.
And recruiting to Nike U. will surely be easier than it was at FIU.
Mario Cristobal will become the new head coach of the Oregon Ducks football team, according to a source.
Cristobal will will replace Willie Taggart, who after one season left Oregon on Tuesday to replace Jimbo Fisher as the next coach at Florida State.
Cristobal came to Oregon last year to become the Ducks co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He previously coached the offensive line at Alabama from 2013 through 2016.
Cristobal has head coaching experience. He guided Florida International from 2007 through 2012, compiling a record of 27-47. He took over a struggling program and went 1-11 his first season. He seemingly rebuilt the program and reached 8-5 in 2011 before backsliding to 3-9 the following year.
About 70 Oregon players signed a petition lobbying for Cristobal to take over the program. He was named interim coach for the team's Dec. 16 meeting with Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The push now is to keep defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt on as defensive coordinator. He wanted to replace Taggart as head coach, so it will be interesting to see if he is willing to remain at Oregon given that he was passed over for another assistant.
However, the Ducks, with the help of some powerful boosters, could be in a position to make a financial offer that could ease Leavitt's disappointment. He made $1.125 million this season.
According to those with knowledge of the search, former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin and current California coach Justin Wilcox were very much in the mix. However, Wilcox, according to a source, never interviewed with Oregon.
Keeping Cristobal is a strong move. He, along with whatever assistant coaches remain, could help salvage what was a top five recruiting class before Taggart departed.
Since he moved on, the class has fallen to in the rankings due to decommits but remains top 10. Cristobal's presence could very well help keep the class in the top 10.
In the end, Oregon got what it deserved.
Karma bit the Ducks in the backside when former coach Willie Taggart, after one Swag Surfin' season, hopped on his boogie board and glided out of town to become Florida State's new coach, leaving behind a lot of angry UO fans and jilted players (see Troy Dye).
For the first time ever (or at least based on what I can tell), an Oregon football coach has flat out left the program for another college job. It's no coincidence that this occurred a year after Oregon fired a coach for the first time in 40 years.
Here we are a year later and the Ducks are already searching for their second coach post Helfrich.
What's most amusing is all of the whining about "loyalty." Really? Loyalty is not sending a group of coaches that had accomplished so much at Oregon out to recruit when the writing was on the wall that they would be fired, then firing them while they literally were in the process of meeting with recruits. That was a messed up and totally disrespectful move by athletic director Rob Mullens on every level.
One recruit's family member, who wished to remain anonymous, recalled an awkward home visit with Helfrich, who clearly believed he was on thin ice. Helfrich told the family that he didn't know if he would remain Oregon's coach while also trying to recruit the player to UO.
That's just wrong. Let's go ahead and set aside Helfrich for a moment, how does one place in the same situation former long-time assistants like Steve Greatwood, Don Pellum, Gary Campbell, Tom Osborne and John Neal?
Those guys only helped anchor the greatest era in Oregon football and what will likely remain the greatest era into the near future unless the Ducks magically win a national title, which remains only remotely possible.
How Taggart dealt with Oregon's players is another story. But in terms of the business side of things. spare me the talk about how disloyal Taggart was to a program he worked for only one year. Especially considering that he didn't leave the Ducks for, say, Arkansas or Louisville. He left Oregon for Florida State, an all-time marquee program that Oregon can't measure up to, and it just so happens to be the team he grew up rooting for while growing up in Palmetto, Fla., where his widowed mother still resides.
That, right there, is loyalty. Loyalty to family. Loyalty to roots. Loyalty to that childhood connection many of you have with Oregon. And, yes, loyalty to the almighty dollar, because Florida State offered more money (six years and $30 million) than Oregon did.
During a candid conversation with Taggart last February, he said that he believed that the previous staff were unfairly fired given all that they had accomplished. But, that's the business, he added. On Tuesday, he played that business to his advantage.
Oregon had avoided that side of the business for decades because the program didn't panic when things went south, as they did last year when the Ducks went 4-8 under Helfrich during the program's first losing season in 12 years. Oregon had a legacy coaching tree in place that went from Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly to Helfrich. The latter three were promoted from within after serving as offensive coordinators to their predecessor. Bellotti retired from coaching in 2009 order to promote Kelly. Kelly left for the NFL in 2013 opening the door for Helfrich. All three came within a game, or two, of winning the national title.
Then, well, Oregon got too big for its britches. The Ducks fans and hierarchy decided that the program was far too big to ever have a down season, which of course is absurd. So, UO blew out the former coaching staff and set out to find someone that would return the program to glory.
That someone was expected to be Taggart. Oops.
What Mullens should have done last year was sat Helfrich down and given him the "win or else" talk. Mullens should have made it clear that he must at least reach a bowl game in 2017 and reestablish discipline in the locker room.
One former assistant coach who didn't believe that the staff would be fired up until they were, stated late last season that had the staff returned in 2017 and had another losing season, he would fire himself.
Truth be told, I liked the hire. It was a bold roll of the dice on a young coach. Oh, and he is African-American, which for me (also African-American and long annoyed by the clear racism involved when it comes to the hiring of football coaches of color) earned Mullens triple bonus points.
But the right move still remains to have given Helfrich and company one year to turn things around. With quarterback Justin Herbert in place, that turnaround would have happened and Oregon wouldn't be in the mess that it is now.
The good news is that Oregon should still be able to find a good coach to lead what will be a potentially really good team in 2018. The trick, though, is finding someone that cares as much about Oregon as Oregon cares about winning.
For all of its bells and whistles, Oregon is not a marquee job. The stadium is small, it's tough to get to Eugene, the region is short on recruits, the fan base is fickle and not nearly as rooted as they are in places such as Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Florida State. Oregon has accomplished a lot with many disadvantages thanks to what was an innovative offense, Nike's support and brilliant marketing that elevated the Ducks brand, making UO a desirable place to play for high-end recruits. But not many proven coaches out there are going to view Oregon as a destination job. Helfrich did. But UO wasn't even on Taggart's radar until he interviewed for the job.
So where does UO go from here.
Kevin Sumlin and Mario Cristobal are good options. Sumlin, fired this year by Texas A&M, is looking to rebuild his career. Cristobal, once fired by Florida International and from Miami, Fla., longs to return to being a head coach.
But would either consider Oregon a place to set up roots? At this point, Mullens will have to build a contract for UO's next coach that makes it very painful to leave for another collegiate program. He failed to do that with Taggart. However, I'll bet that Taggart and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, would not have allowed such language to get in the way of the coach taking off for FSU.I want to see Oregon go after California coach Justin Wilcox. He is an up-and-coming talent that has deep connections to Oregon. He played there. His brother, father and uncle also played there. He likely wouldn't leave Oregon down the road unless it were to jump to the NFL.
Hiring Wilcox would return the Ducks to a place that values connections and roots, a formula tha worked so well for 40 years, save for a few bumps in the road such as the 2016 season.
Whatever Oregon does, the Ducks will have a chance to return to greatness but will never avoid having bumps in the road here and there. Few programs ever do.
But maybe returning to the past in terms of how the program hires and fire people should be more important than the unrealistic quest to become something the program will never be, a place strong enough to keep a Taggart from jetting off to a Florida State.
At the end of the day, the entire Helfrich debate comes down to one more year. Had he succeeded, everyone would be happy. Had he failed, then he would be gone. The former staff deserved that one year more so than a Florida State fan with ambitions beyond Oregon.
My favorite part of the news conference introducing Jonathan Smith as the head football coach at Oregon State probably went unnoticed by a lot of people.
Someone asked Smith what, as the new coach, his slogan is. It's become a thing lately. You know, You "Win The Day" or you "Do Something" or you "Row The Boat." I guess I'd even include "Have a good day -- if you want" in that category, which may be the silliest of them all.
My favorite part of this was Smith's answer -- or non-answer to the question. He seemed taken aback by it, almost bewildered. He then admitted he didn't have one.
That made me happy. I'm getting tired of these trite, worn-out little sayings that make coaches seem as if they're trying to sell me something on an infomercial. And I must admit I've always had some mistrust of people who toss them out at first opportunity. So often they seem like a substitute for something a little more valuable. Tell me something I can use. Give me something of value, in your own words, but don't throw out something that sounds like the title of a cheap self-help book.
And then, for sure, don't try to sell that slogan to me a couple of weeks later on a T-shirt.
Willie Taggart got to Florida State and threw out much of the same jargon he used at Oregon. He reminded me of a vacuum-cleaner salesman going from town-to-town and using the same script on the local rubes everywhere.
To an extent, I could take Chip Kelly's "Win The Day." That works, I guess. But come on -- "Do Something"? That's meaningless. Might as well tell me "Stupid is as stupid does."
And I do think it's possible to win games without having to hang your hat on some sort of catch phrase. Just keep it real, please. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
See what I did there?
Oregon linebacker Troy Dye called out former coach Willie Taggart on Twitter today.
The sophomore retweeted and responded to my tweet regarding Taggart, introduded today as Florida State's head coach, admitting that FSU contacted him on Thursday despite having told the media that he had not heard from FSU through the weekend.
Taggart said he was always open and honest with the UO players and AD Rob Mullens. But we all know that he wasn't always open and honest with the media. He just admitted that he first heard from FSU on Thursday. Taggart lied about that over the entire weekend. pic.twitter.com/GQjkRTOtWr— Aaron J. Fentress (@AaronJFentress) December 6, 2017
He lied straight to my dads face in my living room Thursday night. He didn't keep his word to me Monday. Lost all my respect. https://t.co/JIcv7j6YG7— Troy Dye (@Tdye15dbTroy) December 6, 2017
Dye's brother, three-star running back Travis Dye, committed to Oregon's 2018 recruiting class.
Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens revealed Tuesday that Taggart informed him about FSU reaching out to him on Thursday.
Taggart left Oregon yesterday after one season with the Ducks.
Some players and recruits are claiming that Taggart was not truthful with them through the process.
Freshman safety Nick Pickett also made a comment on Twitter about Taggart.
Editor's note: The tweet has since been taken down
It must be pointed out that one freshman player told me that he told Taggart after the team meeting on Tuesday that he was proud of him and gave him a hug.
So, not everyone at UO is down on Taggart. But clearly, some are regarding the way he handled his exit.