Oregon Ducks

In enemy territory, La’Mar Winston's leadership planted seeds for the future

In enemy territory, La’Mar Winston's leadership planted seeds for the future

SEATTLE- The Oregon Ducks beat their rival Washington in comeback fashion, essentially punched their ticket to the Pac-12 Conference title game and kept a glimmer of College Football Playoff hopes alive.

After overcoming the largest second-half deficit since 2008 at Purdue and improving to 4-0 in Pac-12 play, the Ducks had a lot to celebrate.

However, one part of Oregon’s joyous celebration was not like the others.

Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal fist pumped, threw up the “O” and high-fived brave Ducks fans after the 35-31 victory, with a smile beaming from his face. The team sang the Oregon fight song along with the band, hugging and dancing. Freshman Mycah Pittman jumped up and down with palpable energy after scoring his first Duck touchdown. Senior Troy Dye, with a cast on his broken thumb, gave a television interview that he ended with a hand gesture of the “W” going down. Senior quarterback Justin Herbert happily walked off the field for the final time against UW after calmly leading the team to the win and extending his nation-leading streak to 35 straight games with a touchdown pass.

Then there was senior linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr.

The Portland, Oregon-native huddled together a group of freshman defensive tackles in a passionate display of leadership. Under the screaming fans and celebrating teammates, Winston Jr.’s words were loud and clear.

“I want you to remember this moment,” Winston Jr. said. “When I leave, when everyone leaves. You have to make sure that everyone stays hungry.”

He looked them each in the eye and said a few more words before hugging them. Then jumped over the railing and into the crowd of fans that embraced him.

“I love La’Mar to death, that’s my brother for life,” Dye said of his teammate. “To see him step up like that and bring all those young guys around him and really coach them up, is big-time for our defense. The older guys working with the younger guys trickles down and creates a great future for this team.”

Winston Jr. totaled one tackle against Washington but his impact reaches farther than the stat line and will continue long after he graduates. His leadership has helped the Duck defense dominate this season to lead the Pac-12.

“La’Mar has poured his heart and soul into this,” Cristobal said. “When you do that and overcome a 14-point deficit on the road, when things were looking a little bit shaky… Hard work done the right way, it pays off. It paid off today.”

Cristobal continued to name Winston Jr. as someone he hopes his sons might be like when they grow up.  

The Ducks got a significant win on a rainy, gray, quintessential Pacific Northwest day. Vivid red, gold, green, purple and orange trees surrounding Husky stadium. Inside, the Ducks and Huskies battled in an instant classic. However, the most striking impression was a senior passing along advice in a teachable moment that could reap benefits for seasons to come.

This day in history: Oregon women's basketball advances to program's first ever Final Four

This day in history: Oregon women's basketball advances to program's first ever Final Four

Let's relive one of the greatest days in Oregon women's basketball history.

The day: One year ago today: March 31, 2019.

The location: Moda Center, Portland, Oregon.

The game: An Elite Eight matchup vs. Mississippi State.

The Ducks advanced to the program's first-ever trip to the Final Four (held in Tampa, Florida last season). Led by Sabrina Ionescu's near triple-double of 31 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Oregon defeated Mississippi State 88-84 in front of 11,000+ fans at the Moda Center. 

It was a day the players, coaches and fans will never forget. 

Please enjoy the video above to relive all the footage and celebrations that took place on the court when the clock hit 00:00.

Why Justin Herbert can overtake Tua Tagovailoa in the NFL Draft process

Why Justin Herbert can overtake Tua Tagovailoa in the NFL Draft process

Tank for Tua.

That was the motto for the bottom-dwelling teams in the National Football League heading into and during the 2019 football season.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had finished as runner up for the Heisman Trophy in 2018 and had a National Championship-winning touchdown throw the season before that. Entering his junior season, he was poised for one final college season before declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Despite Tagovailoa looking like a franchise quarterback last season, he suffered a season-ending hip dislocation against Mississippi State in November just before halftime. However, he was still considered the draft classes' best quarterback until Joe Burrow finished what may have been the best single-season in NCAA football history. 

