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 RB Darrian Felix to enter NCAA transfer portal

Oregon RB Darrian Felix to enter NCAA transfer portal

If you ever found yourself saying “Man, I wish Darrian Felix wasn’t injured”, you’re likely not the only one. It's the career you wish took a different path. The potential Felix has at the running back position is very much there, but unfortunately the injury bug struck early into his Oregon Ducks career.

Just announced today via his social media, Felix has decided to enter the NCAA transfer portal.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound running back from Fort Meyers, Florida saw action in nine games as a freshman in 2017. In those nine games, Felix averaged 6.1 yards per carry and wasn’t stopped for a loss on any of his 30 carries.

Felix joined CJ Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio in that 2017 freshmen running back class that backed up senior Royce Freeman, redshirt senior Kani Benoit and redshirt junior Tony Brooks-James.

Felix utilized a redshirt season after suffering a season-ending injury in 2018.

His best game in an Oregon uniform came against Nevada on Sept. 7, 2019. Felix recorded eight carries for 80 yards, his longest run at 62 yards and one touchdown against the visiting Wolf Pack. 

What this means for the Ducks:

This season, Felix sat behind Verdell, Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio while also competing with freshmen Sean Dollars, Cross Patton and Jayvaun Wilson. His transfer doesn’t come at much surprise. Sitting that far down the depth chart is tough especially with the talent that Felix brings to the table and the young backs he’s sitting behind (all of the current backs are either sophomores or freshmen). He ran with aggression, poise and swiftness along with his powerful 5-foot-11, 197-pound frame.

A competitor off and on the field, Felix will do great things at his next opportunity.

Oregon Ducks success and snubs in 2019 Pac-12 Conference honors

Oregon Ducks success and snubs in 2019 Pac-12 Conference honors

Let the honors and awards begin to pile up for the No. 6 and 2019 Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks.

On Tuesday, the Pac-12 conference released its first team, second team and specialists honors.

Below is the list of Ducks who made the list.

FIRST TEAM:

Penei Sewell - The Outland Trophy finalist and Pro Football Focus Pac-12 Player of the Year can now add Pac-12 first team All-Conference to his impressive sophomore season resume. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound offensive tackle makes highlight plays all over the field, whether it’s protecting quarterback Justin Herbert or creating a lot of space for the ground attack. 

Sewell was also named on Tuesday as a finalist for the 2019 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award.

Brady Breeze - Rewind last weekend to the Pac-12 Championship game and Breeze played his heart out. Both on special teams and in the secondary, the 6-foot, 196-pound junior flew to the ball and made some serious big hits. The Portland-native has earned and deserved this award this season in his best year yet in an Oregon football uniform. His best game came against the USC Trojans in Los Angeles where he recorded one pick-six, one fumble recovery and seven tackles.

In the Pac-12 Championship, it was more of the same: nine tackles, one interception and one monstrous hit that almost flipped Utah wide receiver Jaylen Dixon.

SECOND TEAM:

CJ Verdell - The 5-foot-9, 210-pound running back has had an up and down season in his sophomore campaign. Easily his two best games were against Washington State (rushed for 257 yards on the ground and three touchdowns) and against Utah in the Pac-12 championship (sealed the win with a 70-yard TD run to go along with 208 rushing yards that resulted in the Pac-12 championship MVP trophy). Overall, Verdell has had back-to-back seasons rushing for over 1,000+ yards for the Ducks, the fifth Ducks running back to do so and just the third as a freshman and sophomore.

[RELATED]: CJ Verdell makes history and smells like roses

Shane Lemieux - A four-year starter on that stout Oregon offensive line that has been named a finalist for the Joe Moore Award that recognizes the nation’s best offensive line.

Troy Dye - Duh. This is a no-brainer but also definitely too low. Dye has lead the team in tackles 19-of-37 career games, has lead the team in tackles the previous three seasons. His senior season, Dye has recorded 75 tackles and two interceptions while wearing a club on his right hand for half the season.

Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year:

Kayvon Thibodeaux - And with good reason. In his first season of collegiate football, Thibodeaux leads the team in sacks (9.0) and tackles for loss (14.0). In the Pac-12 championship, Thibodeaux made Utah QB Tyler Huntley’s life a nightmare applying six QB pressures and 2.5 sacks. He also blocked a punt on special teams.

The future is bright.

SNUBBED:

No Justin Herbert? No Calvin Throckmorton? 

