Oregon Ducks

Ducks' backs must outduel Bryce Love for UO to win at Stanford

Ducks' backs must outduel Bryce Love for UO to win at Stanford

Oregon's running game had better show up Saturday night at Stanford or this game will be over before Cardinal running back Bryce Love reaches the 175-yard mark. 

Forget about what happens at quarterback for the Ducks (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12). Braxton Burmeister? Taylor Alie? Both? Doesn't matter at this point. Whatever Oregon gets from that position will be gravy and it's not as if Stanford's quarterbacks do much damage, either. 

What matters most for Oregon is that the offensive line doesn't let down the team again like last week during a 33-10 loss at home to No. 8 Washington State (6-0, 3-0) by gaining just 132 yards. The linemen admitted their mistakes. So did their leader, co-offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal. UO coach Willie Taggart made it clear that the players around the quarterback position must play better in order for the Ducks to win and he was mostly talking about the offensive line. 

"Just our entire performance was frustrating," Cristobal said. 

After a week to lament, the offensive line will have a chance to redeem itself and replicate the 328-yard rushing performance the team put forth two week ago during a 45-24 win over California. When the line is humming, the running back trio of Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James usually dominates. They are one of the best trios in the nation. But even they can't get loose with no place to run. 

Stanford's defense isn't playing as its usual dominant self. The Cardinal rank ninth in the conference in rushing defense (182 yards per game) while Oregon is averaging 239.3, good enough for third right behind Stanford (260.5). 

So, there's no excuse for the Ducks not to get the job done in the running game. Not even the reality that the Cardinal could key on the run, as did WSU, knowing that sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert isn't at quarterback to burn it with the passing game. 

Stanford hasn't needed strong quarterback play to balance out the run game. The Cardinal is averaging 188.3 passing yards per game with Keller Chryst and K.J. Costello having split the duties. But, they haven't turned the ball over much with just two interceptions thrown, both by Chryst. 

The Cardinal relies heavily on Bryce Love who has rushed for 1,240 yards on the season. That's 46 percent of the Cardinal's offense. The scariest part is that the 5-foot-10, 196-pound Love doesn't require much running room in which to operate. 

“This kid can find the smallest hole and get through it," Taggart said. "And that’s a challenge for a lot of defenses.”

Oregon, on paper, appears equipped to handle Love. Or, at least not let him run wild. The Ducks rank second in the Pac-12 an 10th in the nation in in rushing defense allowing 93.7 yards per game. However, UO has faced the two worst rushing teams in the conference, WSU (82.7, 125th in the nation) and Cal (96.8, 122nd), and the ninth-ranked rushing team, Arizona State (129.4, 97th). Nebraska (148.5) ranks 79th in the nation and Wyoming sits at 118th (100.4). 

Furthermore, none of those teams has a running back like Love. And, none run the style of offense that Stanford does. Nebraska comes close but Stanford's power running game with multiple tight ends and a pounding fullback working in concert with a strong offense line is another animal. For Oregon to be successful against Love, the Ducks cannot blow pursuit angles or expect that someone closer to the ball will make the play. 

"Stack the box," UO senior cornerback Arrion Springs said. "Staaaack the box. Everybody just has to be ready to stop the run. Everybody has to contribute. It's not just going to be the front seven."

Said Taggart: "We've got to gang tackle. It's not going to be one guy bringing him down. "He can get stopped for two or three plays and the next thing you know he will break one for 60."

So figure that Love is going to do his thing. The quarterbacks for both teams will be pedestrian, although Oregon's should be helped by the return of sophomore receiver Dillon Mitchell (concussion) and potentially, senior slot receiver Charles Nelson (ankle). 

That leaves Oregon's running attack as the only reliable aspect of the team that could lead the Ducks to a win. 

That's not a bad situation to be in if the offensive line brings its A-game. 

Oregon at No. 23 Stanford

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium. 

T.V.: FS1. 

Betting line: Stanford minus 10.5.

Records: Oregon (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12), Stanford (4-2, 3-1).