So with Burrow as the presumed top quarterback in the draft and widely expected to be taken first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals, it leaves the question: is Tua still second?

Perhaps he is, but perhaps he's not.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert has also entered the conversation to be potentially the second quarterback taken come draft day, and this isn't the first time Tagovailoa and Herbert have been compared.

Both quarterbacks grew up with the University of Oregon as their dream school. Then-Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich offered Herbert, a three-star quarterback prospect from Sheldon High School in Eugene, near the end of the recruiting cycle as his only Power 5 offer. The same coach also infamously screwed up the recruitment of Tagovailoa and never offered him, despite his five-star status. When Willie Taggart came to Eugene he tried to flip Tagovailoa, but it was too late and he went to Alabama. 

Both quarterbacks enjoyed successful college careers. Tagovailoa won a National Championship after starting the second half against Georgia. Herbert became a four-year starter at Oregon and won a Pac-12 and Rose Bowl Championship as a senior. 

When it comes to their leadership skills, both are as good of people as you can ask for. Herbert has been questioned for his leadership entering the draft, but every teammate he had at Oregon says that concern is unwarranted. That just because he's not as loud, doesn't mean he doesn't lead. 

When it comes to college tape, while both players look like NFL caliber players, Tagovailoa was the top player heading into the season for a reason and the tape reflects that. Herbert can look amazing sometimes, but also has games like at Arizona State last season or the first half at Washington, where he makes mind-numbingly awful throws. Mistakes like that are far less likely to occur with Tagovailoa, but Tagovailoa had superior talent around him at Alabama throwing to Biletnikoff Award winner Jerry Judy while Herbert's targets led the NCAA in drops in 2018. That season, the Oregon quarterback was criticized for zoning in on his favorite target, Dillon Mitchell, but could you blame him? Anyone else he passed to dropped the ball. 

Also, Tagovailoa will be the only quarterback in the NFL next season that's left-handed and whichever team selects him will need to change their entire offensive line scheme to protect his blindside on the right rather than the left. Not a dealbreaker, but easily an inconvenience. 

Given the coronavirus pandemic, Justin Herbert may have a chance to overtake Tagovailoa, due to the abundance of postseason information about him. 

While Tagovailoa was finishing his rehab, Herbert was participating in many different draft process events before it all got canceled due to the pandemic. He was named MVP of Senior Bowl Practice and the Senior Bowl game, where he worked closely with and impressed Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.

He’s very talented physically. He’s got prototypical size and athletic ability. He has a really, really strong arm. On top of that, he’s extremely intelligent and he’s very conscientious. He gathers information, he can process it and he can call it. He went under center for the first time, probably, in his career and he answered that bell with flying colors. Every day I continue to be impressed with the things we ask him to do and he answers really well.

After the Senior Bowl, Herbert participated in the NFL Combine and even threw there, which most top quarterback prospects decline doing. He once again excelled.

Then, the Oregon football Pro Day was among the last pro days that happened before the pandemic canceled all the remaining ones. As always, Herbert looked like a franchise player with all the physical tools needed to succeed in the NFL.

Tua has been "fully cleared and ready to compete without any restrictions" according to the president of Steinberg Sports & Entertainment Chris Cabott, the firm that represents him. But he can't fly into teams for an individual workout nor can a team's personal medical doctors examine him. Even if the tape favors Tua over Herbert, is taking Tua over Herbert, who has impressed scouts much more recently while Tua has been in rehab, worth the risk? With the parity in the NFL, teams don't have top-five draft picks that often in the league and whiffing on one can derail a franchise or hitting on one can save one. 

It'll come down to each franchise's risk tolerance on if Tua or Herbert will be the choice for them, as Bleacher Report Draft Scout Matt Miller broke down recently.