This is by no means in disrespect to the players who were honored with first or second team accolades, but c’mon Pac-12. How does one win the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year and not earn first team or second team accolades? Especially when another freshman defensive lineman in USC's Drake Jackson made second team.

At least the Ducks add Pac-12 champs to their name.

Oregon Ducks jump into Top 10 in latest AP Poll

Oregon Ducks jump into Top 10 in latest AP Poll

After an extended absence, the Oregon Ducks (7-2) have ascended into the Top 10 of the latest Associated Press poll, coming in at No. 10. 

It’s the first time the program has been inside the top 10 since the 2016-2017 season when they were ranked No. 9 going into the NCAA tournament and eventually advanced to the Final Four. 

The Ducks’ only losses this season have come to No. 6 Gonzaga and No. 17 North Carolina in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Both games came down to the final possessions with the Ducks taking the Bulldogs to overtime. 

Oregon has ranked wins over No. 13 Memphis at the Phil Knight Invitational and No. 22 Seton Hall in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. In the later game, the Ducks finished the game on a 14-2 run to steal the victory.  

This Friday, Oregon travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan to play No. 5 Michigan at 9:00am PST in a potential NCAA tournament preview. Freshman center N’Faly Dante will be officially on the team for the game but it’s unlikely he will play since he cannot practice with the team until he officially enrolls in the University that morning. 

Oregon will finish out their nonconference schedule hosting Montana, Texas Southern and Alabama State.

Two years ago, Cristobal was named head coach, now the Ducks are headed to the Rose Bowl

Two years ago, Cristobal was named head coach, now the Ducks are headed to the Rose Bowl

The No. 6 Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) punched their ticket to their eighth Rose Bowl by handedly beating Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game. Ironically, on his two-year anniversary of being promoted to head coach, Mario Cristobal officially learned that the 106th Rose Bowl will be a classic physical battle between Oregon vs. No. 8 Wisconsin.

From a 7-6 record topped with Las Vegas Bowl loss in 2017 to an 11-2 record with a chance to win the “Granddaddy of them all” in 2019, the improvement is substantial and Cristobal is only getting started on this trajectory. Cristobal’s comments when he was reminded of his anniversary:

Just indebted and gratitude beyond what words can describe for that day, the opportunity from Rob Mullens and the administration and, of course, the players who really -- you know, they fought and spoke strongly about it. So it's been -- it's been everything and more that one could ever ask for, and I do feel like we're just kind of getting started and going on a trajectory. The program is what we want it to be. So it's hard to stop and think about it, right, with all the stuff we've got to do, especially in the middle of recruiting. But, again, it's all of those things and more and just looking forward to playing in the Rose Bowl.

The senior class (quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye, offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, etc) and Cristobal have a special bond and connection. As freshmen in 2016, they played on a team that finished 4-8 and left out of a bowl game. In 2017, Cristobal joined the coaching staff and brought discipline with him. Later that season, more than 70 Duck players signed a petition to UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens, lobbying for Cristobal to take over the program when former coach Taggart departed for Florida State. Oregon’s current seniors and a few juniors are the only remaining players who signed that petition.

For that, Cristobal is deeply thankful.

In his two seasons, Cristobal has coached Oregon to 20 wins, including: four victories (undefeated) against rivals Washington and Oregon State, a RedBox Bowl win and Oregon's first conference title since 2014. The Ducks have gone from unranked to No. 6 and have landed the program's best two recruiting classes in history. Not bad. 

The Ducks have 23 days to prepare for the Badgers, who have an impressive resume with three top-25 wins. What will Oregon’s bowl game prep consist of?

We'll use every day allotted to us… We have final exams now. So those guys will take a deep dive in academics and handle all their business now. And then while we have some strength and conditioning sessions and some rehabilitation, mobility sessions, get the bodies back. But we came out of the game healthy, and we really want to take advantage of these practices, not only from a preparations standpoint, which is the most important part, but also from a player development standpoint. We still have some guys that haven't used their four games. They haven't red shirted and we feel that could help us a little bit. So, it will be business as usual. It really will. After a week off, we feel that we can go back to our regular routine and not really off too much.

So, the Ducks have three weeks to tune up their already healthy roster, develop underclassmen, ace their finals and get back to routine practice for Wisconsin.

With Cristobal’s stamp so deeply engraved on the Oregon program, it’s hard to believe that just two years ago he got the call to be at the top.

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

There wasn’t a whole lot of drama surrounding the College Football Playoff and bowl game reveal this year. No. 1 LSU will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl Semifinal and No. 2 Ohio State will play No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl Semifinal. However, Oregon fans were reeling to see who Ducks would face in the Rose Bowl: Penn State or Wisconsin. It’d be easy to make a case for each but…

Oregon’s eighth Rose Bowl appearance will be versus Big Ten opponent Wisconsin.

In the final College Football Playoff rankings, the Pac-12 Conference champion Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) are No. 6, while Wisconsin (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten) is No. 8.

The Ducks will play in the “Granddaddy of them all” in Pasadena, California at 2 p.m. (PT) on January 1, 2020. After winning the Pac-12 Championship game against Utah, the Ducks are tied with Stanford for the most conference title game wins with three. Also, the impressive win against the Utes marked the first time the Ducks have beaten a top-5 team since dismantling Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl.

Oregon’s 11-win season has been highlighted by some incredible defensive play. The Duck defense has help 12 of it 13 opponents under their season average with the lowest point allowed per game (15.7) in school history since 1966.

[READ:Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight]

Oregon offense peaked at the perfect time against the Utah’s nation-leading rushing defense. The Ducks finished with 432 yards of total offense with 239 yards on the ground. Entering the game, Utah was allowing just 241.6 yards per game and 56.2 yards on the ground.

The Ducks will need another complete game against Wisconsin. A sneak peak into the New Year’s six matchup reveals three important things about the Badgers:

1. It’s Wisconsin’s 10th Rose Bowl appearance, losing each of the last three matchups, which includes the 2012 Rose Bowl when the Ducks deafeated a Russell Wilson led Badgers team, 45-38.

2. The Badgers have an impressive 2019 resume, with three top-25 wins (Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota). Maybe the most intriguing? Wisconsin roared into the Big Ten Championship Game with a dominating first-half lead, but Ohio State rallied back to claim the Big Ten title, 34-21.Their biggest blemish is a one-point road loss to Illinois.

3. Wisconsin’s leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor, plans to play in the Bowl Game. Against Ohio State, Taylor rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown, becoming the seventh player in FBS history to reach 6,000 yards rushing in his career. The junior is considered a likely candidate to enter the 2020 NFL draft. Last month, he was listed as the No. 27 overall prospect by ESPN's Todd McShay and the No. 2 running back by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

Get your popcorn ready, this is going to be a fun matchup!

Oregon Ducks set to take on Wisconsin Badgers in 106th Rose Bowl

Oregon Ducks set to take on Wisconsin Badgers in 106th Rose Bowl

The Oregon Ducks have an opponent in the “Granddaddy of them all.”

Coming off a competitive game vs. the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes, the University of Wisconsin has punched their ticket into the 106th Rose Bowl to take on Oregon on New Year’s Day. 

It's a re-match!

The two teams last met in the 98th edition of the Rose Bowl in 2012. Oregon inched out Wisconsin 45-38, giving the Ducks their first Rose Bowl win since 1917. 

Another piece of housekeeping with the reveal of the Rose Bowl matchup was where the Ducks would sit in the CFB rankings. 

The College Football Playoff semifinal games were determined Sunday morning with No. 1 LSU facing No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl and the No. 2 Ohio State facing No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. 

With the Oregon Ducks set to face Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl on New Years Day, they will come in ranked No. 6 in the nation, one spot from the College Football Playoff. It's their highest ranking since 2014.

More to come! 

Oregon running backs coach Jim Mastro linked to head coaching job

Oregon running backs coach Jim Mastro linked to head coaching job

Oregon's running back coach and run game coordinator Jim Mastro has been linked as a leading candidate for the open Cal Poly head coaching position, according to Football Scoop.

Mastro played at and began his coaching career at Cal Poly. After coaching from 1989-96 at Cal Poly, he moved on to Idaho, Nevada, UCLA, Washington State and currently Oregon.

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal is very aware of the coaching carousel and said this of his staff last Monday.

 

The coaching carousel, that’s never going to go away and it’s always going to be what it is. We have really good relationships here and opportunities are going to come up for coaches. I’m always in favor of helping guys if they have a better situation and a better opportunity to better their careers, as it relates to their goals and their families. I can’t agree with their being any better opportunity than being here at Oregon, right, so I’ll always be very honest.


Mastro and the Ducks are coming off a spectacular rushing performance against Utah, the nation’s top running defense in the Pac-12 Championship game. Running back CJ Verdell has totaled 1,171 yards this season, rushing for 208 yards against the Utes, who were allowing just 58 yards on the ground per game on average.

So far in 2019, Oregon's running backs have rushed for 2,441 yards with Verdell reaching 1,000 yards for the second straight season.

Mastro came to Oregon after spending the six seasons (2012-17) coaching running backs at Washington State. During the 2017 season, WSU's running backs combined to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing (1,096) and receiving (1,073) for the second consecutive season, finishing with a combined 2,169 yards. The year before (2016), the Cougars were just one of four teams in the country to have their running backs eclipse 1,000 yards in both rushing (1,660) and receiving (1,034).

Oregon Ducks use big second half to blow out Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

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goducks.com

Oregon Ducks use big second half to blow out Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

A day after the Oregon Ducks football team clinched a berth to the Rose Bowl, the men’s basketball team was in a action 

After lackluster first half, the Oregon Ducks used a big second half to capture an 89-64 win over Hawaii Saturday night at Matthew Night Arena. 

Oregon's win snapped Hawaii's five-game winning streak in the series. The Ducks last defeated the Rainbow Warriors on Feb. 1, 1975. 

The Ducks were fueled by freshman C.J. Walker, who scored 18 points in place of an injured Shakur Juiston and a double-double performance from Payton Pritchard. 

Prtichard finished with 20 points and 11 assists in the win.

Tied at halftime, Oregon opened the second half on a 20-1 run and then a 12-0 run late to pull away from Hawaii. 

Walker's 18 points gave him a season-high for the third time in the last four games.

The Ducks will play at No. 4 Michigan next Saturday.

Who will be Oregon's opponent in the Rose Bowl? Here's the scenarios...

Who will be Oregon's opponent in the Rose Bowl? Here's the scenarios...

The Oregon Ducks are Rose Bowl bound. That much is clear. 

Ticket punched. Boom. 

Now, who will Oregon play? Minnesota? Penn State? Wisconsin? A team not in the Big 10?

The answer to that is a little more complicated.

Here’s a quick explanation and possible scenarios… 

The Rose Bowl Game is contractually obligated to feature the Pac-12 Conference Champion and the Big Ten Conference Champion.

However, the Ohio State Buckeyes, a Big 10 team, is currently undefeated, sits atop the College Football Playoff rankings and a 16-point favorite to win Saturday night’s Big 10 Championship vs. No. 8 Wisconsin (10-2).

Unless the Badgers pull off a colossal upset, the Buckeyes will be headed to the College Football semifinals, leaving the Big 10’s spot in the Rose Bowl open.

The Tournament of Roses website explains what happens in a scenario like this:

Should a team from the Big Ten or Pac-12 be selected to go to the College Football Playoff, the Tournament of Roses will traditionally select the next-highest CFP-ranked team from that conference.

The Tournament of Roses may only select a team from its partner conferences.

This rules out anyone from a different conference facing the Ducks on New Years Day. During the BCS era, an at-large team was able to play in the Rose Bowl. That is no longer an option. 

So, that leaves Penn State, Wisconsin and even Minnesota as possible candidates.

If Ohio State does as expected, they will not only advance to the CFB playoff, but hand Wisconsin its third loss of the season. 

The No. 8 Badgers’ ranking would drop and Penn State, current No. 10 in the CFB ranking, would slide up and surpass Wisconsin. 

There is, however, a caveat to that clause in the Rose Bowl contract.

“If the next-highest ranked team is in a ‘cluster’ of teams, meaning there is another team or teams from the same conference ranked within several spots of each other, the Tournament of Roses will select the team from that cluster that will result in the best possible matchup for the Rose Bowl Game,” said Rose Bowl Management Committee Chair Scott Jenkins.

So, even in a loss, Wisconsin could go to the Rose Bowl. Penn State appears to be in an ideal spot, having lost just two games this season, one of which was to Ohio State. Minnesota, whose last appearance in Pasadena came in 1962, is on the outside looking in. The Golden Gophers lost to Wisconsin 38-17 on November 30th and currently rank 18th. There’s a path, it just seems as if it’s a steep and rocky terrain to get there. 

We’ll see how the Big 10 Championship shakes out, but Oregon fans should be prepared for an Oregon-Penn State Rose Bowl match-up on New Year’s Day. 

One person who is probably looking forward to that possibility: Ducks wide receiver Juwan Johnson, who transferred to Oregon from Penn State this season.