Oregon Ducks

Ducks overcome adversity, face uncertain future

Ducks overcome adversity, face uncertain future

EUGENE - The Oregon Ducks stared adversity in the face Saturday night and didn't falter. They barely even blinked. They simply found a way to win, and did so convincingly, 45-24 over California at Autzen Stadium. 

The victory did come with a heavy injury toll, however. Starting quarterback Justin Herbert will miss at least a couple of games with a broken collarbone. Still, the night might have provided another peak into something positive to be found within this team. The young Ducks (4-1, 1-1 PAC-12) remain quite flawed but they don't quit.  Not when Arizona State last week took a 31-14 lead in the third quarter and not on Saturday when players began going down left and right from injuries. 

The carnage could have been enough to cause most teams to collapse, as did the 2015 Ducks during the Alamo Bowl debacle two seasonsago. Not this year's team. These Ducks kept their heads up, backups rose to the occasion and UOs pulled through. 

"I realized that this team cares about each other," UO coach Willie Taggart said. "I think what we're all seeing right now is a team that enjoys playing for one another."

Senior running back Royce Freeman left the game first with what appeared to be a shoulder injury after making a nice cut outside to the right for 13 yards early in the first quarter with Oregon leading 3-0. That drive ended with Herbert throwing a 37-yards touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Brenden Schooler to give the Ducks a 10-0 lead.

Team sources say that Freeman's injury isn't all that serious and that he could return next wek against No. 11 Washington State (5-0).  Taggart said during his post game press conference that Freeman told him that he should be okay. 

Minutes after Freeman went down, sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell went out with an undisclosed injury while returning a punt when UO safety Fotu T. Leiato II doubled back to blast a Cal player only to miss his mark and instead drill an unsuspecting Mitchell.

The ensuing drive ended with Herbert rushing for a seven-yard touchdown to give the Ducks a 17-0 lead. On the play, Herbert was violently tackled as he fell into the end zone. Team trainers attended to him on the sideline before he left the field with what multiple team sources say is a broken collarbone that will sideline him for at least a few weeks.

Oregon entered the game minus senior wide receiver Charles Nelson (ankle), redshirt sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland, freshman safety Nick Pickett (knee) and senior inside linebacker A.J. Hotchkins (ankle). 

After Herbert went out, the Ducks' offense took a nap. After gaining 159 yards of offense in the first quarter, the Ducks managed just 32 in the second quarter. Cal (3-2, 0-2) finally scored and make it 17-7 at halftime. Suddenly, a once seemingly sure victory became precarious for UO.

The Ducks figured things out by the second half, found their resolve and turned the game over to the offensive line and the defense.

"You just have to really just keep going and try not to skip a beat," redshirt sophomore center Jake Hanson said. "It seemed like everyone was going down."

Cal trailed 24-17 early in the fourth quarter before the defense really clamped down. Oregon held Cal to eight yards rushingfor the game, sacked Golden Bears quarterback Ross Bowers seven times and had 11 tackles for loss. 

"With everybody dropping like that we just figred, hey, we're losing people but somebody has to step up," junior defensive end Jalen Jelks said.  

The offense rushed for 126 yards in the third quarter alone and would end up with 308 on the day. Running well became a must after Herbert went out.

"It was good to see our offense able to run the football like we did," Taggart said. "That was important. That was an emphasis for us."

Senior running back Kani Benoit rushed for a career-high 138 yards and scored on a 68-yard run to give the Ducks a 31-17 lead with 9:51 remaining in the game. 

"I don't think anyone waivered at all," Benoit said about Herbert going down. "We knew what we were going to do and we know we could execute it."

A sack of Bowers by Oregon outside linebacker Justin Hollins led to a fumble that the Ducks recovered inside the Golden Bears' 5-yard line. That led to a five-yard touchdown run by redshirt sophomore Tony Brooks-James to pretty much ice the game at 38-17 with 8:01 remaining. 

Oregon showed flashes of heart during a 42-35 win over Nebraska when the defense held on for the win after the offense struggled and the Cornhuskers came back from a 42-14 halftime deficit. Last week at ASU, the Ducks looked awful in the first half before coming back to take a 35-34 lead after training 31-14 in the second half. 

But the Ducks were unable to hang on and lost 37-35. 

On Saturday, UO did lead all game and Cal doesn't have a very good offense. Still, the Ducks entered the game with several key players out and watched three more impact players leave the game. Yet, somehow the Ducks managed to find a way to win. 