Last week: Stanford won 23-20 at Utah. Oregon lost 33-10 at home to No. 8 Washington State (6-0, 3-0).

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (44-47, 4-2 at Oregon); Stanford's David Shaw (68-17).

Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. If Burmeister (or Alie) improves dramatically overnight the Ducks will have a strong chance of pulling off the upset. But only if UO's rushing attack is on point. 

Final pick: Stanford 37, Oregon, 27.  UO shows improvement on offense but not enough to combat Stanford's rushing attack led by Love. 

What's Justin Herbert's future? Q&A with Bleacher Report's Matt Miller

What's Justin Herbert's future? Q&A with Bleacher Report's Matt Miller

A NFL career awaits Oregon's ultra-talented junior quarterback Justin Herbert. The question is, how long will that career have to wait?

Another question, what do NFL decision makers make of the 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels?

To answer that question, I reached out to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, who just disclosed that his sources say ‘no one has heard a thing’ about if Herbert plans to declare for the 2019 NFL draft. Miller’s candid answers reveal when he expects a decision announcement, what is weighing on Herbert the most, and that numerous reports depict Herbert as different, weird or immature.

The lure of the NFL and the riches that come with it are tough to resist. But Herbert is not your typical athlete, and fits the mold of a player who might stay for his senior season.

Let’s dive in!

Last day to declare for the NFL Draft is Jan. 14, do you think we will know Herbert’s decision before the end of the year?

Miller: I would expect an announcement after the bowl game. Given his standing that might just be a press conference where he announces his intentions. I would be surprised if anything leaked before an announcement. 

In your article you said no one has heard a thing… Why keep everyone waiting?

Miller: The feeling I got is that Herbert genuinely hasn’t made a decision, which is why it’s been so quiet. Normally we’d be hearing he’d signed with an agent, but that hasn’t been the case. I don’t see it as a scheme or plan, just that he’s truly undecided. 

What do you think is weighing on him the most? The chance to play with his brother? The money? His commitment to education? Something else?

Miller: I can only speculate, but it could be a lot of everything. Many sources referred to him as a different kind of guy who might not feel rushed to get into the NFL. The chance to play with his brother, accomplish more on and off the field in college, and better prep for the league are all great individual reasons so collectively it’s a strong case to return. 

If you could give him advice, what would you tell him?

Miller: My official advice would be to declare. He’s a likely top 10 selection and really can’t help his draft stock by returning. He could absolutely improve as a player, but that’s unlikely to result in him being drafted any higher. Next year’s quarterback class also looks very strong at this point. The competition to be QB1 is weak right now. 

Some consider his 2018 season underwhelming, do you think he hurt his draft stock?

Miller: I wouldn’t call this season underwhelming. Too often people place unrealistic expectations on quarterbacks who are high draft prospects and expect huge statistical seasons or awards, but the traits that make them good prospects don’t always result in high yardage or touchdowns. And he’s still the top ranked passer, so it didn’t affect him. 

What is your favorite thing about Herbert you think will translate well to the NFL?

Miller: He’s a beautiful passer. And I don’t even mean the hair. Mechanically he’s flawless. He has excellent size and arm strength. He can move well out of the pocket. There’s a lot to love. 

What do you think will be a liability/needs to improve on most?

Miller: The biggest area to improve is the mental aspect. There are numerous reports that he’s different, weird or immature. That’s one area where a return to Oregon could allow him to improve as a prospect. 

He’s the top QB on most draft boards, if he declares, where do you see him going?

Miller: As of now, the Giants and Jaguars are the most likely to consider a QB in round 1 and he fits there from a value standpoint as a top ten pick. 

Do you think he should keep the HAIR?!

Miller: HAVE to keep the hair. 

Nation's No. 3 linebacker commit edges Cristobal closer to best ever Oregon football recruiting class

Nation's No. 3 linebacker commit edges Cristobal closer to best ever Oregon football recruiting class

Can you believe college football early signing period is less than a week away? Recruits can ink their National Letters of Intent from Dec. 20-22 and officially join their programs of choice or wait until the traditional signing day on Feb. 7.

