Oregon Ducks

"Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks

"Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks

LOS ANGELES  - Under a hazy pink and purple sunset on the City of Angels, USC fans exited Memorial Coliseum with more than six minutes left in the third quarter as the No. 7 Oregon Ducks rolled to their eighth straight victory. The Ducks beat the Trojans, 56-24, handing USC its worst home loss since 2009.

The pivotal Pac-12 game, in the entertainment capital of the world, was quite the roller-coaster production.

Entering the second quarter, USC lead by 10 points and the Trojan band chanted “overrated” at the Ducks. Around the same time, I was searching an online thesaurus for more words for “ugly” and getting bombarded by “Justin Herbert is overrated” tweets.

After all, in the first half alone, the Ducks totaled 112 penalty yards compared to 113 yards of total offense.

Then, it began to click for Oregon. Despite lacking composure at times, which made Coach Mario Cristobal turn red in the face, the Ducks responded to a double-digit deficit with clutch momentum shifting plays.

The Duck defense forced four turnovers. Freshman Mykael Wright scored on a 100-yard kickoff return. Junior Jaylon Redd muscled his way to score his ninth touchdown in the last eight games. Herbert’s efficiency shined: finishing 21-for-26 for 225 yards with three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.

The (literal) largest electric play came from wide receiver Juwan Johnson in his first start as a Duck. The Penn State graduate transfer became the first Oregon player to haul in three touchdown catches in a game since Bralon Addison in the 2015 Civil War. The 6-foot-6 pass catcher had seven catches for a career-high 106 yards and most importantly... a winning attitude.

“(Juwan) was electric tonight… One of the best things he did this week was text me in the middle of the night and ask to be on the kickoff team and ask to help with kickoff coverage,” Cristobal said. “When you have that kind of an attitude, good things happen.”

Fresh off a clutch performance against Washington State, it appears Johnson’s prominent role will only grow from here.

“Coming off some injuries, Juwan is a guy that I knew would step up big,” Herbert said. “I don’t think the public has seen his best yet. We knew all along he would be a special player.”

The Ducks’ third straight comeback victory keeps them on track to the Pac-12 title game. When the College Football Playoff Rankings are released on Tuesday, Oregon will be in the mix as contenders. Oregon’s smack down of USC will escalate the playoff talk.

"Without question," Cristobal said, "I feel we need to be in that conversation."

Entering Oregon’s bye week, the Ducks feel the best is yet to come.

Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard sets record, Chris Duarte balls out in win over USC

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Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard sets record, Chris Duarte balls out in win over USC

EUGENE - Coming off a thrilling overtime victory against the Washington Huskies, the No. 12 Oregon Ducks next looked to the leaders of the Pac-12 conference, the USC Trojans. 

So, why not have a DOUBLE OVERTIME contest?!

USC (15-4, 4-2) proved to be a formidible opponent. But, in the end, it was the Ducks that claimed victory to remain perfect at home, 79-70.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

PAYTON PRITCHARD

That's it! That's the takeaway!

While he wasn't the Ducks leading scorer, he did set a record! 

The four-year senior point guard from West Linn continues his very impressive senior season. Pritchard became the first player in the Pac-12 to record 1,500+ points, 600+ career assists and 500+ rebounds. Against the Trojans on Thursday night, Pritchard recorded 24 points, 7 assists and 2 steals.

CHRIS DUARTE LEADS OREGON

Offensively, the 6-foot-6 junior guard found his shot early, which was critical to establish an outside game early on this USC defense. Duarte finished with a double-double 30 points and 11 rebounds. He also got it done on the defensive end, getting his hands in the passing lanes and getting 8 steals.

Finished the job

The Ducks had a 3:30+ drought in the closing minutes of regulation, but were able to push past that and force overtime. And then double overtime. In 2OT, it was Duarte and Pritchard who took over and closed the game out. The duo scored every point for Oregon in the double overtime. 

Oregon forced 14 steals in the win. 

UP NEXT: The Ducks host UCLA (10-9) on Sunday afternoon. Tip-off set for 2 p.m. (PT) at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon Ducks' Payton Pritchard makes Pac-12 history

Oregon Ducks' Payton Pritchard makes Pac-12 history

Payton Pritchard continues to show why he's one of the greats in school history.

The four-year starter made conference history Thursday evening against the USC Trojans by becoming the first player ever to score 1,500 points, grab 500 rebounds and dish out 600 assists.

The accomplishment occurred on Pritchard's fourth assist of the night with 8:05 remaining in the game when Chris Duarte finished a lay-up.

Talkin’ Ducks: Ernie Kent says Payton Pritchard ‘epitomizes what a point guard is'

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USA Today Images

Talkin’ Ducks: Ernie Kent says Payton Pritchard ‘epitomizes what a point guard is'

What’s better than one Oregon legend on Talkin’ Ducks? Two.

In this week’s Talkin’ Ducks podcast, host Jordan Kent is joined by his father Ernie Kent, former Ducks basketball coach from 1997-2010. Ernie recounts the toughest environments he ever traveled to (hint: one of them is in Washington), the growth of parity in college basketball and Payton Prtichard’s impact on Oregon.