Some caveats exist. Oregon committed 10 turnovers for 110 yards with most coming in the second half. One penalty negated a long Brooks-James reception on a pass in the third quarter from senior back up quarterback Taylor Alie before he also go injured in the fourth quarter.

Also, Oregon's defense feasted on a very mediocre Cal offense that entered the game averaging 28 points. The Ducks next face a Washington State team averaging 41. 

Finally, despite finding a way to run well and win this game the Ducks will be hard-pressed to use that formula to win many of the upcoming five games on the schedule without Herbert. 

Alie, should he return, is very limited as a passer. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 41 yards against Cal. Freshman Braxton Burmeister, who replaced Alie when he went down, is a mystery but shouldn't be expected to replace Herbert. 

After WSU, the Ducks play at No. 24 Stanford (3-2, 2-1), at UCLA (3-2, 1-1), home against No. 20 Utah (4-0, 2-0) and then at No. 6 Washington (5-0, 2-0). 

The Ducks will need to be strong on offense to defeat any of those opponents. Unless Alie or Burmeister suddenly prove they can pass for 275 yards and multiple touchdowns in a single game, defeating any of the next five opponents is going to be quite difficult. Just don't tell Oregon that. The Ducks believe in themselves too much to listen to what they can't do. 

After Saturday's game, the team could be heard celebrating in the locker room. That level of enthusiasm will be needed if Oregon is going to able to ride up these difficult injuries. 

"We always say around here, 'winning is living' and I think that's what you heard in there," Taggart said. "It can't stop."

Oregon vs. Auburn stage just got bigger and better with ESPN GameDay

Oregon vs. Auburn stage just got bigger and better with ESPN GameDay

Are you ready for a day long dose of the Ducks on August 31? ESPN’s College GameDay will open the football season on Aug. 31 at Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas to preview that night’s marquee matchup between Oregon and Auburn in the Advocare Classic at AT&T Stadium.

Oregon’s 25 GameDay appearances ranks ninth all time in total appearances.  It also is the third time for a game in AT&T Stadium.

The national attention continues for the game on ABC’s Saturday Night Football broadcast with a 4:30 p.m. PT kickoff.

44 days away from the polarizing matchup, the Ducks are the projected underdog, but I predict Oregon will emerge from probable top-15 battle as the victors.

Optimism is high for Oregon football’s 2019 season and beating the Tigers will essentially make or break the team’s College Football Playoff hopes. A win sends the Ducks and the Pac-12 Conference into national relevancy, and a loss initiates an uphill fight; no team has ever rebounded from a week one loss to make the final field of four.

Oregon is 14-10 all-time in games in which College GameDay is in attendance, six losses on the road or in neutral site games. Last season, the Ducks lost both their games in which GameDay was in attendance (Stanford, Washington State). Auburn’s record is 9-9 when College GameDay visits the site its games, last winning during the 2017 Iron Bowl.

It’s the first meeting between these teams since Auburn’s 22-19 win in the BCS National Championship game in 2011.

"One-two punch" running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye named to Doak Walker Award list

"One-two punch" running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye named to Doak Walker Award list

2018 saw the emergence of Ducks duo CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, who will be excellent for years to come. Now the self-proclaimed "one-two punch" have been named to the Doak Walker Award watch list. 

[RELATED: LaMichael James' take on Oregon running back Sean Dollars: Dangerous]

From the Oregon Athletic Department:

One of just two returning Power 5 running back duos in the country that rushed for more than 700 yards each in 2018, Oregon sophomores Travis Dye and CJ Verdell were named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List on Wednesday.

Oregon is one of eight teams with multiple players on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top college running back.

Verdell is coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he was the only player in the nation with 1,000 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving. He was one of eight FBS freshmen with 1,000 yards on the ground and just the third freshman in Oregon history to accomplish the feat. Verdell finished seventh in the Pac-12 in both rushing yards (1,018) and rushing TDs (10).

An early enrollee in the 2018 signing class, Dye made an immediate impact in his first season with 739 yards and four touchdowns. All three of Dye’s 100-yard games came in Pac-12 play, as he finished 11th in the league in rushing. 

In Oregon’s regular season finale win at Oregon State, the duo combined for 386 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while Dye set the program single-game freshman record with 199 yards on 33 carries. Verdell scored five TDs in his 187-yard performance, becoming the first FBS player since 2016 with four rushing TDs and a receiving TD in the same game.