Undoubtedly, there will be some surprises between now and February 7. However as it stands, the Ducks 2019 recruiting class is No. 7 in the nation and tops the Pac-12 Conference. Today, Oregon added the highest-ranked linebacker in program history and the nation's No. 3 inside linebacker, Mase Funa.

“Obviously we are on the road right now, recruiting, going 100 miles per hour,” coach Mario Cristobal said in a press conference last week over the phone.

Cristobal came to Oregon in 2016 with a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the country. While at Alabama, he was instrumental in helping the Crimson Tide haul in top prospects year after year. This success earned him National Recruiter of the Year in 2015 from 247 Sports.

Fast forward to 2018, Cristobal is Oregon’s head coach and the Ducks are having one of their best recruiting classes in school history. Oregon has never finished with a class ranked in the top 10 of the 247Sports team rankings.

The #M19ghtOregon class received a nice boost with the addition of its 19th commit in Funa. The inside linebacker is the 13th highest commit in UO history. Funa shut his recruitment down and committed to Oregon after an official visit to USC.

Who is next?

Five-star defensive end prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux is on commitment watch. According to 247Sports, Thibodeaux is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the 2019 class and would be the highest ranked commitment in program history. 

He has narrowed his decision to four schools; Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Oregon. The Thousand Oaks, Calif., native will make his announcement at his commitment party on December 15th.

Here are the major recruiting moves that Oregon made at the beginning of this month.

Will Oregon finish with a top 10 recruiting class? Stay tuned!

Can you guess the most penalized team in the nation? It's not Oregon football

Can you guess the most penalized team in the nation? It's not Oregon football

Oregon’s penalty problem dramatically improved this season.

“Dramatic” might not do it justice. The Ducks cut their average penalties per game almost in half in one season under coach Mario Cristobal.

Oregon was the most penalized team in the country last season under coach Willie Taggart; averaging an atrocious 9.4 penalties for 88.3 penalty yards per game.

To begin 2018, Cristobal emphasized the cure to correcting bad habits from 2017 was a new-found sense of discipline, plus a culture of accountability and attention to detail.
It worked.

In his first year as head coach, Cristobal’s goal was lead the Pac-12 conference with the fewest penalties. He came very close to reaching that goal.

This season, the Ducks averaged 5.3 penalties per game, which ranks second in the conference for fewest penalties per game, behind Washington’s 4.9. The Ducks’ 50.7 penalty yards per game ranked fourth in the conference.

What did Cristobal do to improve discipline? The Ducks have officials at practice that join the coaching staff and players during film sessions to correct bad habits.

“You’re either teaching it or allowing it to happen,” Cristobal said. “And we allowed it (in 2017).”

From dead last in 2017, Oregon finished the 2018 season 35th among FBS teams in penalties. That’s what I call dramatic!

Can you guess what team is the most penalized in the nation this season? Taggart's Florida State Seminoles.  FSU averaged 9.2 penalties a game, a major increase from last season's 6.1 penalties per game.

What's going on with Oregon Ducks defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt?

What's going on with Oregon Ducks defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt?

It remains to be seen if defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will return to Eugene for another season under Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. 

Leavitt is the highest paid coordinator in the Pac-12 Conference, earning $1.7 million a year with a $500,000 buyout. Over the span of two years, Leavitt has improved the Ducks' 126th ranked defense in 2016 to 67th in 2018 in the nation. 

In the video above, I break down the likelihood that a change is made at Oregon.

Hint - It's likely. 

Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman has out-clutched Duke's Coach K

Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman has out-clutched Duke's Coach K

Oregon men’s basketball coach Dana Altman has already reached milestones galore and is nearing Oregon history, but according to analytics, he is also one of the most clutch coaches in the nation in close games.

In games decided by less than 5 points, Altman has the tenth highest winning percentage in the nation during the KenPom Era. Also impressive, he’s coached 20 more close games than any other coach with a top 10 winning percentage.

As you can see, via this graph from Jordan SperberAltman’s name is on the top right corner, indicating his high winning percentage and his high volume of games decided by five points of fewer.

