Oregon Ducks

How Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler's return changes the Oregon offense

How Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler's return changes the Oregon offense

Oregon’s offense and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo’s play calling have largely been criticized through four games of the 2019 season. While the lack of an established running game is extremely concerning, the continuously improving passing game is about to get even better.

Oregon’s passing attack could have three more weapons for quarterback Justin Herbert in the Ducks’ Pac-12 home opener against No. 15 California on Saturday, Oct. 5.

The No. 13 Oregon Ducks (3-1, 1,0 Pac-12) have nearly doubled their opponents in passing yards, 1,216 to 640, while scoring 16 passing touchdowns compared to two scored against. Herbert’s perfectly placed throws have often been jaw dropping and his numbers show it. Herbert has completed 74.4 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception through four games, a 14-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. His quarterback rating is seventh in the country at 183.61 and that’s with five scholarship receivers out with injuries.

The Ducks receiving corps took hard injury hits before the season. Three of the hardest hits were losing graduate transfer Juwan Johnson (soft tissue injury), Mycah Pittman (shoulder injury) and Brenden Schooler (foot injury).

"The guys that we lost, they’re legitimate not only intermediate threats, quick game threats, they’re guys that can stretch the field," Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. "We certainly look forward to having those guys back and when you have guys like that back you feel like you can enhance a lot of the things that you do."

Pittman, who was expected to contribute or possibly start this season, practiced for the first time with the team on Wednesday in pads but wearing a non-contact jersey. The true freshman’s initial 6-8 weeks projection would mark Pittman healthy as early as Oregon’s game against the Golden Bears. Pittman implied a sooner rather than later return when he tweeted “2 more weekkksss!” on September 8.

Before the injury, he was turning heads and splitting first team reps at slot receiver. Pittman has strong hands, a running back body and excels at getting separation.

The best case scenario for Schooler’s initial rehab projection would also be vs. Cal. Cristobal expects the senior to practice for the first time on Thursday this week in Oregon’s second full-pad practice of the bye week. Schooler’s return will impact the offense, special teams and the intangibles through his veteran leadership.

Juwan Johnson, who has been practicing off and on throughout the season, has yet to play a down in an Oregon uniform. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver with an advantage in size and experience, is “day-to-day”, according to Cristobal, who says his injury has not worsened.

Juwan Johnson and Herbert’s connection intensified throughout spring and summer. Johnson brings needed experience to the position: playing in 16 more games than the Ducks’ most veteran wide receiver, Schooler (21 games). Plus, his large, powerful, physical frame is unlike the other receivers currently on Oregon’s roster along with his ability to power through and over defensive backs.

The return of these three explosive targets adds options for Herbert and will undoubtedly enhance the passing attack in short, intermediate routes and down the field. The biggest area of improvement I expect will come in offensive plays of 20 or more yards. The Ducks’ 14 passing plays of 20-plus yards currently ranks 47th nationally. Herbert’s arm is capable plus Arroyo laments not attempting more downfield passes to Oregon’s inexperienced receivers in the Ducks’ loss to Auburn in week one. Since the defeat, the Ducks’ explosion plays have increased, in particular to tight end Jacob Breeland and wide receiver Johnny Johnson III.

Johnny Johnson III is leading the Ducks with 22 receptions, already a season-high in his UO career. After an up and down Oregon career, Johnson III said,  ‘Enough is enough. It’s my time,’ and has proved to be a reliable target this season. Breeland, who currently leads the Ducks in yards, totaling 265 yards on 18 receptions and five touchdowns, is a constant goal line threat.

Cristobal isn’t going to stray from his run-first, win the battle in the trenches, physical offense. Through four games, the Ducks are at a 50/50 pass to run ratio and the passing yardage (1,216) close to doubles the rushing yards (619). Yes, it’s been rough to watch the Ducks pound the ball time and time again with often limited success but the efficient passing game provides some relief.

With Juwan Johnson’s size, Pittman’s hands and Schooler’s speed, expect a more explosive and exciting Oregon offense that will stretch the field when the three targets return.

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.

Oregon Ducks celebrate PAC-12 title, Rose Bowl berth

Oregon Ducks celebrate PAC-12 title, Rose Bowl berth

The Ducks are Rose Bowl bound! After Oregon took down Utah 37-15, the celebration was on!

The celebrations carried from the field to the locker room, and we compiled players and coaches social media posts in one place:

See you in Pasadena!

Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight

Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight

In Oregon’s Pac-12 Championship game victory, the Duck defense suffocated Utah.

Oregon silenced Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley, who entered the game as the nation’s second most efficient quarterback. The Ducks picked off Huntley twice to add to their nation-leading 19 interceptions this season. Oregon created negative plays with a season-high six sacks, which broke the Pac-12 Championship Game record.

One of their not so secret weapons? True freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who finished with 2.5 of those sacks, setting a new Pac-12 Championship game record for most sacks. Thibodeaux lived in the backfield all night, applying constant pressure on Huntley, almost hunting him like prey.

It’s not the only record Thibodeaux set in the Rose Bowl clinching victory. His blocked punt (which he almost scooped and scored) was the first blocked punt in Pac-12 Championship game history.

The nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2019 has been on a tear in the last five games, adding 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks to his season total.

His nine sacks this season broke Troy Dye’s previous freshman program record of 6.5 sacks. Thibodeaux is in good company, as the first Duck with nine sacks since former Duck, current San Francisco 49er, DeForest Buckner in 2015.

The scary/exciting part? It’s just the beginning for Thibodeaux, with no ceiling in sight.

I feel like I've gotten a lot better. I'm going to continue to get better. You could say it's only up from here, as long as I keep putting in the work, should see good results. --Thibodeaux

Or as he simply put it, “The proof is in the pudding.”

With one game left in his freshman campaign, Thibodeaux can still reach his goal of 10 sacks for the season. Oregon will play in the Rose Bowl on January 1st for the first time since 2014. Will the bright lights of the “granddaddy of them all” intimidate Thibodeaux?

For me it just sounds like another Tuesday.

(Note- The Rose Bowl is on Wednesday, Jan 1.)

CJ Verdell makes Pac-12 Championship history and smells like roses

CJ Verdell makes Pac-12 Championship history and smells like roses

Oregon running back CJ Verdell sprinted across the field at rainy Levi’s Stadium leaving a sprinkle of brown mud flipping from his white Nike cleats.

After barreling into the end zone for three scores in Oregon’s upset victory over No. 5 Utah, Verdell was dashing to the stage, where his teammates awaited, dancing with confetti, alongside the Duck mascot and second year head coach Mario Cristobal.

The sophomore grabbed a ‘Pac-12 Champions’ adorned hat and t-shirt before presented with the Most Valuable Player trophy.

The Ducks won their first Pac-12 Championship since 2014, earning the conference’s automatic berth to the Rose Bowl, by beating Utah 37-15. They snapped Utah’s eight-game winning streak and ended the Utes’ College Football Playoff dream.

Quite frankly, I think maybe these guys all week long got a little bit tired of hearing we weren't the more physical team. It gives you a little bit of an edge. --Cristobal 

Against the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense, Verdell made history. The Utes entered the game allowing an average of 56.3 yards per game, with only one team to rush for over 100 yards. Verdell doubled that amount, alone, with 208 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown that was the longest run in Pac-12 title game history.

How did Verdell feel about being in Utah’s shadow, leading up to the game?

Definitely put a little chip on our shoulders. We try not to focus on the outside noise too much. Hearing they're the most physical team in the Pac-12 made us want to come out here and work even more harder. --Verdell

The clutch performance sent Verdell over the edge to surpass 1,000 rushing yards for the second-consecutive season, becoming the fifth Oregon running back to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back years and the third to do it as a freshman and sophomore.

Verdell gave all credit to his offensive line.

I couldn't have done anything on that field without the O-line, They made the holes, paved the way for me to give the big runs. I got to give it all up to them. --Verdell

In Oregon’s most complete game of the season, the Ducks won the battle in the trenches, the defense held Utah scoreless in the first half and quarterback Justin Herbert showed off his mobility. Afterwards, Verdell and the Ducks celebrated in the locker room smelling of mud, sweat and a slight hint of roses.

Billboard in Utah congratulates Utes for PAC-12 Championship they didn't win

Billboard in Utah congratulates Utes for PAC-12 Championship they didn't win

We all make mistakes. 

Some people's mistakes are just more public than others. 

A digital billboard in Sandy, Utah, which is located about a half hour south of Salt Lake City made this gaffe. 

The screen reads Pac-12 Champions with Utah's logo and the PAC-12 Championship trophy.

It's not immediately known how long this was being displayed, but the timestamp on the tweet is from 9:22pm, which is roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of the PAC-12 title game in which Oregon won 37-15.