[RELATED: Preseason award watch lists rolling in for Justin Herbert]

True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal named Kayvon Thibodeaux a “game changer” from the moment he committed to the Ducks. Undoubtedly, ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class is competing for a starting job and I predict the defensive end will lead UO in sacks this season.

Thibodeaux enters into an Oregon pass rushing unit that lost two leaders in Justin Hollins and Jalen Jelks to graduation. Hollins led UO last season with 6.5 sacks. Thibodeaux is poised for seven or more sack this season; he enrolled early, quickly adjusted to college pace and displayed an array of pass-rushing moves that indicate he will be a high-impact player right away.

By the way, the true freshman is doing a push-up challenge on his Instagram account called “see 50, do 50” where he does 50 pushups every hour and encourages his followers to join in. He also joined Oregon's 500-pound squat club during offseason workouts

At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with explosiveness, scary speed and agility that creates major issues for offensive lines.

Thibodeaux’s production will be critically important for the Duck defense. Gus Cumberlander is Oregon’s top returning pass rusher who recorded four sacks in 2018. Whether he’s a first-stringer or a rotational player, Thibodeaux has the opportunity to make a huge impact that could lead to All-Pac-12 honors by the end of the season.

During the UO spring game, Thibodeaux generated consistent pressure and recorded a sack. He would have had at least one more if the scrimmage was completely game-like without the quarterbacks in red no-contact jerseys.

Thibodeaux’s talent plus football IQ equals a star in the making. There are just 46 days until Oregon football kicks off the 2019 season against Auburn on August 31, 2019. In order for the Ducks to contend in the Pac-12 north, Thibodeaux will need to live up to expectations and shoulder the weight as a UO’s leading pass-rusher.

MORE PREDICTIONS

Underdog Ducks will beat Auburn

Troy Dye, projected first round 2020 NFL draft pick, will smash Oregon record

Justin "Record Breaker" Herbert; will set new record for career pass completions

Cam McCormick back with a vengeance

"Dangerous" running back Sean Dollars to have a money freshman season

Preseason award watch lists rolling in for Justin Herbert

Preseason award watch lists rolling in for Justin Herbert

From the UO athletic department:

For the second consecutive day, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert landed on a preseason watch list. This time, Herbert was one of 30 quarterbacks on the Davey O’Brien Award Watch List, announced on Tuesday by the Davey O’Brien Foundation.

[READ: Justin Herbert named to Maxwell Award watch list for America's College Player of the Year]

The Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award is presented annually to the nation’s best college quarterback and is the oldest national quarterback award. Herbert is one of eight players on the watch list that were semifinalists last year.

Herbert enters the 2019 campaign with the nation’s longest active streak of 28 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. On Monday, the Eugene, Ore., native was named to the watch list for the 83rd annual Maxwell Award, which is which is presented to America's College Player of the Year.

The projected top quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, Herbert announced that he would be returning for his senior season prior to Oregon’s win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl. The Eugene, Ore., product started all 13 games in 2018, passing for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Herbert Quick Hits 

» Two-time Academic All-America first team honoree and the reigning Google Cloud Academic All-America® Team Member of the Year.

» Owns a streak of 28 consecutive games with a TD pass, good for the longest active streak in the nation.

» Has led Oregon to an average of 38.3 points per game over his 28 career starts.

» Oregon is 15-6 in his 21 starts over the last two seasons (2017 & 18).

» Enters 2019 season ranked fifth among active FBS leaders in passing TDs (63) and eighth in passing yards (7,070).

» Has 23 TD passes and two interceptions in 11 career Pac-12 road games (10 starts).

Preseason Honors

» Davey O’Brien Award Watch List
» Maxwell Award Watch List
» Phil Steele All-America third team
» Athlon Sports Pac-12 first team
» Phil Steele Pac-12 first team
» No. 11 on Sports Illustrated Top 100 Players

The fresh Prince, that is Sedona Prince, is officially headed for Oregon women's basketball

The fresh Prince, that is Sedona Prince, is officially headed for Oregon women's basketball

It seems like it’s every other week that more good news keeps raining in on Oregon women’s basketball. 