He is among an exclusive group of some of the best coaches in college basketball; Andy Toole, Bill Self, Jim Boeheim, Mark Few, Brad Stevens, Pat Flannery, Ed Cooley, Steve Fisher and Kelvin Sampson.

Notably, Altman tops Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who has the most career wins by any active coach, and nears the middle of number of close games and winning percentage.

The 2013 National Coach of the Year and three-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year entered the 2018-19 season just 25 wins shy of becoming the winningest head coach in Oregon history. Currently, the Ducks are 5-3 in conference play, edging Altman closer and closer to surpassing Ernie Kent's 235 program leading wins (1997-2010). 

Will he get that crown during the 2018-19 season? It’s completely possible, as Oregon averages 26 season wins under Altman.

However, Altman will likely add to that already high volume of close games to get there. Oregon’s inexperience will be an obstacle; the young Ducks average 1.37 years of experience, which is 279th in the country.

Preseason, the Ducks were picked as favorites to win the Pac-12 Conference and ranked No. 14 in the country. After losses to No. 14 Houston, Iowa and Texas Southern, Oregon is no longer ranked in the Top 25.

Altman has his work cut out for him; developing his young and offensive-minded team won’t be easy. He has stressed the importance that Oregon improves on rebounding, defensive intensity and physicality. If he can lead Oregon’s arguably most talented team ever to success, he will top the record books. And if he wins in close games, he will continue to rise among the greats.


Side note, a few of Altman’s success and honors that might blow your mind a little:

  • 34th head coach to record 600 career wins at the Division I level.
  • In 2016-17, Altman led Oregon back to the Final Four for the first time in 78 years.
  • Has won more games (215) in his first eight seasons than any coach in Oregon history. 
  • One of only six active coaches in NCAA Division I with 20 consecutive winning seasons.

Minor, almost mockable: NCAA serves penalties for Oregon Ducks' violations

Minor, almost mockable: NCAA serves penalties for Oregon Ducks' violations

On Wednesday, the NCAA announced Oregon committed violations in men’s and women’s basketball, women’s track and field and football.

The violations and the penalties are very minor…. Almost mockable, considering the level of corruption that exists around the nation in NCAA college sports.

The stiffest penalty? NCAA put Oregon Athletics on two years probation from Dec. 5, 2018, to Dec. 4, 2020. A team already on probation for violations can get substantially worse penalties for similar infractions. Probation can have a negative impact on recruiting and could make the federal NCAA basketball corruption case, that Oregon was mentioned in, more interesting. 

To summarize, Oregon committed violations by having basketball staff show up at practices and voluntary workouts when they weren’t allowed, a professor who allowed a track and field athlete to submit coursework after the course had ended (which he said he would do for any student, regardless of athlete status), and a football electronic presentation that included each prospect’s name, statistics and a high school highlight video displayed in the football equipment area.

Relatively tame infractions that were mostly self-reported. What’s next? The Oregon Golf team penalized for having too many golf tees per bag? I kid, but if you are a worried Duck fan… Don’t be. 

Here are the violations and penalties:

Women’s basketball

The NCAA ruled that coach Kelly Graves failed to monitor his program and failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance by allowing an assistant strength and conditioning coach to participate in on-court activities.

Graves will serve a two-game suspension this season and must reduce the number of countable coaches by one at regular practice for 10 hours during the 2018-19 season (self-imposed by the university). Also, the school must pay a $5,000 fine plus one percent of the women’s basketball budgets.

Men’s Basketball

The NCAA ruled that the director of basketball operations participated in and observed voluntary workouts, which is a violation. 

As a penalty, that individual received a two-year show-cause order from the NCAA. The men’s basketball program must reduce the number of countable coaches by one at regular practice for 5 hours during the 2018-19 season (self-imposed by the university). Also, the school must pay a fine of one percent of the program’s budget.

Track and Field

The NCAA found an adjunct instructor changed a course grade for a women’s track and field student-athlete, which allowed her to maintain her eligibility and earn her degree.

The professor stated this was due to the system not allowing him to give the athlete an incomplete, with the grade coming following the submission of said coursework.

Oregon's senior vice provost for academic affairs said the athlete did not violate the school's misconduct policy, and the professor said he would have made the same accommodation for any student regardless of athlete status. 

Oregon must vacate all records compiled while the athlete was ineligible.

Oregon Football

Lastly, the NCAA ruled the football program gained a recruiting advantage when it impermissibly displayed personalized statistics of visiting recruits during unofficial and official visits on a new electronic reader board in the football facility.

Oregon athletics self reported the violations above. All in all, not much to worry about, Duck fans… Except maybe those golf tees (kidding!).

Oregon football slighted on All-Pac-12 Conference Team

Oregon football slighted on All-Pac-12 Conference Team

Oregon senior defensive lineman Jalen Jelks and junior all-purpose/special team player Brenden Schooler have been named first-team All-Pac-12 Conference. Nine other Ducks earned either second-team or honorable mention honors. Pac-12 head coaches vote on the teams.   

There are four slights I’d like to bring your attention to.

1. Quarterback Justin Herbert, a projected first round NFL draft pick, is NOT one of the 11 Oregon players that made the cut.

The junior completed 59.6 percent of his passes during the regular season for 2,985 yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation, and his 28 touchdown passes on the year are tied for the 10th most in the country.

Yet, he wasn’t considered one of the best three quarterbacks in the conference.

The All Pac-12 team features Washington State’s Gardner Minshew as first team quarterback, Stanford’s KJ Costello on second team and honorable mention went to Washington’s Jake Browning.

2. Calvin Throckmorton, the versatile offensive lineman that ranks as the third best tackle in the country and best in Pac-12 conference, according to Pro Football Focus, was an honorable mention selection.

In 2,232 snaps and 30 games, the junior has allowed just one sack. This season, he has played four positions (right tackle, left tackle, left guard and center) to help lead the UO offense to finishing second in the conference in points, second in rushing and fourth in passing.

3. Dillon Mitchell, who leads the Pac-12 with 69 receptions for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns, was selected to the second team.

The 6-foot-2, 189-pound junior had one of the best seasons a Duck receiver has ever had. He leads all FBS players with six 100-yard receiving games in conference play. Roughly 40 percent of Herbert’s 175 completions in Pac-12 play have been to Mitchell.

Mitchell is 27 receiving yards, nine receptions and three touchdowns away from breaking UO single-season records for each category.

Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry and Colorado’s Laviska Shenault were the first-team wide receivers.

4. Ugo Amadi made it known he felt robbed after being named honorable mention. Amadi, a senior, was one of two FBS players with an interception return touchdown and a punt return touchdown this season.

Amadi led the conference with eight interceptions, averaged 16.5 yards over his 13 punt returns, and earned Pac-12 player of the week for special teams and defense.

Apparently, UO coach Mario Cristobal’s peers didn’t think too highly of the 2018 Oregon football team. Here is the full 2018 All-Pac-12 Conference Football Team.

5 things you should know about Oregon football's 2019 schedule


5 things you should know about Oregon football's 2019 schedule

Is it too early to start thinking about next Oregon football season already? Absolutely not. The Ducks still have one game remaining on this year's schedule: the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31st in Santa Clara, California. But let’s be real here, you may be already starting to book your travel for next year as the Ducks’ 2019 football schedule was just released. Drum roll please...

The 2019 schedule:

Aug. 31 - vs. Auburn (neutral site)

Sept. 7 - vs. Nevada

Sept. 14 - vs. Montana

Sept. 21 - at Stanford

Sept. 28 - OPEN

Oct. 5 - vs. California

Oct. 11 - vs. Colorado (Fri.)

Oct. 19  - at Washington

Oct. 26 - vs. Washington State

Nov. 2 - at USC

Nov. 9 - OPEN

Nov. 16 - vs. Arizona

Nov. 23 - at Arizona State

Nov. 30 - vs. Oregon State

5 things you should know about next season:

No back-to-back road games: For the first time since 2014, the Ducks will not play in back-to-back road games. This is important especially coming off a season where the Ducks struggled on the road with a 1-3 road record this season, with back-to-back road losses at Washington State and Arizona. 