Multiple teams prefer Justin Herbert to Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa because of injuries and the unknown. I was actually talking to a high level team executive yesterday and he said "You know, in a normal year you can honestly make an argument that Tua should be the number two overall pick and maybe number one overall pick but because you're taking a third party's word for it when it comes to his medicals at this point in time that teams are going to be a little bit hesitant," and because of that this guy and other teams have told me don't be surprised if Justin Herbert is the second quarterback picked because there are no questions about injuries when it comes to his evaluations.

As of now, the NFL has no plans to delay the NFL Draft, so we will get our answer on April 23. 

Mycah Pittman shares very personal, tough journey to D1 football

Mycah Pittman shares very personal, tough journey to D1 football

The moment Oregon football fans saw, or rather read his name in headline after headline during spring football, they knew Mycah Pittman suited up in green and yellow was going to be a special time indeed.

It seemed like every practice report read “Mycah Pittman with another insane catch.”

And it was true.

Pittman has stated that his hands are one of the best parts of his game. He has pledged no drops. In the seven games Pittman appeared in 2019, the Ducks went 7-0 while he recorded 18 receptions for 227 yards and two touchdowns. 

But his journey to Division-1 was not easy.

On Tuesday, Pittman posted a very personal story on his personal Instagram:

View this post on Instagram

Made this on tik tok, my short story.

A post shared by MJP (@mycahpittman) on

He started his high school career playing at Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, California.

Pittman recorded 1,329 yards on 55 receptions, a whopping average of 24.2 yards per catch, and 10 receiving TDs. He had 317 yards in kickoff returns and added another score.

But after the passing of his grandfather, Pittman decided to transfer.

He transferred to Calabasas High School, just 13.4 miles east of Oaks Christian. According to Pittman, he lost a lot of friends as a result by his decision to transfer.

Pittman recorded 67 catches for 828 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior in 2018.

His hard work and dedication certainly paid off.

Pittman had the lay of the land when deciding where he wanted to play collegiate football: Chose Oregon over Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Boise State, Boston College, California, Colorado, Florida, Fresno State, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon State, Texas, Texas A&M, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State and others.

Family has meant everything to Pittman and he fits right in with head coach Mario Cristobal and the Oregon Football program.

We are all very eager to see the legacy Pittman will leave behind during his time in Eugene.

Sabrina Ionescu wins 2019-2020 Senior CLASS Award

Sabrina Ionescu wins 2019-2020 Senior CLASS Award

Sabrina Ionescu embodies everything that goes with the term student-athlete. 

On Tuesday, Ionescu became the first student-athlete from Oregon to win the Senior CLASS Award.

An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: classroom, community, character and competition.

Being able to play the game I love with people that I love has been nothing short of amazing. It has taught me life lessons that I wouldn't have been able to learn doing anything else. Attending the University of Oregon and getting my undergraduate degree, and now working towards my Masters, has prepared me for life after basketball and has shaped me into the person that I am. — Sabrina Ionescu

Just over one year ago, Ionescu announced that she would forgo the 2019 WNBA Draft and No. 1 overall pick to return to Oregon for her senior season. She coined it as “Unfinished Business” in a letter in the Players’ Tribune to Duck Nation. One of the reasons why she decided to return to school was not just a shot at a national championship, but also a chance to earn her Masters Degree in Advertising and Brand Responsibility from the University of Oregon.

Sabrina Ionescu is an exceptional student-athlete that exemplifies all the qualities necessary for the Senior CLASS Award. She has displayed great poise and determination by balancing her record-breaking performances on the court at Oregon with her classroom studies. Her strong character and involvement within the Eugene community has enabled Sabrina to be a true champion and well-deserving of this prestigious award. We offer our congratulations to Sabrina Ionescu and the University of Oregon. — Erik Miner, Executive Director of the Senior CLASS Award

Ionescu was also named a Senior CLASS Award First-Team All-American along with Lauren Cox (Baylor), Ellie Harmeyer (Belmont), Mikayla Pivec (Oregon State) and Brenna Wise (Indiana). Teammate and fellow senior Ruthy Hebard was named to the Second Team. 

We are 17 days away from hearing Ionescu's name be called No. 1 overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft.