First, the Ducks had their first ever Final Four appearance in program history last season. Then, Sabrina Ionescu announced she would forgo the 2019 WNBA Draft and return to the University of Oregon for some “Unfinished Business”. Then the recruits starting pouring in, and now, coach Kelly Graves has added another weapon to this arsenal of talent. 

The Ducks have officially signed Texas transfer Sedona Prince.

From the University of Oregon Athletic Communications department:

The 6-foot-7 forward from Liberty Hill, Texas, was a McDonald's All-American and Jordan Brand Classic participant in 2018, when she was ranked the No. 8 recruit in the nation by ESPN. Prince is the tallest player at Oregon since 6-7 center Stefanie Kasperski graduated in 1990.

Prince redshirted her freshman season with the Longhorns after suffering an injury while playing for the USA national team at the U18 FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City in the summer of 2018.

Prior to the injury, Prince capped a stellar high school career by being named the Texas Girls Coaches Association Basketball Athlete of the Year (1A-4A).

She averaged 22.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.8 steals and 4.7 blocks per game as a senior after averaging 18.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.0 steals and 7.2 blocks per game as a junior. Prince started all 154 games of her high school career, beginning as a freshman at Faith Academy in 2014-15 before playing her final three seasons at Liberty Hill HS. She totaled 2,759 points, 1,493 rebounds and 924 blocked shots in her high school career.

In addition to the U18 FIBA Americas Championship, Prince's experience with the USA national team includes the 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships in Zaragoza, Spain, as well as the 2015 FIBA U16 Americas Championship in Puebla, Mexico.

Due to NCAA transfer rules, Prince will have to sit out the 2019-20 season with the Ducks. Oregon is exploring a transfer waiver that will allow Prince to play immediately.

Troy Dye named to Bednarik Award watch list for the College Defensive Player of the Year

Troy Dye named to Bednarik Award watch list for the College Defensive Player of the Year

The Oregon football faithful let out a deep sigh of relief the day news broke of Troy Dye forgoing the 2019 NFL Draft and returning for one more season in green and yellow. 

The senior linebacker, who has lead the Ducks in tackles for the third consecutive year, has been named to the Bednarik Award watch list for the College Defensive Player of the Year, and rightfully so. 

Dye became the first Oregon player with 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since Michael Clay (2011-12) and the 15th player in program history to reach 300 career tackles. Dye will be one of just two FBS players, and the only Power 5 player, returning in 2019 to lead his team in tackles each of the last three seasons (91 in 2016, 107 in 2017 and 115 in 2018).

Our Oregon Insider Bri Amarathus says, "In 2019, I predict Oregon inside linebacker Troy Dye’s reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses will continue and the senior will take down the Oregon record for career tackles, set in 1971." 

Fun Fact: In three career season openers, Dye has totaled 29 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, two sacks and two interceptions.

Career Notables:
- Enters senior season third among current FBS players with 313 tackles.
- Needs 121 tackles to become Oregon’s all-time career leader.
- Has led the team in tackles 19 of 37 career games.
- Ranks second in program history with double-digit tackles in 17 games.
- One of three FBS players with at least 100 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 2017.

Preseason Honors: 
- Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List
- Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List 
- Athlon Sports All-America second team
- Phil Steele All-America second team 
- Athlon Sports Pac-12 first team
- Phil Steele Pac-12 first team 
- No. 85 on Sports Illustrated Top 100 Players 

Justin Herbert named to Maxwell Award watch list for America's College Player of the Year

Justin Herbert named to Maxwell Award watch list for America's College Player of the Year

The 83rd Maxwell Award watch list is out and to no surprise Oregon football senior quarterback Justin Herbert has made his way onto that list for the second consecutive season.

The Maxwell Award is presented to America's College Player of the Year. Herbert was a semifinalist for the award in 2018.

One of the biggest storyline heading into the 2019-2020 Ducks football season is will Herbert live up to his great potential? Will he be unleashed? Will we once again see that absolute cannon for an arm, pinpoint accuracy, quick feet and good speed QB take reigns of this Oregon offense and lead the Ducks into a season of triumph?

Will this be the year we see Oregon football back on top with one of the best, if not THE best, offensive line in the country, a deep run game, and a stout defense lead by senior linebacker Troy Dye?

Our Oregon Insider Bri Amaranthus predicts Herbert will break Oregon’s record for career pass completions, set by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota with 779 completions. Currently, Herbert has completed 541 passes in his Duck career, ranking him sixth on the list. He needs 239 more completions to top the list. Last season he completed 240 passes.