Two bye weeks: The Ducks, just like every other team in the Pac-12, will get two bye weeks. From a sport that is enriched with injury, having two bye weeks is something special. Oregon will have a bye in week two of conference play before hosting Cal and another in week eight before hosting Arizona. The timing of these bye weeks is also something to note with one coming near the beginning and end of conference play.

Home field advantage: Oregon will play seven games at home in Autzen Stadium. This is a huge advantage because Autzen can get LOUD wreaking havoc on opposing teams and creating chaos. Important home game to note: hosting Washington State in week six. The Cougars are sitting on a four-game win streak against the Ducks.  

Stanford, we meet again: Once again, the Ducks will open up Pac-12 conference play against the Stanford Cardinal. Why this is important? This is consistently one of the bigger games on Oregon’s schedule. If we’re looking at the history of these two programs, the Oregon-Stanford rivalry is typically a battle in a tight race for a Pac-12 North title. As the Pac-12 opener once again, Oregon will hopefully be at full strength.

Hello Colorado, USC: Feels like it has been forever since the Ducks played either the Buffaloes or Trojans? Welcome back onto the schedule. Oregon will host Colorado on a Friday night game in Eugene. It will be a shorter week for the Ducks, but note that Oregon will host Cal before this Friday night game, which is huge because if Oregon were coming off a road game, then the weekly schedule would look a lot different and perhaps lose a day of practice due to travel times. 

Did you get your holiday bonus yet? Oregon coach Mario Cristobal did.

Did you get your holiday bonus yet? Oregon coach Mario Cristobal did.

Christmas came early for Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who earned a $100,000 bonus for leading Oregon to a bowl berth with at least seven regular season wins.

Cha-ching! However, while $100,000 is a lot of money, it’s a smidgen of what he could have earned for a bonus.

In his first-year as Oregon's head coach, Cristobal earned $2.5 million for the 2018-19 season, making him the 8th highest paid Pac-12 coach and the 54th highest in the nation. As an assistant last season, Cristobal was paid $700,000.

The upside for Cristobal’s contract is his maximum bonus of $1,825,000, the 8th highest in the nation.

Alas, he missed out on over a million in bonuses, from $25,000 for earning Pac-12 coach of the year honors to $500,000 for winning the College Football Playoff championship game. 

And while there is no bonus financial incentive for Cristobal to win the Redbox Bowl, a bowl victory over Michigan State would make the 2018 season successful and memorable.

Oregon hasn’t won a bowl game since 2014. Let that sink in for a second… The last postseason victory was the college football semifinal Rose Bowl game against Florida State… That was two head coaches ago.

Cristobal could start his own run at greatness with a victory in Oregon’s first ever appearance in a Bay Area bowl game. Which would maybe take the sting out of all the money that was left on the table. 

The Ducks finished 8-4 overall and 5-4 in conference play, missing the following potential bonuses:

- $100,000 for nine regular season wins

- $100,000 for ten regular season wins

- $200,000 for 11 regular season wins

- $250,000 for 12 regular season wins

Washington (10-3, 7-2 Pac-12) secured the Pac-12 North and won the conference title, meaning that Cristobal missed out on the following:

- $100,000 for winning the Pac-12 North Division

- $150,000 for winning the Pac-12 Championship

Failing to make the college football playoff means Cristobal lost:

- $500,000 for winning the College Football Playoff National Championship

- $250,000 for playing in the CFP National Championship Game

- $200,000 for playing in the CFP Semi-Finals

- $175,000 for a CFP Bowl outside of the Semi-Finals

All in all, if Cristobal would’ve led the Ducks to a national championship, he would’ve earned over $1.5 million in bonuses.

One potential bonus remains for Cristobal:

- $100,000 for an academic progress rate grade of 985 or greater (measures how well a program has done at advancing its athletes toward graduation).

Oregon will play Michigan State (7-5) at 12 p.m. on Dec. 31 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.