Washington State head coach Mike Leach is always good for a thought-provoking interview. The No. 8 Cougars are Pac-12 title front runners this season… But who would take the title for last coach standing in a hypothetical brawl between the Pac-12 head coaches? Coach Leach gave a full breakdown.
Initially, Leach picked two coaches he thought are in the best shape; Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and Arizona State’s Herm Edwards.
“Simple, at this age if you’re in shape, you’ve got a chance,” Leach said. “They’re both in great shape. They’re both in shape, they both exercise.”
However, then Leach began to think about strategy in this fake brawl. His idea is you’d have a good chance to win if you could stay away from Whittingham and Edwards, while they are taking down the other coaches.
Leach was asked about Oregon’s Mario Cristobal, a former offensive lineman at Miami, as a potential fight winner. He was very complimentary of UO’s first year head coach and his long limbs:
“Well you don’t want to get tied up with (Cristobal),” Leach said. “You don’t want to let him get his hands on you because he is big and he’s got long levers. You don’t want him to get those things on you. He would be dangerous, there’s no question. Formidable for sure.”
If I had to rank the Pac-12 coaches, based on who would win in a brawl, here is how it would look:
1. Justin Wilcox
2. Mario Cristobal
3. Kyle Whittingham
4. Kevin Sumlin
5. David Shaw
6. Herm Edwards
7. Mike Leach
8. Clay Helton
9. Jonathan Smith
10. Mike MacIntyre
11. Chip Kelly
12. Chris Peterson
I know we've all wondered it, but if there was an all out brawl among the Pac-12 football head coaches, who would be the last coach standing? Here's Mike Leach's take: pic.twitter.com/CBguAAbn8r— Femi Abebefe (@SWXFemi) November 13, 2018
Oregon’s final game at Autzen Stadium will be an after dark special vs. Arizona State at 7:30 p.m. A win would match Oregon’s win total (six) from 2017. Drop knowledge at the tailgate with these eight facts:
ASU is streaking: The Ducks will look to snap the Sun Devils’ three-game win streak, which is their longest in Pac-12 play since 2014.
Much improved Sun Devil offensive line: ASU has allowed just 11 sacks (1.1 per game), which is tied for 12th nationally. Last year, ASU allowed 41 sacks (124th).
Sophomore star: ASU running back Eno Benjamin leads the Pac-12 with 227 carries for 1,295 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. He's had seven 100-yard games already this season and averaged more than five yards per carry over the last three games.
Flashback: In 2016 and his third career start, quarterback Justin Herbert equaled the program record with 489 passing yards in a 54-35 win over Arizona State at Autzen Stadium. In his two career games against the Sun Devils, Herbert is 50-of-77 for 770 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
Leading the nation: Justin Herbert’s streak of 25 consecutive games with a touchdown pass is the longest in the nation.
Hello record books, meet Dillon Mitchell: Mitchell is the first player in program history with six or more receptions in seven consecutive games. The junior’s 904 receiving yards in Pac-12 play rank third nationally in conference games. He is the only Pac-12 player and one of seven FBS players with 1,000 yards receiving on the season.
Putting on a show at Autzen: Over the last two seasons at Autzen (13 games), Jalen Jelks and Justin Hollins have a combined 27.0 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
Senior night: Oregon will honor 10 seniors on Saturday night, and possibly a few juniors who could be playing their last game in Eugene. The Ducks are out of the race for the Pac-12 title and are playing for the best possible bowl game.
Before moving on to Oregon’s (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) next game (7:30 p.m. kickoff vs. Arizona State), let's take a look at the best and the worst from the Ducks’ loss at Utah.
A special connection: The Justin Herbert to Dillon Mitchell connection is still going strong. Mitchell finished with 169 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns. The junior became the 11th player in UO history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Accurate Herbert: The Ducks leaned on Herbert’s arm because of their inability to establish a running game. The junior threw for 288 yards, three touchdowns and completed 60.6 percent of his passes.
Damaged Ducks: Injuries continue to pile up for Oregon. Here is the injury update, according to Cristobal;
- CJ Verdell, who left the game in the second half against Utah and didn’t reenter, tweaked his neck and is believed to be “okay” for Saturday.
- Cyrus Habibi-Likio suffered a quad contusion and he flew home Sunday. “He’s doing much better than expected,” Cristobal said.
- Sampson Nui, who started at inside linebacker in place of Kaulana Apelu (suffered a season ending injury last week), is currently in concussion protocol and his status against Arizona State is currently up in the air.
- Linebacker Adrian Jackson "tweaked" his shoulder but the injury is not believed to be significant. Cristobal is hopeful he will return to practice on Tuesday.
- True freshman offensive lineman Steven Jones is currently in concussion protocol.
Cold start: The Ducks dug themselves into a 13-0 hole, gaining only four yards of offense through three possessions. Starting slow has become a bad habit that is a major trend; UO has been outscored 63-8 in the first half of its last three road games.
Poor run defense: The Ducks defensive line got pushed around off the line of scrimmage, allowing plenty of space for the Utes running game to rack up 232 rushing yards and an average of 4.9 yards per attempt. The Utes had no problems without their star running back Zack Moss. Armand Shyne, who had 166 yards this season, made his first career start and ran for a career-high 174 yards.
Late mistakes: Two late game penalties that killed UO’s momentum. After Oregon claimed the lead, safety Brady Breeze was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the ensuing kickoff to put the Utes at their own 40. Then, cornerback Thomas Graham drew a pass-interference call in the end zone to help set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Utah Quarterback Jason Shelley that sealed the Utes victory.
After losing to Utah, 32-25, Oregon (6-3, 3-4 Pac-12) remains unranked in the latest AP Top 25 poll. The victory sent the Utes up to No. 21.
Two more Pac-12 teams rose in the rankings. Washington State moved up two spots to No. 8 after beating Colorado 31-7. The 9-1 Cougars jumped No. 9 Ohio State, who beat Michigan State on Saturday.
No. 17 Washington, who enjoyed its bye week, also moved up three spots.
Oregon's final home game vs. Arizona State will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
Oregon dropped its third straight game on the road in a 32-25 loss to Utah (7-3, 5-3 Pac-12) in front of a sold out 46,275 crowd at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Ducks drop to 6-4 on the season, 3-4 in Pac-12 conference play and were humbled by Utah in a variety of ways.
On a scale from 0-10 on the “hard to watch” scale, Oregon’s slow start was an embarrassing 11.
The Ducks dug themselves into a 13-0 hole, gaining only four yards of offense through three possessions. In the first quarter, quarterback Justin Herbert had zero completions and was sacked three times, including one forced fumble. Starting cold has become a bad habit that is a major trend; UO has been outscored 63-8 in the first half of its last three road games. However, it’s not the only reason for the Ducks’ defeat in Salt Lake City, after all, the Ducks did work themselves back to lead with eight minutes remaining in the game.
"We struggled to stop the run tonight," nose tackle Jordon Scott said. "I was a big part of why they had a big game, and I have to do better…I've got to get back to playing at a dominant level."
Oregon’s run game was a dish of stuffed Duck. UO surpassed 100 yards rushing but it took 32 attempts. To make matters worse, Herbert was sacked four times and running back CJ Verdell got injured. Running back Travis Dye had the longest run of 18 yards and finished leading the team with 66 yards on nine carries.
To top off the humble pie, the Ducks had two late game penalties that killed their momentum. After Oregon claimed the lead, safety Brady Breeze was called for unsportsmanlike conduct on the ensuing kickoff to put the Utes at their own 40. Then, cornerback Thomas Graham drew a pass-interference call in the end zone to help set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Utah Quarterback Jason Shelley that sealed the Utes victory.
"We have to find a way to start quicker, start better on the road and not shoot ourselves in the foot, especially against a team like that," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.
The loss to Utah is enough to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. Need something sweet to chew on? The Herbert to Dillon Mitchell connection is still going strong: Mitchell finished with 169 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns. The junior became the 11th player in UO history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Oregon returns to Autzen for its final home game against Arizona State next Saturday.
Aaron Fentress and I discuss Oregon's potential bowl game destinations in this week's 'Good or No Good'.
The statement: Oregon will play in either the Alamo bowl or the Holiday Bowl (the best bowl games the Ducks are eligible for, currently).
We both agree that statement is NO GOOD!
My prediction is the Ducks will win two of their final three games (lose at Utah) and finish fourth in the Pac-12 conference, sending them to the Redbox Bowl on December 31, 2018 in Santa Clara, Calif.
Oregon hits the road for a tough test against Utah, who is tied for first in the Pac-12 South Division with a 4-3 conference record.
The Ducks will be wearing all white in what could be icy conditions in Salt Lake City.
Oregon fans are encouraged to wear black on Saturday for the 4:30 p.m. kickoff vs. UCLA.
The Ducks (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12) will be looking for their third straight win in Salt Lake City and to break a two-game losing streak on the road.
Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota had his second best outing of the season while leading the Titans to a 28-14 win at Dallas.
The victory kept Tennessee (4-4) in the AFC South race while sending the Cowboys to 3-5.
Mariota completed 21 of 29 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Also rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries and scored on a nine-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Below is a team-by-team list of former Ducks, Beavers and others from around the state, currently on NFL rosters If we've missed anyone, please let us know with an email to AaronFentress@CSNNW.com:
Score: Won 38-14 at Washington.
- Andy Levitre, Oregon State, guard: Out for the season.
- Rocky Ortiz, Oregon State, running back: Played in six plays on offense.
Score: Lost 23-16 to Pittsburgh.
- Randin Crecelius, Portland State, guard: The undrafted rookie free agent is on the practice squad.
- Hroniss Grasu, Oregon Ducks, center: Appeared in four plays on special teams.
- Patrick Onwuasor, Portland State, linebacker: Had three tackles, one solo and one QB hurry.
Score: Lost 41-9 to Chicago.
- Derek Anderson, Oregon State, quarterback: Inactive.
- Kyle Peko, Oregon State, nose tackle: Is on the team's practice squad.
- Jordan Poyer, Oregon State, safety: Had four tackles, three solo.
Score: Won 42-28 over Tampa Bay.
- David Mayo, Texas State (Scappoose H.S.), linebacker: Defended one pass.
Score: Won 41-9 at Buffalo.
- Kyle Long, Oregon Ducks, guard: Placed on injured reserve with a foot injury last week.
- Ryan Nall, Oregon State (Central Catholic H.S., Portland), running back: Is on the team's practice squad.
- Jake Fisher, Oregon Ducks, offensive tackle: Off.
Score: Lost 37-21 to Kansas City.
- Pharaoh Brown, Oregon Ducks, tight end: Inactive.
- Terrance Mitchell, Oregon Ducks, defensive back: Mitchell underwent surgery on a broken wrist earlier this season but could return at some point this year.
Score: Lost 28-14 to Tennessee.
- Tyree Robinson, Oregon Ducks, safety: Practice squad.
Score: Lost 19-17 to Houston.
- Royce Freeman, Oregon Ducks, running back: Sat out again with an ankle injury.
Score: Lost 24-9 at Minnesota.
- LeGarrette Blount, Oregon Ducks, running back: Carried the ball five times for eight yards and caught one pass for two yards.
- Tyrell Crosby, Oregon, offensive tackle: Appeared in five plays.
- DeShawn Shead, Portland State, defensive back: Had one solo tackle.
Score: Won 19-17 at Denver.
- Brennan Scarlett, California and Stanford (Central Catholic H.S., Portland): Started at outside linebacker and had one solo tackle, one quarterback hurry and defended one pass.
Score: Won 37-21 at Cleveland.
- Steven Nelson, Oregon State, defensive back: Started at right cornerback and had eight tackles, six solo and one interception he returned for 18 yards.
- De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon Ducks, wide receiver: Fractured his leg in practice on Oct. 11 and placed on injured reserve.
Score: Won 25-17 at Seattle.
- Tyrell Williams, Western Oregon (Cascade H.S., Turner), wide receiver: Caught two passes for 23 yards and scored on a 12-yard touchdown.
Score: Lost 45-35 at New Orleans.
- Brandin Cooks, Oregon State, wide receiver: Cooks caught six passes for 114 yards and a four-yard touchdown.
- Samson Ebukam, Eastern Washington (David Douglas H.S.): Had two solo tackles and one forced fumble.
- Johnny Hekker, Oregon State, punter: Punted once for 47 yards and rushed once for three yards.
- Troy Hill, Oregon Ducks, defensive back: Had four solo tackles.
- Sean Mannion, Oregon State, quarterback: Did not play.
- Johnny Mundt, Oregon Ducks, tight end: Inactive.
- Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (Grant H.S.), defensive tackle: Had two tackles, one solo.