Pritchard is coming off one of his best performances of the year. The Player of the Year candidate nailed a three from deep to complete a 16-point comeback in overtime over Washington in Seattle last week. Ernie says he kept his eyes on coach Dana Altman, who didn’t even flinch during Pritchard’s 26-foot dagger.

“I saw Dana just stay nice and calm because he trusted a very good point guard, who knew in the moment, why let Washington set up that zone with athletes up top," Ernie recalled. "He pulled up with total confidence and ended up winning the game. To me, that’s a senior point guard who knows the moment, knows the play and more importantly, his coach trusts him to run the show.”

Ernie says he’s seen Pritchard evolve over the years. He first watched him at the USA Basketball tryouts in Colorado Springs during his freshman year.

“His work ethic, his ability to understand the position—it’s very difficult playing the point guard,” Ernie said. “He has really epitomized to me what a point guard is. He’s smart, he’s tough, he understands the game.”

The two also discussed how elite players like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum slipped through the crack when it came to recruiting in the Pac-12 Conference. You can listen to the full podcast below.

Five incoming Ducks, one Beaver headline McDonald’s All-American roster

Five incoming Ducks, one Beaver headline McDonald’s All-American roster

The McDonald’s All-American rosters are out and this year’s game is stacked with future Ducks and Beavers.

Oregon commits Angela Dugalic, Te-Hina Paopao, Sydney Parrish, Maddie Scherr and Kylee Watson, as well as Oregon State commit Sasha Goforth, will take their talents to the court at the Toyota Center in Houston for a game featuring some of the top high school talent around the country.

Both teams showed some love for their incoming players on Twitter. 

Parrish, the nation’s No. 1 guard and No. 11 overall prospect, announced her commitment to Oregon in April. Just a week later, Dugalic, a 6-4 forward out of Maine West High School, shared her commitment to play for Graves and the Ducks.

In May, five-star point guard Te-Hina Paopao committed to Oregon over offers from California, Oregon State, UCLA and more. She is the a No. 14 ranked player in the country. Maddie Scherr, the nation’s No. 25 prospect and projected 5-star recruit, chose Oregon over a dozen other offers. She is the reigning Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year.

Five-star forward Kylee Watson was the last of the group to announce her commitment to Oregon. She is the nation’s No. 18 overall prospect and recently led Mainland High School to its first, ever New Jersey Group III championship in 2019.

With Watson’s commitment, Oregon has four of the nation’s top 23 prospects in the 2020 class.

Sasha Goforth is the only player from the state of Arkansas selected for the McDonald’s All-American team. The nation’s No. 1 wing and No. 9 overall prospect committed to Oregon State in June over 30 other scholarship offers during her recruitment. She is the second-highest Pac-12 Conference commitment in the class of 2020. 

Just when we thought the Pac-12 Conference couldn't get any more competitive, it did. The McDonald's All-American game will also feature Southridge High School’s Cameron Brink, who has committed to play at Stanford and Garfield High School's Dalaylah Daniel, who will take her talents to Cal. 

Where does the Ducks fanbase rank among the best in the country?

Where does the Ducks fanbase rank among the best in the country?

The fans of Autzen Stadium are known as some of the loudest in the country, but where exactly does the Ducks fanbase rank in the nation? 

Well, Matthew Barlett of Saturday Blitz compiled a list of the top-50 fanbases in college football.

He ranked the Oregon faithful at 17th in the country, citing their dynamic Nike uniforms and recent success as elevating them to the elite of modern college football. 

However, he also mentions that Oregon is a "sturdy challenger" to Washington. I guess Barlett isn't aware that Oregon has won 13 of the previous 15 matchups against Washington because it appears that they dominate the Huskies, not challenge them. 

As for the bad, Barlett claims that Oregon never reached the heights that Chip Kelly envisioned, which I suppose refers to not winning a national championship since last decade they made two national championships, won three Rose Bowls and a Fiesta Bowl. 

Here's Barrett's bottom line for his ranking of Oregon.

Few programs have achieved what Oregon has in the past 20 years. The Ducks had four top-5 finishes in five years and boast one of the loudest and most intimidating atmospheres in college football. The decibel level at Autzen Stadium frequently reaches deafening levels. In many ways, Oregon and their zealous fanbase has arrived. In every way, the Ducks are a top-tier program with the on field results to back it up.

Multiple other Pac-12 teams appeared on the list: Arizona State (50th), Washington State (37th), Colorado (35th), Utah (34th), UCLA (25th), Stanford (23rd), Washington (20th) and USC (8th). 

Have you ever been to a game at the Coliseum? It's an old, sleepy stadium that only gets up for big plays... which is a perfect of their fanbase.

Then, of course, this list, just like the national pundits, has an SEC skewing bias. Because, why not? 

Additionally, Ohio State was ranked as the nation's best fanbase. Oregon fans will get to dispute that ranking next season when the Buckeyes play in Autzen during week-two and the following season when the Ducks migrate to Colombus. 

Five-star kicker Harrison Beattie commits with Cristobal, Oregon

Five-star kicker Harrison Beattie commits with Cristobal, Oregon

The Oregon football 2020 class just added five more stars to the roster.