Payton Pritchard compares himself to NBA talent T.J. McConnell, Steve Blake, Luke Ridnour

Payton Pritchard compares himself to NBA talent T.J. McConnell, Steve Blake, Luke Ridnour

Basketball life for Payton Pritchard has changed environmentally from the gym to his garage and the hills of West Linn, Oregon.

The Oregon men’s basketball star, Pac-12 Player of the Year, Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award winner and first Oregon first-team consensus All-American in 80 years is on the verge of hearing his name called in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.

And while Pritchard, along with the rest of the state of Oregon, is told to remain at home, Pritchard is making the most of it: recording ball-handling skill videos from his garage and running the hills of West Linn, Oregon. For those of you who live in that area, it’s no easy feat. 

Pritchard tested the NBA waters following his junior season, but was told by NBA scouts that he needed to be “March Pritchard” for an entire season. Consistency was key and that’s exactly what head coach Dana Altman and the team got from Pritchard in his final season in Eugene.

The Oregon men’s basketball star joined the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with NBA champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon to chat about what feedback he has received from the NBA following this historical season and what advice Frye could pass along.

Guys like T.J. McConnell, Steve Blake, Luke Ridnour, that just ran the show, weren’t problems and ran the right plays. I think that’s going to be my biggest role coming into the league and hopefully I can expand on that. — Payton Pritchard

Channing offers up two pieces of advice to Pritchard as he begins this journey at the next level: 

1. Always have somebody you can trust to tell you the real answer. 

2. Don’t ever take a day off, or a play off.

You can listen to the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with Pritchard below:

NCAA does not grant winter sport athletes additional year of eligibility

NCAA does not grant winter sport athletes additional year of eligibility

In wake of the coronavirus pandemic forcing the NCAA to cancel all winter and spring athletic championships, many wondered if players that didn't get to finish on their terms would be granted additional eligibility. 

Well, we have our answer.

The NCAA announced that spring sport athletes affected by their seasons being cut drastically short will all be granted an additional year of eligibility which includes sports such as softball, track and field, and baseball. The later sport will increase their limit to players allowed as baseball is the spring sport with such a limit according to the NCAA press release.

 

This is good news for athletes such as Oregon softball star Haley Cruse who saw her senior season cut short after a great start to the season. If she wants to come back she can, although she tweeted earlier that she hadn't made a decision yet.

However, winter sports athletes did not get the same treatment as many of them got to play all, if not most of their regular seasons, and just missed out on a chance to compete for a national championship.

Winter sports were not included in the decision. Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed. - NCAA

This includes senior basketball athletes such as Payton Pritchard, Sabrina Ionescu, Tres Tinkle, and Mikayla Pivec. The first three still all planned to pursue a professional career regardless if they had received an additional year or not, but Mikalya Pivec said that she would have taken another year "in a heartbeat" and returned to Corvallis.

She will not get that chance. All four of them, among the best players in their respective program's histories, had their college careers ended due to no actions of their own, but rather because they happened to play their senior seasons during the beginning of an unprecedented pandemic in United States history. 

College basketball writer Sam Vecenie of The Athletic was not surprised about the decision.

But it's hard to not feel for the seniors affected by this decision. Only 2% of college basketball athletes go on to play professionally so that means 98% of college basketball seniors had their competitive playing careers ended because they just happened to be born when they did. Nothing they could have done on the court would have changed that, and that is too bad. 

Keanon Lowe awarded Congressional Medal of Honor

Keanon Lowe awarded Congressional Medal of Honor

Keanon Lowe has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor following his heroics at Parkrose High School disarming and comforting a distressed student back last year.  

On March 25, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation group on Facebook posted:

Congrats to the 2020 Citizen Honors Award Honorees! These six individuals and one organization exemplify the values embodied in the Medal of Honor. We salute their selfless actions! See the full citations and learn more about these American heroes on our website!

