Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks win big vs. Montana: The good news and the bad

Oregon Ducks win big vs. Montana: The good news and the bad

On a perfect 70 degree early fall night in Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks won big. Yes, No. 15 Oregon crushed Montana in its final non-conference game, 35-3, as expected.

Would you like the many pieces of good news first or the bad news first? The game featured victories beyond the final score but let’s start with the area of concern.

The Bad

The biggest win of the game would have been to exit Autzen Stadium without any mounting injuries heading into Pac-12 Conference play. Starting center Jake Hanson, starting cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. and No. 3 running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio all suffered injuries that kept them from returning to the game. A less than ideal situation for a team that is already coping with the loss of their most veteran receivers, Brenden Schooler and Juwan Johnson, plus starting defensive lineman Austin Faoliu and Gus Cumberlander, who did not dress in uniform.

After the game Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal gave a positive update. Cristobal said Graham suffered a "minor tweak" on his right ankle and that Habibi-Likio was dealing with some back spasms. Hanson’s status could be more serious but medical staff is evaluating an unspecified injury.

The Good - The Defense

Whew, now we can get to all the wins.

The Duck defense terrorized Montana. Oregon held the Grizzlies to eight(!) rushing yards, which is the fewest since playing Cal in 2017. Oregon put constant pressure on Montana quarterback Dalton Sneed and other than their one scoring drive, the longest Grizzlies drive was 34 yards.

"Our main emphasis this week was holding (Montana) to under 80 yards rushing," said Isaac Slade-Matautia. "We did a phenonemal job with that."

Two true freshmen made big impacts on the defense adding more promise to the future of Oregon football. Mase Funa and Mykael Wright took advantage of the valuable reps.

Funa, playing the STUD position, made a big impression early. After earning his first career start, Funa got a sack to end Montana's opening drive. He finished with two tackles for loss, totaling six already this season, which leads the Pac-12 Conference. He is the only freshman to have two sacks in a game this season in the FBS.

When Graham went down, Wright came in and lived up to the high praise that Graham has been preaching about the true freshman since arriving on campus. Wright grabbed his first career pick on Montana's opening series of the second half.

The Good - Pass Catchers
A triumph not to be overlooked is the improved play from tight end Jacob Breeland and wide receiver Johnny Johnson III, who were quarterback Justin Herbert’s main targets.

Coming off his first 100-yard receiving game, Breeland once again starred. The 6-foot-5 250-pound senior was the first Duck to find the end zone on a perfectly placed 5-yard touchdown pass from Herbert on the opening drive. Breeland scored again on a 16-yard pass in the second quarter.

Through three games, Johnson has already surpassed his season total receptions from last season (17). Johnson set a career high and led the Ducks in receptions with eight for 76 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Montana. His first touchdown of the night was a major highlight. Seconds before halftime in the red zone, Herbert scrambled out of two potential sacks and rolled to his right and whipped an 18-yard pass to Johnson in the back of end zone to extend Oregon’s lead to 28-0 before half.

"I have more confidence right now than I've had in my entire life," Johnson said after the game. "We are on our way."

The Good - Herbert

Herbert went 30 of 42 for 316 yards with five touchdowns, his second week in a row with a handful of scoring passes. The senior opened with 10 consecutive completions, including two scoring strikes to tight end Jake Breeland, and closed with two scoring throws to Johnny Johnson III and one to Jaylon Redd.

Herbert’s play was outstanding from the start. The senior began the game a perfect 10-of-10 for 113 yards and two touchdowns before throwing an incompletion. His final line was 30-of-42 passing for 316 yards with five passing touchdowns with two carries for 18 yards, both first downs. 

Oh by the way, Herbert extended his nation-leading streak of 31 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. He also became the only quarterback in Oregon history to throw five touchdown passes in back-to-back games. 

"They're just focused on getting better, and they've done a great job so far," Cristobal said. "And the best is yet to come, we really feel that."

Besides injuries and a slow running game, it was victories galore for the Ducks vs. Montana. Oregon has appeared sharp in its past two non-conference wins. Can the Ducks build on that experience against tougher competition? It’s time to find out, ready or not, conference play is here.

How Brenden Schooler's transfer does/doesn’t affect the Ducks

How Brenden Schooler's transfer does/doesn’t affect the Ducks

Senior wide receiver Brenden Schooler has entered his name into the transfer portal, sources have confirmed to NBC Sports Northwest.

Schooler, a two-time first-team All-Pac 12 special teams selection, made his debut against Cal after missing Oregon’s first four games due to a broken foot. He played in three games this season and has not used his redshirt, meaning he has one more year of eligibility as a graduate transfer.

In his three games, Schooler has only had two catches for 44 yards. During his absence, Johnny Johnson III, Jaylon Redd and Bryan Addison took over production as reliable targets for quarterback Justin Herbert.

Redd leads the nation with a touchdown reception in six straight games. Johnson III’s 30 catches this season is already more than his sophomore season total (17) and freshman season total (21).

Schooler returned from injury at the same time as freshman Mycah Pittman, who has found a more regular rotation with the receivers than Schooler has. Pittman has 148 receiving yards on nine receptions and one touchdown.

Schooler’s senior leadership and intangeibles on the field would be sorely missed, especially considering senior Jacob Breeland is out for the season with injury. 

“The thing about Brenden is he’s not only a great player, he’s a great leader and feel terrible for him because tremendous human being… Off the charts,” Cristobal said in August after Schooler’s injury.

Schooler's decision to leave is likely playing time oriented. Simply put, the Ducks were forced find their groove while Schooler was out.

His departure would also be a hit to Oregon’s receiving unit depth. Will graduate transfer Juwan Johnson or Josh Delgado step into a contributing role?

The Dana-Point, California native has a brother, Colin, who plays for the Arizona Wildcats.

Schooler has totaled 43 career catches for 521 yards and four touchdowns in his Duck career. He started at safety as a true freshman finishing with 74 tackles and four interceptions.

Oregon receiver Brenden Schooler enters transfer portal

Oregon receiver Brenden Schooler enters transfer portal

Senior wide receiver Brenden Schooler has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, sources have confirmed to NBC Sports Northwest. The news was first reported by Brett McMurphy of Stadium Network. 

Schooler, a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 special teams selection, made his debut against Cal after missing Oregon’s first four games due to a broken foot. He played in three games this season and has not used his redshirt, meaning he has one more year of eligibility as a graduate transfer.

The Dana-Point, California native has a brother, Colin, who plays for the Arizona Wildcats.

Schooler has totaled 43 career catches for 521 yards and four touchdowns in his Duck career. He started at safety as a true freshman finishing with 74 tackles and four interceptions.

Touchdowns and defensive stops: Pro Ducks are everywhere in Week 7

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USA Today Images

Touchdowns and defensive stops: Pro Ducks are everywhere in Week 7

Another NFL week is in the books and many former Oregon football players took center stage.

Running back Royce Freeman notched his first TD of the season and the 49ers just got even scarier, thanks to defensive geniuses Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. 

Let's recap how all of the Pro Ducks around the NFL did in Week 7: 

Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos:

The Broncos are using a 1-2 punch with Royce Freeman working as the primary back by committee, and it’s working for Denver so far. 

The former Duck crossed the goal line for the first time the season with a 1-yard touchdown in Denver’s opening drive. It was the only touchdown scored by the Broncos in the 30-6 loss.

Arik Armstead/DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers:

San Francisco is 6-0 for the third time in franchise history and former Ducks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner have been defensive masterminds for the 49ers.

Buckner recorded six tackles (3 solo) on 40 defensive snaps while Armstead had three combined tackles (2 solo) and one sack while playing 37 defensive snaps.

Troy Hill, LA Rams:

After three-straight losses, the Rams had a bounce-back win over the Falcons on Thursday.

Cornerback Troy Hill played a part in the Rams’ defensive effort, compiling four solo tackles while playing 46 defensive snaps.

Kiko Alonso, New Orleans Saints:

Linebacker Kiko Alonso had two tackles while playing 39 defensive snaps in the Saints 36-25 victory over the Bears in Week 8.

More on the Ducks: 

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon rises in rankings after rivalry win

WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

Remembering Washington State coach Mike Leach's best moments

Remembering Washington State coach Mike Leach's best moments

Earlier this week, Washington State coach Mike Leach went viral by saying that Autzen Stadium reminded him of “Middle-Earth,” the fictional land from the Lord of the Rings franchise.

His comments got us thinking of the best Mike Leach moments, as he seemingly goes viral every week. So we made a compilation of the highlights of his coaching career.

Leach claims his players are “fat, dumb, and happy and entitled”

Just this year, after Washington State gave up 50 points in the second half to UCLA, Leach gave a candid response about his players in the press conference:

We're a very soft team. We get a lot of good press. We like to read it a lot. We like to pat ourselves on the back, and if we get any resistance, we fold...They're fat, dumb and happy and entitled.