On Wednesday, five-star kicker Harrison Beattie has committed to the Ducks. 

The 5-foot-11, 170 pound kicker from Owings Mills, Maryland received a PWO (preferred walk-on) from Oregon on January 8 and committed to Mario Cristobal and the Ducks exactly two weeks later.

The five-star rating is presented by Kohl’s Professional Camps who have their own rating system. You can view the rating system here.

According to 247Sports, As a senior, Beattie had 8 touchbacks on kickoffs, averaged 36 yards per punt, was 34-36 on extra-point attempts and was 8-12 on field goals with a long of 46 yards. 

Beattie will join sophomore kicker Camden Lewis, redshirt sophomores Henry Katleman and Taylor Koth, and junior punter Tom Snee.

Marcus Mariota has "no doubts at all" about being a starter next season

Marcus Mariota has "no doubts at all" about being a starter next season

It's weird to think that given the preseason expectations for the Tennessee Titans, losing in the AFC Championship game would constitute a bad season but it was that for quarterback Marcus Mariota. 

The only Heisman winner in Oregon Ducks history was benched following a 2-4 start to the season in favor of former-Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Quite a fall from grace for Mariota who Tennessee drafted second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and threw, ran and rushed for a touchdown in the 2017 Wild Card round at Kansas City. 

The Titans would go on to earn a wild card playoff berth, ultimately advancing to the AFC Championship, while Mariota held a clipboard.

When asked after the season-ending defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs if he still believes he's a winning, starting quarterback in this league, Mariota reaffirmed full confidence in himself.

I have no doubts at all, no doubts at all. I'm just hopeful and ready for whatever that next opportunity is.

Mariota has shown flashes throughout his professional career, including an impressive sophomore campaign when he threw 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions with a career-best 7.9 yards-per-attempt until a broken leg ended his season. His junior season saw massive regression as he threw 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions while playing through a hamstring injury. That regression would continue into his fourth season under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel. 

Before being benched, Mariota has a 29-32 record in 61 games as a starter with 13,207 passing yards, 76 touchdowns, and 44 interceptions. After being benched Mariota was a consummate professional until the end. Head coach Mike Vrabel praised Mariota's professionalism throughout the season. 

It's not entirely Mariota's fault, however; few young quarterbacks would succeed with four offensive coordinators and five different play-callers during their rookie contract. When he hits the open market in March, he can seek out a better opportunity to turn his career around. 

NBC Sports Northwest's Seahawks Insider Joe Fann speculated that five teams could bring in Mariota to compete for the starting job: Dolphins, Chargers (if Rivers leaves), Colts, Bears and Panthers. Additionally, if all of those teams don't want Mariota as a stopgap solution as they groom a rookie or stay put with their current starters than perhaps Mariota could return to the pacific northwest to back up Russell Wilson. 

 

Changes to the 2020 Women’s Final Four will make it easier for viewers

Changes to the 2020 Women’s Final Four will make it easier for viewers

There are new and exciting changes coming to the 2020 Women’s Final Four basketball tournament.

Announced today via ESPN, Division I semifinals will be moved from ESPN2 to ESPN as well as the first and second rounds will now be available nationally, eliminating regionalization. 

The reason this is important is you are likely to see either/both Oregon and Oregon State in the Final Four. 

According to Bracketology with ESPN’s Charlie Creme, Oregon is a current one seed in the Portland, Oregon region and Oregon State is a two-seed in the Greenville, South Carolina. 

Both teams are currently ranked in the AP Poll top-10: No. 4 Oregon and No. 7 Oregon State. The Civil War weekend series kicks off on Friday, January 24 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, OR. 

Jaynes: Mario Cristobal put program first in hiring of Joe Moorhead

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NBCSNW

Jaynes: Mario Cristobal put program first in hiring of Joe Moorhead

Time will tell what kind of offensive coordinator the Oregon Ducks hired Tuesdat. But certainly former Mississippi State Coach Joe Moorhead has the credentials for the job.

He proved at Penn State that he can move the football and he showed at MSU that he is a big-time recruiter. I mean, if you can lure four- and five-star recruits to Starkville, Miss., you can get them to Eugene.

But for me, the hiring tells as much about Mario Cristobal as it does about anything else.

There are a whole lot of coaches who would not EVER hire a man who even remotely could prove to be a threat to take their job. Moorhead is a former head man of an SEC program and someone with a solid resume. Cristobal is obviously secure in his job and a lot of people would assume that anyone in his position -- with a solid season behind him, a top-10 ranking at the end of that season and a long-term contract -- would never be threatened by the presence of a veteran assistant who could someday campaign for his job.

But that's not the case.

A lot of these guys are very insecure. They take no chances with their assistants. I see it in pro sports, too, where teams pass on proven assistant coaches who could help their team win because the head man is worried about job security. Instead, these teams continually hire young coaches with something to prove or veterans with no head coaching experience or no interest in ever taking the big job.

Cristobal shows with this hire that he's looking to do what's best for his team and isn't worried about hiring somebody who could someday threaten his position.

And that's what the top coaches do. That's what winners do.