Other Herbert quick hits:

- Two-time Academic All-America first team honoree and the reigning Google Cloud Academic All-America® Team Member of the Year.

- Owns a streak of 28 consecutive games with a TD pass, good for the longest active streak in the nation.

- Has led Oregon to an average of 38.3 points per game over his 28 career starts.

- Oregon is 15-6 in his 21 starts over the last two seasons (2017 & 18).

- Enters 2019 season ranked fifth among active FBS leaders in passing TDs (63) and eighth in passing yards (7,070).

- Has 23 TD passes and two interceptions in 11 career Pac-12 road games (10 starts).

Other Herbert preseason honors:

- Maxwell Award Watch List 
- Phil Steele All-America third team 
- Athlon Sports Pac-12 first team
- Phil Steele Pac-12 first team 
- No. 11 on Sports Illustrated Top 100 Players

Chris Boucher: king of Las Vegas Summer League and the Oregon Duck family

Chris Boucher: king of Las Vegas Summer League and the Oregon Duck family

Former Oregon Duck Chris Boucher made a strong statement in Las Vegas; he has nothing left to prove in the G league or Summer League.

After rebounding from injury his rookie season, Boucher earned G League MVP, G League Defensive Player of the Year and an NBA championship. He was the star of the Toronto Raptors Summer League team, scoring 20 or more points in each of his four games played and showed off his ever-expanding skillset. The 6-foot-10 forward’s dominant play could go a long way in proving to the franchise that his G-League production will translate to the NBA.

“It’s amazing what one year can do,” Boucher said following the Raptor’s final summer league game. “Coming into this summer league you can see what I’ve been working on and I can only get better from there.”

Boucher scored 24 points with seven rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot across 29 minutes during Friday's 108-102 loss to the Sixers in the consolation bracket of the Las Vegas Summer League. He averaged 23 points per game, good for fifth in summer league through Friday’s games.

His game showed improvement, specifically by bringing the ball up after rebounds, guarding perimeter players and finding the right spots on offense to score. Boucher said he is seeing the floor better thanks in large part from learning from Raptors’ Mark Gasol who exhibits impressive patience.

Last season, Boucher appeared in 28 games in limited action, five minutes per game, with the Raptors. With the departure of Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors could consider Boucher at the three or four. His shot-blocking ability and defensive prowess also gives him a shot a third-string center.

Ducks fans are very familiar with his excellent rim protection, Boucher was a key contributor in 2017 to help Oregon reach the Elite Eight before an ACL tear forced him to sit out and watch the Ducks lose in the Final Four. The “Oregon family” was reunited in Las Vegas.

Boucher mentioned that we got to see Dillon Brooks (his “best friend”), Tyler Dorsey, Troy Brown and Kenny Wooten. Boucher smiled and said it was fun to play (and talk a little smack) against Wooten and the Knicks in their Tuesday game.

“I got one bucket on him and I had to tell him, hey, I was there before you,” Boucher said. “But it’s all family, it’s all family… The Oregon family is always a family wherever we are at.”

After successful summer league, the NBA G League star turned NBA champion took another step towards having a role in Toronto in the near future.

Ionescu's "freaking amazing" evening at the ESPYS

Ionescu's "freaking amazing" evening at the ESPYS

The 2019 ESPY Awards recognized athletic achievements from some of the most renowned athletes and entertainers including Oregon’s own triple-double queen Sabrina Ionescu.

Wooden Award winning Ionescu brought her twin brother, Eddy, and her parents to the award show on Wednesday night at The Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

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‪Red carpet ready. #GoDucks ‬

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How would Eddy describe the night? A “freaking amazing” evening that was even more special because the Ionescus made it a family affair.

By the way, Eddy hopes to walk on the Ducks men’s basketball team this season. 

The Ducks women’s basketball star was nominated for two awards; Best Record-Breaking Performance and Best College Athlete against the likes of New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, high school track star Matthew Boling, Duke’s Zion Williamson, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and UCLA softball player Rachel Garcia.

Brees received the ESPY for best record-breaking performance for becoming the NFL's all-time leading passer. Williamson grabbed the title for best college athlete.

The Ionescus didn’t come back with hardware but did get to meet some iconic athletes at the star-studded affair. To name a few; Brees, retired basketball player Julius Erving. Houston Rockets’ PJ Tucker and Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart.