Oregon Ducks

Ducks, sans raincoats, rain touchdowns in Corvallis

Ducks, sans raincoats, rain touchdowns in Corvallis

CORVALLIS- Oregon crushed Oregon State 55-15 in the 122nd Civil War on a typical rainy and cold November day in front of a weak 39,776 fans in Reser Stadium.

The rivalry victory launched the rambunctious Ducks on the sideline to erupt in a chant of "This is Our House" and caused a grinning embrace between UO coach Mario Cristobal and athletic director Rob Mullens. Alas, there was another noticeable change from the last time Oregon visited Corvallis; No one in a Ducks uniform donned a raincoat. 

Cristobal made sure to change the narrative from the Ducks’ last trip to OSU. The 2016 game is one most Oregon fans and players would like to forget. Not only did OSU beat Oregon, 34-24, in a rainstorm but the Beavers proceeded to call the Ducks "soft" for putting on “shiny raincoats” when the showers hit.

Cristobal wasn’t on the coaching staff then but remembers the headlines well.

“I hate to bring it up again, but I read so many articles about shiny raincoats,” Cristobal said. “Shiny coats came out, Oregon gave up a 10-point lead and is accused of what a football player never wants to be accused of; being soft. Those words, they dig pretty deep now. Those things aren’t forgotten so easily.”

And forget they did not. This season’s Civil War exhibited the toughest weather conditions Oregon has faced so far in 2018, but the coaching staff prepared the Ducks to embrace the storm. This week, as the Ducks prepared for the Beavers in the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, the giant screen displayed the weather forecast; 90 percent chance of rain.

“All week (Cristobal) was saying the rain is coming, we knew it was coming and it didn’t effect us at all,” freshman running back Travis Dye said. “We embraced it, took it and we ran with it.”

The Ducks literally ran with it. Oregon rushed for a season-high 392 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Both freshmen running backs reached career highs. CJ Verdell shined, barreling for a career-high 187 yards on 23 carries and four rushing touchdowns, adding one receiving touchdown to score five total. Dye was one yard away from the 200-yard mark, finishing with 33 carries, 199 yards and two touchdowns.

"They had some open holes, but they ran hard," Cristobal said of Verdell and Dye. "They broke tackles."

Dye set a new Oregon freshman record for single-game rushing yards. Verdell became the first player in the FBS this season with four rushing and one receiving touchdown.

“I’ve been telling people from the beginning, this one-two punch can’t be stopped,” said Dye.

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It was an important game for Oregon to be able to count on the duo, as quarterback Justin Herbert went down with an injury after being sacked in the second quarter. The severity of the injury will be accessed this week but Cristobal confirmed after the game that the junior “took a shot”. Before leaving the game, Herbert extended his steak with a touchdown pass to 27 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation.

Without Herbert, Oregon’s offense scored 34 points. The Ducks looked anything but cold. Which was the plan.

Verdell said Cristobal didn’t talk about the raincoats this week, but he made it clear that ‘he didn’t want to see anyone being soft or acting like they are cold on the sidelines’.

I cannot confirm whether the raincoats made the trip to Corvallis or not. However, when the game ended and the rain intensified, no one could find the jackets.

“I know a few guys were looking for the coats after the game ended,” redshirt junior defensive lineman Gus Cumberlander said. “I don’t think Cristobal wanted us to bring them out on the field.”

The victory improved the Ducks to 8-4, 5-4 in Pac-12 conference play, surpassing their win total from last season. It also was Oregon’s 10th win in the last 11 Civil War meetings, the only loss coming in 2016. Who knew a shiny raincoat could trigger so much motivation?

Oregon Duck defense suffocates Stanford but about that offense...

Oregon Duck defense suffocates Stanford but about that offense...

STANFORD, Calif. – A win is a win – at least that’s what most Ducks will think coming away from Oregon’s 21-6 triumph over Stanford late Saturday afternoon. I mean, the Cardinal have been a problem over the last several seasons, including last year when they stole a victory at Autzen.

Except in college football, that’s really not true – a win isn’t always enough. If you want a piece of postseason play or merely a high ranking in the polls at the end of the year, the whole season turns into a beauty contest.

You have to look good. Better than good, in fact. You better look real good – especially when on national television – if you want to pick up votes in the poll, which is critical to having any thought of a playoff berth.

And the Ducks, who managed only three touchdowns against a team that had allowed a combined 90 points in its two previous games, struggled on offense.

Not that the UO defense didn’t continue its stellar run. The Cardinal managed only 234 yards of total offense and was dominated by Oregon’s quick and hard-hitting defense, which hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the opening game of the season.

Oregon chose to run the ball 30 times in this game and netted just 61 yards. And it allowed four sacks. That doesn’t sound like an offensive line that the media touted as one of the best in the country prior to the season.

And while the running game wasn’t consistent all day, Oregon stayed conservative on offense. Quarterback Justin Herbert, with NFL scouts populating the press box, threw the ball only 24 times and completed 19 of them for 259 yards and all three touchdowns.

Just once, I’d like to see the Ducks open up the passing game and give this man about 45 attempts. And if that happened, you can bet the running game would come alive, too.

And OK, I had to ask Coach Mario Cristobal, why didn’t you throw the ball more often, given you seem to have one of the best quarterbacks in the country?

“We’d like to get as many points on the board as possible, so whatever is called – sometimes these are throw/run options,” Cristobal said. “The look, the leverage, the number of the box count, will determine where the ball goes. If I could guarantee 80 points by throwing the ball more, I certainly would. But we’re trying to move the ball, score points and get effective offense.”

OK.

The Ducks are still running a lot of what appears to be a read-option at times but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of reading there, as the ball was handed off every time Saturday by Herbert, rather than pulling it out and taking yards himself.

He admitted after the game that “I probably should have pulled it out a few times,” but he’s pretty comfortable with the backs carrying the ball. I get that – and I understand that the last thing the Ducks need is for Herbert to get hurt.

But if that’s the case, just forget the option – the Cardinal wasn’t honoring Herbert as the possible ball carrier very often, anyway – and just get another back behind the quarterback and go to more of a power running game.

Now don’t get me wrong – the Ducks dominated this game and seemed to have it locked up when they led 14-3 at the half. Not only was their defense suffocating Stanford but their punter, Blake Maimone, was spectacular. He booted the ball six times for an average of 45.7 yards. Those punts kept Stanford backed up in the shadow of its own end zone most of the day.

This one was not close – but it wasn’t impressive, either.

Oregon has a bye next week before squaring off with undefeated California.

Social media reacts to Oregon's performance against Stanford

Social media reacts to Oregon's performance against Stanford

On a beautiful, 86 degree afternoon down on The Farm in Palo Alto, the No. 16 Oregon Ducks completely shut down the Cardinal offense in a 21-6 win. 

This win marks the first Pac-12 opening win for Oregon since the 2014 season (at Washington State). Ducks fans traveled well and with 39,249 fans in attendance, it seemed as if half of them were wearing green or yellow with how loud it was when the Ducks on defense took the field.

Call it what you want, but the Ducks got their revenge over the Cardinal after last season's heart-breaking overtime loss in Eugene, OR.

Here's how social media reacted to Oregon's win over Stanford:

Justin Herbert etched his name in the Oregon Football record books with now 13 touchdown passes in a three-game stretch. Herbert finished the game 19-for-24 for 259 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

And the Ducks defense once again had a stellar performance. Through three games now, Oregon has not allowed a single touchdown. Safety Jevon Holland recorded another interception.

The Ducks now head into a BYE week to heal up and recover before hosting the undefeated California Golden Bears on Satuday, October 5. 

 

Instant Analysis: Three quick takeaways from Oregon's win over Stanford

Instant Analysis: Three quick takeaways from Oregon's win over Stanford

The No. 16 Oregon Ducks opened conference play with a win over the Stanford Saturday night. It's the first time since 2014 they've accomplished such a feat. In the process, Justin Herbert eclipsed the 8,000 passing yard mark for his collegiate career and remains the most steady QB in the nation, having completed 174 passes without an interception.

BOX SCORE: Oregon 21, Stanford 6 

Here are three quick takeaways:

  1. Ducks very conservative in this game-- It wasn't the traditional fast-paced, barn burner of a game Oregon fans have grown so accustomed to. 
  2. With a quarterback as good as Justin Herbert, might be a good idea to throw the ball more-- Herbert had an efficient night, connecting on 19 of his 24 passes for 259 yards. Herbert led Oregon down the field for a touchdown in the first half with precision: 2 plays, 55 yards and 35 seconds ticked off the clock. The future first round pick finished his night 19/24 for 259 yards with 3 TDs.
  3. Cardinal were not honoring Herbert on the option... might want to have him keep the ball once in a while if you're going to continue to be an option team. Or just junk the option and hand it off. -- Herbert lost 22 yards on 5 recorded attempts. CJ Verdell led Oregon's rather quiet rushing attack with 82 yards on 24 attempts. 


Additional Note: Stanford running back Cameron Scarlett, graduate of Central Catholic High School in Portland, OR finished the game with 97 yards rushing on 19 carries.

Stay tuned for more from the locker room.

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* Peter Socotch also contributed to this report

Talkin’ Ducks Podcast: Special guest Mike Bellotti evaluates Mario Cristobal’s team

Talkin’ Ducks Podcast: Special guest Mike Bellotti evaluates Mario Cristobal’s team

The Talkin’ Ducks Podcast is hosted by Jordan Kent, Joey Harrington, and Anthony Newman, covering everything Oregon Ducks related. From interviews, game analysis, news, and nonsense, these guys have you covered.

On this week’s episode, Jordan and Anthony have a very special guest! Former Ducks head coach Mike Bellotti joins the guys to talk about the current makeup of Mario Cristobal’s team.

Plus, Bellotti has high praise for quarterback Justin Herbert.

"He’s the most NFL ready QB to come out of Oregon in a long, long time. Maybe ever," Bellotti said.

LISTEN to the full podcast here:

Check back every Wednesday for a new episode.

Oregon football opens up Pac-12 play on the road in style

Oregon football opens up Pac-12 play on the road in style

Pac-12 conference play is here and the No. 16 Oregon Ducks are flying south to face the unranked Stanford Cardinal on The Farm.

The Ducks will be wearing white jerseys paired with kelly green bottoms and helmets.

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (PT) on Saturday, September 21.

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature large "Mighty Oregon" font resembling last season's "Oregon Football 2.0" uniform with slight differences. The addition of ‘Nightmare Green’ is the biggest change while notably no black set was released (yet).

Oregon (2-1) is 10.5 point favorites over Stanford (1-2) who is coming off a 45-27 loss to Central Florida. Oregon took care of business at home last Saturday 35-3 over the visiting Montana Grizzlies. The Ducks are also searching for their first Pac-12 opener win since the 2014 season.

There has always been that addition factor when Oregon and Stanford meet up. These two teams have typically run the Pac-12 North table (along with Washington and more recently Washington State) in the last decade. 

The last time the Ducks and Cardinal met, Stanford came away with the overtime thriller in front of ESPN’s College GameDay in Eugene, Oregon. 

Oregon at Stanford: 10 Numbers to Know

Oregon at Stanford: 10 Numbers to Know

For back-to-back seasons, the Oregon Ducks will open up Pac-12 conference play against the Stanford Cardinal. Rewind to last season at home in Autzen Stadium: a critical late fourth quarter fumble from running back CJ Verdell lead to Stanford's game-tying score and sending the game into overtime for an eventual 38-31 win over the Ducks. This loss also added to the Ducks' streak of Pac-12 opening losses (the last time Oregon won a Pac-12 opener was back in 2014 vs. Washington State in Pullman, WA.

Following a dominant 35-3 win last Saturday over the Montana Grizzlies, is this the year that the No. 16 Ducks turn that all around on The Farm?

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

INJURY UPDATES

The Ducks have yet to see grad transfer receiver Juwan Johnson take the field. Head Coach Mario Cristobal has stated this week that Johnson is day-to-day. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass catcher went through pregame warm-ups prior to the season opener against Auburn but not before last week’s game against Nevada or Montana.

Senior center Jake Hanson continues to be evaluated after an injury vs. Montana last week.

Senior tight end Cam McCormick is out for the season.

Arguably the most anticipated return is true freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman, who tweeted one week ago that his return could be on the sooner side. Pittman likely eyeing a return for Oregon vs. CAL on Friday, Oct. 5.

DUCKS SEARCHING FOR PAC-12 OPENER WIN

Ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense and scoring offense, Oregon will look for its first win in a Pac-12 opener since 2014 when it takes on Stanford.