Single Act of Heroism Award:

Riley Howell, Waynesville, NC

Keanon Lowe, Portland, OR

Young Hero Award:

Christian Garcia, Santa Fe, TX

Cody Runyon, Rochester, MN

Service Act:

Michael Jernigan, North Richland Hills, TX

Youth Service Award:

Zachary Brooks, Summit, NJ

Community Service Hero Award:

Women Veteran Social Justice Network, Atlanta, GA

According to their website: The Foundation is dedicated to educating and inspiring Americans about the values embodied in the Medal of Honor: courage and sacrifice, commitment and integrity, citizenship and patriotism. 

Lowe was also named one of TIME Magazine's heroes of 2019.

Please take warning and watch at your own discretion: 

The former Oregon football wide receiver and then Parkrose head football coach is now the head coach at West Linn High School.

Las Vegas Raiders reportedly talking with Justin Herbert

Las Vegas Raiders reportedly talking with Justin Herbert

Could this potentially be an Oregon football fan’s biggest dream coming true? Two outstanding Oregon football quarterbacks together on the same NFL roster?

Potentially.

Reported on Monday by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Justin Herbert has a video call today with the Las Vegas Raiders.

The other former Oregon quarterback on the Raiders roster? Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

[RELATED]: Marcus Mariota reveals why he signed with the Las Vegas Raiders

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken up how the NFL Draft will take place.

According to Pro Football Talk, teams can contact draft prospects up to three times a week, and up to an hour at a time. So a prospect like Herbert is likely busy on FaceTime, talking to NFL coaches and personnel people frequently.

Now, several of the latest 2020 NFL mock drafts have the Los Angeles Chargers selecting Herbert with the No. 6 pick of the NFL Draft. While most signs are pointing to Los Angeles as the likely destination for the hometown hero Justin Herbert, anything can happen on draft night. The Raiders currently hold the No. 12 pick and have already signed Mariota in NFL free agency. 

So why would they take another quarterback? 

Because Jon Gruden loves quarterbacks.

[RELATED]: Marcus Mariota & Jon Gruden foreshadowed Raiders QB meetings back in 2015

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk explains: 

The Raiders say they’re sticking with Derek Carr as their starter and have signed Marcus Mariota to back him up, but given how Jon Gruden likes collecting quarterbacks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft one as well.

Not one, but potential two Ducks could send the former second round quarterback to the bench this season. How hot is that seat, Mr. Carr? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

The 'Payton Pritchard Challenge' spreads through social media

The 'Payton Pritchard Challenge' spreads through social media

After enjoying a career season where he won Pac-12 Player of the Year, the Pac-12 Championship and the Lute Olson National Player of the Year award, Payton Pritchard is at the top of his game.

But, you can only get to his heights with a lot of dedication and hard work.

After the abrupt conclusion to his senior season, Pritchard has returned to his home in West Linn where he won four consecutive 6A OSAA State Championships and became one of, if not the greatest, Oregon high school basketball player of all time.

Now as he prepares to take the next step in his career to the NBA, he has continued to work in his hometown. He showed off his excellent dribbling skills in the figure eight drill on his Twitter.

The video blew up amassing nearly 500,000 views as of the publishing of this article, prompting people to attempt the challenge themselves, including Oregon teammate Will Johnson and assistant coach Michael Mennegna got in on the action.

The challenge spread beyond Oregon too.

He also got a friendly challenger, his little sister Lexie Pritchard who plays for Santa Clara women's basketball. 

Lexie inspired others to attempt it in their own right.

Due to the demand, Pritchard released his full dribbling routine on his YouTube channel.

The all-time winningest player in program history finished his senior season as one of the nation's elite, averaging 20.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. The West Linn native is one of just four players nationally who led his conference in both scoring and assists and became the fourth player in conference history to do so, joining Gary Payton (Oregon State, 1989-90), Damon Stoudamire (Arizona, 1994-95) and Jason Terry (Arizona, 1998-99).

Next up for Pritchard is preparing for the NBA Draft currently scheduled for June 25, 2020 but is likely to be pushed back. 

[RELATED]: Payton Pritchard would be a great fit with the Portland Trail Blazers