Leach ranks the Pac-12 mascots if they were going to fight

Again this season, Mike Leach was asked which Pac-12 mascot would win in a fight against all other Pac-12 mascots. His answer did not disappoint.

Leach plants a fake game script to get early lead against Texas

Leach was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma for the 1999 season. Going into his only Red River Rivalry game, Leach and the Sooners were large underdogs, so he searched for any advantage he could get. 

His final plan was to create a fake game script and have it end up in the hands of the Texas defensive coordinator. Leach had one of this players walk near the Texas locker room door and drop the fake game script. When a Texas grad assistant picked it up, he thought he made the score of a lifetime. He ran it up to the defensive coordinator, who couldn’t wait to make the perfect play call for each situation.

However, the fake game script was flipped to what the real game script was. If the fake one had the play going to the left, in the game Oklahoma ran to the right. 

Leach’s plan worked and Oklahoma got out to a 17-0 lead before Texas stopped using the fake game script and instead their own gameplan. Texas would go on to win the game 38-28. 

Leach bellyflops

Ahead of the Cougars’ season opener, the team went for a swim at a local pool. We got this fantastic video out of it. 

 

Leach gives advice on dating

While answering a question from a viewer on a local TV program from his Texas Tech days, we got to see how Mike Leach approaches a first date. His main tip: don't go anywhere with salad. 

Once again, he roasts his players

If you’re a Cougar and your team plays poorly, be prepared for your coach to keep it real. 

WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

Washington State Coach Mike Leach hardly disappoints when it comes to giving a good quote. That sentiment held true when Leach was asked about the Cougars upcoming matchup against No. 11 Oregon on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Washington State (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) is coming off their first conference win on Saturday, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing. After the victory, Leach looked ahead to the “tough” Ducks and referred to Autzen Stadium as a “great looking stadium that looks like Middle Earth” on the WSU postgame radio show.

Middle-earth is the fictional setting of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In his Monday press conference, Leach continued his analysis of Autzen Stadium.

“I’ve always like Autzen Stadium. It is one of my favorites in the country. Most people have it as the loudest, I would agree with that,” Leach said.

Then, Leach moved on to preview the Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12), who have control atop the Pac-12 North Division. The Cougars have beat the Ducks four-consecutive times.

On Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert:

“He’s a talented guy, but, you know, I am very pleased we have ours instead,” Leach said.

How does he plan to stop Herbert?

“The same way we have for the past four years,” Leach said.

 On Oregon’s success:

“The surprising thing to me is that people are surprised,” Leach said.

Leach continued to say the Ducks’ recruiting classes have been one of the best in the country in recent years, why would anyone be surprised that four and five star athletes are playing well?

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon starting cornerback Deommodore Lenoir is on this week's depth chart and has been cleared to play against Washington State on Saturday, according to Mario Cristobal.

“(Lenoir) looks good,” Cristobal said. “We feel like he’s ready to go and will be ready to go (against Washington State)."

Lenoir, who has started 20 straight games, suffered an injury in the Ducks’ comeback win at Washington while making a tackle with teammate Nick Pickett. Lenoir left for the locker room, did not return to the game and true freshman DJ James filled in.

Cristobal also added that senior linebacker Troy Dye, who broke his thumb vs. the Huskies, will be monitored, but he already played through the injury on Saturday and is expected to play against the Cougars.

With zero conferences losses, No. 11 Oregon (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) has control atop the Pac-12 North Division. While the Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) are coming off their first conference win on Saturday, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing.

Coach Mike Leach’s air raid offense is different than anything UO Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos and the Ducks have competed against thus far this season.

However, Lenoir knows the Cougars all too well and has never beaten them in his Oregon career. WSU has beaten Oregon four-consecutive times. The health of the upperclassman is vital to stopping WSU.

Lenoir, who was recently named a mid-season All-American by Pro Football Focus, is allowing less than half the balls targeted in his direction to be caught, the best coverage grade in the Pac-12 and one of the best percentages in the nation.

That excellent coverage will be needed against WSU who spreads the field with their receivers. WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon threw four touchdown passes against Colorado, his fourth game with four or more touchdowns in a game this season.

“We have not done a good enough job against Washington State for the past four years,” Crisotbal said.
The Duck defense has dominated at home so far this season, giving up just 19 points in four home games this season while forcing 19 three-and-outs in 53 drives. The Ducks have nine different players with an interception, led by sophomore safety Jevon Holland who leads the nation with three picks.

Off to a 4-0 start in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013, Lenoir and the Ducks look to avoid a letdown game and snap the four-game losing streak against Washington State on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Oregon football at USC kicks off in prime time

Oregon football at USC kicks off in prime time

No. 11 Oregon’s next road game at USC on Nov. 2 kicks off at 5 p.m. on Fox.

The matchup could be a Pac-12 championship preview. The Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) control the North Division with zero conference losses. The Trojans (4-3, 3-1) are tied with No. 12 Utah for first place in the South Division but own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Utes (6-1, 3-1).

Oregon, who is off to its first 4-0 start in Pac-12 play since 2013, will be looking for its fourth consecutive Pac-12 road victory at LA Memorial Coliseum. 

Want to get a sneak peak at the Trojans? USC plays at Colorado on Friday at Folsom Field (6 p.m., ESPN2).

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

 

Oregon rises in rankings after rivalry win

Oregon rises in rankings after rivalry win

The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 4-0) moved up from No. 12 to No. 11 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after taking down rival No. 25 Washington on the road in their largest second half comeback win since 2008.

Oregon’s sixth straight win improves the Ducks to 4-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013 and preserves their spot at the top of the North Division with zero conference losses. It also stifled the Huskies chances at the Pac-12 title. The Ducks have won 14 of the last 16 meetings with Washington, including six of the last seven in Husky Stadium.

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

It was a polarizing week in the top 25. Among the ranked teams to lose were then-No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 14 Boise St, No. 16 Michigan, No. 17 Arizona St, No. 22 Missouri and 25 Washington.

The Ducks will host Washington State on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

In the Pac-12:

  • Zack Moss broke Utah's career rushing record in the Utes' 21-3 victory over Arizona State.
  • Oregon State beats Cal with thanks to a late touchdown and interception
  • Washington State bested Colorado, 41-10
  • UCLA got a 34-16 win over Stanford
  • USC took down Arizona, 41-14

The Oregon Ducks won a big one at Washington -- or did they?

The Oregon Ducks won a big one at Washington -- or did they?

The Oregon Ducks all but wrapped up the Pac-12 North Saturday afternoon when they dispatched Washington. Nobody’s going to catch them now and the only teams in the conference with a legitimate chance to beat them are going to be Utah in the title game or USC.

But really, winning the Pac-12 this season is certainly not what it used to be. Folks, this league is weak. VERY weak.

It used to be that if the Ducks won in Seattle, that was a monster victory. Same thing with getting a win at Stanford. But take a look at this traditionally strong programs this season.

Washington, with that loss, fell to 2-3 in conference play with losses to California and, yes, Stanford. The Cardinal, also 2-3, lost at USC and at home to a pitiful UCLA team. Oregon State had a big win for its program at California and is all alone in second place at 2-2 behind the Ducks, but had a narrow loss to Stanford at home and was blown out 52-7 by Utah.

Oregon is good, make no mistake about it. But its touted defense feasted off the many teams in the division that simply can’t move the football consistently. And I think what hurts a team in the Ducks’ position is that playing weak conference teams throughout the regular season is no way to get ready for powerful squads in a bowl or playoff game. And I think this has been a problem for Oregon in past seasons. Blowouts aren’t good tuneups for playing the big boys of college football.

I'm not trying to rain on anybody's parade. I'm keeping it real.

And this conference just doesn’t have great credentials when it comes to getting a team into the playoffs this season. If you’re elsewhere in the country trying to figure the league out, you’re going to see that Oregon State and Arizona – teams with 2-2 conference records – hold losses to Hawaii, which has won only two other games this season.

Perhaps the conference’s best non-conference performance was a loss – USC’s three-point defeat at Notre Dame or the Ducks’ last-second loss to Auburn. But the Trojans have also lost to BYU (which has lost to Toledo) and Washington.

Go figure.

And as far as the national championship playoff, it doesn’t look good for the Ducks to make the field. Here’s what Oddsshark.com had to say last week about Oregon’s chances. And yes, it's dated, but it's the national perception of the Pac-12:

The No. 11 Oregon Ducks (+1000) lost in their season opener to the Auburn Tigers and have won four straight since. What puts the Ducks at a major disadvantage is playing in the Pac-12 where no win really feels impressive and, to that point, this expected high-potent offense has averaged just 24.3 points per game over their last three games. Oregon has just one currently-ranked squad remaining on its schedule, at No. 18 Arizona State in Week 13. If the Ducks win, that would be their only win over a ranked foe in 2019 – not good enough.