Score: Won 13-6 over the New York Jets.
- Kiko Alonso, Oregon Ducks, linebacker: Had seven tackles, three solo and one interception and another pass defended.
Score: Won 24-9 over Detroit.
- Mike Remmers, Oregon State, offensive tackle: Off.
Score: Won 31-17 over Green Bay.
- Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech (West Salem H.S.), punter: Punted three times for 149 yards.
- Patrick Chung, Oregon Ducks, safety: Had six tackles, three solo.
Score: Won 45-35 over the Los Angeles Rams.
- Max Unger, Oregon Ducks, center: Started at center.
- Jonathan Stewart, Oregon Ducks, running back: Out for the season.
- Aldrick Rosas, Southern Oregon, kicker: Off.
- D.J. Alexander, Oregon State, linebacker: Off.
- Haloti Ngata, Oregon Ducks, defensive tackle: Off.
- Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State, guard: Off.
Score: Won 23-16 at Baltimore.
- Kameron Canaday, Portland State, long snapper: Played special teams.
Score: Won 34-3 over Oakland.
- Arik Armstead, Oregon Ducks, defensive end: Had two solo tackles.
- Victor Bolden Jr., Oregon State, wide receiver: Was released on Oct. 30.
- DeForest Buckner, Oregon Ducks, defensive end: Had two solo tackles and one sack.
Score: Lost 25-17 to the Los Angeles Chargers.
- Ed Dickson, Oregon Ducks, tight end: Played but did not catch a pass.
- Dion Jordan, Oregon Ducks, defensive end: Had two tackles, one solo.
Score: Lost 42-28 at Carolina.
- Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State, running back: Carried the ball two times for 14 yards and caught two passed for negative four yards.
Score: Won 28-14 at Dallas
- Marcus Mariota, Oregon Ducks, quarterback: Completed 21 of 29 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Also rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries and scored on a nine-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Score: Lost 38-14 to Atlanta.
- Byron Marshall, Oregon Ducks, running back: Has been played on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He could return midway through the season.
Senior Ugo Amadi likes sending Oregon fans into a frenzy.
Autzen Stadium roared when Amadi scored the first touchdown of the game against UCLA; a dazzling 56-yard punt return taken to the house.
Last month at California, the ball-hawk stunned with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
He is the only player in the nation with a punt return for a touchdown and a pick-six. After each, he earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.
So basically, when Amadi scores a touchdown, he gets recognized. However, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal thinks Amadi deserves more acknowledgement.
“I hope that he is further recognized as one of the best players in the country," Cristobal said. "Because what he has brought to the table, the multiple positions he plays on defense, what he has done on special teams, not only as a returner but on coverage units as well, it has changed us. It really has.”
Cristobal laughed and continued to say he would try to talk Amadi into returning kickoffs as well.
Amadi has become Oregon’s main punt returner this season averaging 24.8 yards on eight returns, only after he suggested the new position to coaches in the offseason. He isn’t laughing about the idea of increasing his role to include kickoff returns. On the contrary, he continues to shove his high school film in front of Cristobal to pitch the idea. Will he get his chance this Saturday in Salt Lake City, Utah?
“Not yet. It’s in the works,” Cristobal said. “(Amadi) is very capable. He’s made sure I go back and watch his high school film again, for the 18th time, so that I see that he has the skills to do so. He’d be excellent at it.”
Jury is still out on if Amadi should add the salesman title to his resume. According to nose tackle Jordon Scott, Amadi is most likely to be a magician.
Amadi agreed because he is “always doing something out of the ordinary.”
The senior certainly likes to delight an audience. Amadi put on a show last season against Utah, in perhaps the best play of his junior year. He punched the ball away from former Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington and ran it back 47 yards for the touchdown.
This week, the Ducks and Amadi face a tough road game at Utah, who is tied for first in the Pac-12 South Division with a 4-3 conference record. The Utes have a run-heavy offense and an NFL-caliber running back in Zack Moss that will challenge Oregon’s front seven. However, a report just came out that Moss is out for the rest of the season.
Amadi or the “quarterback of the defense” as Cristobal calls him, will be as integral as ever for Oregon. The Ducks will need their leader to halt a two-game road losing streak.
Will Duck fans explode with noise due to another Amadi sparked play? With just three Pac-12 conference games left in his college career, who knows what else Amadi has up his sleeve.