A WIN WOULD

Mark Oregon's 18th win in its last 20 Pac-12 road openers, dating back to 2000. Improve Oregon to 2-0 in Pac-12 road openers under head coach Mario Cristobal. Improve Oregon to 3-3 in Pac-12 road games under head coach Mario Cristobal.

FAST STARTS

Oregon has outscored its opponents 70-12 in the first half through the first three weeks. The Ducks are one of seven FBS teams (Arizona State, Clemson, Iowa State, TCU, Temple, Wisconsin) that haven't allowed a first half TD this season.

Senior quarterback Justin Herbert’s eight first half passing touchdowns are tied for the most in the nation with three of those going to senior tight end Jacob Breeland.

MY MY TROY DYE

Senior linebacker Troy Dye leads all active Power 5 players with 334 career tackles and has 18 games with 10+ tackles.

Following a 115-tackle junior season, Dye needs 100 more stops in 2019 to become Oregon’s all-time leader.

HERBIE STREAKIN’

Justin Herbert enters the Pac-12 opener owning two of the longest streaks in the nation: Herbert's 31 consecutive games played with a TD pass and 150 attempts without an interception both currently lead all FBS signal callers. 

Herbert also has just one INT over his last 298 pass attempts in Pac-12 road games.

STACKED OFFENSIVE LINE

Oregon has a combined 168 career starts along the offensive line, which is the most in the nation.

DEFENSE IS A WALL

The Oregon defense has gone 27 consecutive drives without allowing a touchdown.

Opposing offenses are six-of-25 on third down in the first half and have 50 rush attempts for 110 yards.

Through the first three games, opponents have reached Oregon territory just 12 times in 36 drives with three of those starting on the Ducks' side of the field.

SPREAD THE LOVE

Oregon leads the nation with 13 different players who have scored a touchdown, including nine who have caught a TD.

The Ducks’ offense has scored a touchdown on 10-of-22 first half drives.

A-MASE-ING

True freshman outside linebacker Mase Funa is off to a fast start in his college career. Funa, who made his first career start vs. Montana, leads the Ducks with 3.0 sacks and 5.0 tackles for loss and tied for the Pac-12 leader in sacks while ranking second in TFL. Ranks in the top 25 in the country in both sacks (T-17th) and TFL (T-21st).

BONUS

The Ducks are 10.5 point favorites over Stanford on the road at The Farm. The over/under is 57 points.

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. (PT).

Running back by committee: A recipe for success for the Ducks

Running back by committee: A recipe for success for the Ducks

Oregon Football has a long, storied history of talented running backs that have donned the green and yellow. In recent memory, the program has churned out stars such as LaMichael James, Royce Freeman, LeGarrette Blount, Kenjon Barner, Jonathan Stewart... The list goes on, and on, and on. 

For the most part, the Ducks have always had talented a running back corps, but each group had its bell cow. The one back that stood out as the number one guy. Even the two-headed monsters of the past had one back that you knew was the "the guy."

That may not be the case in 2019, and that's a good thing. 

The Ducks have a plethora of riches at the running back position, and they have found ways to use every one of their talented ball carriers. 

Through the team's first three games five different backs have carried the ball, with a different player leading the team statistically each week. 

In Week 1, CJ Verdell led the way. In Week 2, it was Darrian Felix. And last game against Montana, it was Travis Dye that carried the load. 

"I think that a tribute to the backs in their room, let alone what Coach Mastro has done with those guys. He's done an awesome job," said Offensive Coordinator Marcus Arroyo. "That group's gonna get a lot of touches all over the board, similar to last year. I think they've stepped up and they've done an awesome job."

Not only are the Ducks using multiple backs, they're doing so in an incredibly balanced fashion. The team has averaged 186 yards per game, but only one player has surpassed the 100-yard mark. On the season, Dye has 29 carries for 152 yards, Verdell has 30 carries for 149 yards, while Felix has 18 carries for 127 yards. 

There is no lead back, because there doesn't need to be. Instead, the Ducks have a true three-headed monster... and we haven't even talked about Sean Dollars or Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who have combined for 19 carries and 121 yards on the season.

Senior quarterback Justin Herbert said of his backfield mates, "It's a great problem to have so many of those guys. Each one of them can fill in. Shoot, we got four or five guys out there that we have complete trust and faith in. I know that they'll get the job done."

Offensive lineman Shame Lemieux, like Herbert, knows the Ducks are well-equipped to pound the ball. "Our running backs are incredible," said Lemieux.  "CJ's (Verdell) so fast and shifty. He's a stout runner, he's really ready to run downhill. I think Travis (Dye) is kind of a squirrely guy. He's just gonna take off like a little roadrunner... We're loaded, so I'm really happy to have that."

Now here is the scary part - The Ducks haven't even clicked yet. You see, we all know that even the best running backs need great offensive lines. They need the big guys up front to open up holes to give them running lanes. While the numbers say the Ducks have been successful in this regard, Lemieux thinks otherwise. 

"I don't think we've been doing a good enough job. I think we can even do better. Once we start playing to our standard I think it's going to open up even more and our running backs are gonna get more credit."

If this is how Oregon's three-headed monster looks when the offensive line isn't doing a good job, the Pac-12 should be terrified with what this running game will look like when Lemieux and Co. click. 

We'll see if they click on Saturday when they take on a Stanford defense that has allowed an average of 135.33 yards per game on the ground. Kickoff is set for 4:00 p.m. (PT) on The Farm.

Three Ducks projected in Top-10 of 2020 WNBA Draft

Three Ducks projected in Top-10 of 2020 WNBA Draft

On April 6, 2018, Oregon women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu announced to the world that she would forgo the 2019 WNBA Draft and return to the University of Oregon for her senior season. In a letter she wrote to Ducks Nation in The Players’ Tribune, Ionescu said “And WNBA — I’ll see you soon. Real soon, I promise. Just have some business to take care of first.”

That “soon” gave us an exact date yesterday. On Tuesday, the WNBA held its lottery for the 2020 Draft and with that, the draft order and first mock draft.

As the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, Ionescu just may be headed for the Big Apple come next April with the New York Liberty getting that first pick.

Ionescu 2018-2019 stats: 19.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 8.2 APG.

Along with Ionescu, two other Ducks were projected as Top-10 picks in the 2020 WNBA Draft. 

Satou Sabally is projected to be selected No. 3 overall to the Indiana Fever. But the 6-foot-4 junior forward will have the choice to forgo the draft and return for her senior season, just like Ionescu. She just may want to play one season of college hoops with her younger sister Nyara Sabally, who will have to miss this upcoming season with an ACL injury.

Sabally 2018-19 stats: 16.6 PPG, 6.2 RPG

The third Duck projected to be selected is Ruthy Hebard, No. 7 overall to the Seattle Storm. The 6-foot-4 senior forward was second in the country last season in field goal percentage (67%) and is just a monster down low on both ends of the court. When she gets the ball down low, she rarely misses. An excellent screener and rebounder, Hebard just may stay in the PNW come April.

Hebard 2018-19 stats: 16.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG

Winning on the road is tough, but Oregon football can’t repeat those bad habits from last season

Winning on the road is tough, but Oregon football can’t repeat those bad habits from last season

Pac-12 conference play is finally here! The No. 16 Oregon Ducks open up Pac-12 play on the road this Saturday at the Stanford Cardinal. Not to open up any old wounds, but the Ducks did not have as good a showing on the road last season as they did at home. 

2018 Pac-12 road schedule & results:

Win @ California: 42-24

Loss @ Washington State: 20-34

Loss @ Arizona: 15-44

Loss @ Utah: 25-32

Win @ Oregon State: 55-15

A record of 5-4 in conference play with three of those losses coming on the road. The losses weren’t even close either. At times, the Ducks looked like a completely different team, playing out of confusion and frustration rather than physical, hard-nosed football that Cristobal preaches oh so often. 

This season, the Ducks face arguably a more difficult test on the road.

2019 Pac-12 road schedule:

9/21 @ Stanford

10/19 @ Washington

11/2 @ USC

11/23 @ Arizona State

The keys to winning on the road in Pac-12 play? 

Head Coach Mario Cristobal discussed them on Monday in his weekly press conference with the media: 

“You’ve got to understand, you’ve got to pack your toughness, your resiliency, your perseverance, all the stuff that goes with being a tough football team on the road. And knowing that when you leave your home and you go and do it on the road, there’s the factors outside the football game itself, they can’t matter. They can’t be relevant and it requires a certain kind of mindset. With young players or older players, it’s going to be always a huge point of emphasis.”

Oregon kicks off at Stanford at 4 p.m. (PT) this Saturday on The Farm.