Oregon Ducks

Oregon fulfills Final Four dreams through steely resolve

Oregon fulfills Final Four dreams through steely resolve

KANSAS CITY - The sting of losing to Oklahoma in last year's West Regional finals lingered for Oregon Saturday night against Kansas in the Midwest Regional finals at the Sprint Center. The pain served as reminder to these Ducks. Motivated them. Made them stronger.  Convinced them they had to do whatever was necessary to avoid such devastation from happening again. 

So despite not having a key cog in senior forward Chris Boucher (knee), despite being an underdog to a No. 1 Kansas team with arguably more raw talent accustomed to destroying opponents, and despite facing the Jayhawks in an arena just 45 minutes from Kansas' campus and filled with fans wearing blue and red, the Oregon Ducks rose to the challenge and did the improbable, winning 74-60 to earn the program's first trip to the Final Four since 1939.

"Best moment ever," UO forward Jordan Bell said. "Only thing that could top this is winning the national championship."

Saturday was, without a doubt, a monumental night not only for UO's basketball program but also for the athletic department as a whole. Oregon has tasted great success in many different sports during the past two decades, but always seemed to be one step behind the major powers when it came to men's basketball.

Three times in the last 15 years (2002, 2007 and 2016) the Ducks had failed to cash in on Elite Eight appearances, including last season when the UO lost 80-68 to Oklahoma in Anaheim, Calif. Oklahoma's veteran team played with far more confidence and continuity than Oregon that night. The Ducks knew it.

"That feeling in the locker room last year knowing you were so close to the Final Four, where you wanted to get to, we don’t want to feel that again,” UO junior forward Casey Benson said. 

But rather than run from that disappointment, the No. 3 Ducks (33-5) embraced it, redirected it and transformed it into rocket fuel that had them flying high with confidence all night against Kansas, shocking the 18,663 in attendance. 

“That was always in the back of our minds - Oklahoma,” junior forward Dillon Brooks said.

Added Bell": “It helped us out so much."  

UO coach Dana Altman sensed his team's laser-like focus following the Ducks' 69-68 win over Michigan Thursday night in the Sweet 16. It contrasted last year's reaction to defeating famed Duke in the same round. 

 "First of all, we felt so good after beating Duke and we patted ourselves on the backs so much that we didn't have that edge when we played Oklahoma," Altman said.

Altman saw a different demeanor from his team after a narrow victory over the Wolverines.

"I was real happy when I came in [the locker room] after the Michigan game and we weren't celebrating," Altman said. "We were focused on, we got one more game here. So I thought maybe the experience of a year ago maybe helped us."

The Ducks' defense was ferocious on Saturday. Bell had eight blocked shots and altered about a dozen others while the perimeter defenders rarely allowed good looks for Kansas, which shot 20 percent from three-point range, including 1 of 15 in the second half. The Jayhawks shot 35 percent overall. 

On offense, the Ducks faced a tough defense but time after time found a way to stick a huge jumper or get a big offensive rebound which lead to 13 second-chance points. 

Leading the offense's charge was sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey, who continued his amazing postseason play with 27 points on 9 of 13 shooting, including 6 of 10 from three-point range. 

But this win wasn't as much about statistics as it was about how much Oregon appeared to be in command of its nerves, emotions and focus in such a hostile environment swirling with intense pressure. 

The Ducks simply didn't care what the fans did, or what Kansas tried to do. And early on, they knew they could shock the college basketball world against a team that dismantled its first three NCAA Tournament opponents by a combined count of 288 to 198.

“When we were hitting shots and we were playing defense and not letting them score, we knew that it was possible,” Brooks said.

Each positive moment raised the team's confidence and put the Kansas fans into shock mode. They cheered with every sign of life from the Jayhawks only to be settled down with each Oregon response. 

“As a road team, essentially, that was big," said Benson, who scored on an amazing finger roll play in the first half. "Obviously we didn’t want to let the crowd get into it.”

Helping to propel Oregon were public slights here and there. 

“Guys over at CBS were saying that we’re nothing and we have no defense without Chris Boucher and we disproved that today by locking in on one of the best offensive teams in the country,” Brooks said.

This quest began immediately after last season when Bell met with Altman. 

“I made a promise to coach Altman that I was going to get him to the Final Four before I left, so I had to just play my butt off,” Bell said. 

His belief came from the emotions the team displayed after last season. 

“I saw the players we had and the determination we had and I saw the hurt form losing last year,” Bell said.  “I knew we had it.”

Brooks made the same promise to Altman.  

“We wanted to win the Pac-12 and we did, then we wanted more,” Brooks said. “We got hungry. We got a little greedy.”

They got a little edgy. 

No maybe about it. That experience last season brought the team together and it showed on Saturday. 

“Playing for one another and playing for coach we’re going to Final Four… ” Benson said. “Coming in we were a confident bunch and we all really like each other.”

Former Ducks RB Royce Freeman scores again for Denver

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USA Today

Former Ducks RB Royce Freeman scores again for Denver

Denver rookie running back Royce Freeman scored his second touchdown of the preseason Saturday night during the Broncos' game against Chicago. 

Freeman's touchdown came from four yards out in the second quarter. The former Oregon star and third-round pick finished the night with six carries for 20 yards and caught one pass for six yards. He is in competition for the starting job with Devontae Booker, who had 17 yards on four carries and caught one pass for 10 yards. 

Chicago won 24-23. 

Freeman scored on a 23-yard run last week against Minnesota when he rushed for 38 yards on four carries. 

Which Duck linebackers will wreak havoc? The locks, contenders and longshots

Which Duck linebackers will wreak havoc? The locks, contenders and longshots

The Ducks know they have two stars at linebacker in junior Troy Dye and senior Justin Hollins. With the emergence of La’Mar Winston Jr., this position unit could be the strongest on the team.

LOCKS

Troy Dye, junior, inside linebacker: Oregon's defensive MVP for the 2017 season has generated major NFL draft buzz and has landed on three major watch lists; the Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player), the Butkus award (nation’s best linebacker) and the Nagurski award (nation’s best defensive player).

In his two seasons, the preseason All-American has 198 tackles with 118 solo tackles, 80 assisted tackles and 9.5 sacks.

Justin Hollins, senior, outside linebacker: The Butkus award nominee is heading into his fifth year at Oregon as the only Duck to have played on the unit that helped get Oregon into the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game in 2014.

Last season he forced three fumbles and finished third on the team in tackles for loss (11.5) behind defensive end Jalen Jelks (15) and linebacker Troy Dye (13.5).

La’Mar Winston Jr., junior, outside linebacker: The Len Casanova Award for leadership winner (voted on by his teammates) played in all 13 games for the Ducks in 2017, including seven starts. Five of those starts came over the final six games when he delivered 31 tackles with five for loss. He finished the season with 49 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks. 

[WATCH: A SUMMER IN PARIS WITH LA'MAR WINSTON JR.]

"(La'Mar)'s put on weight and strength," Dye said. "Seeing his transition from our freshmen year until now is phenonemal."

CONTENDERS

Kaulana Apelu, senior, inside linebacker; The walk-on was placed on scholarship before the start of 2017 season. He played in five games and made three starts, totaling 20 tackles, including three for loss before suffering a season-ending injury. Apelu rehabbed and returned to the field in time for spring practice. In the spring game, he led the Ducks’ defense with nine tackles and returned a tipped pass 100 yards for a touchdown.

Isaac Slade-Matautia, redshirt freshman, inside linebacker: Last season Slade-Matautia utilized his redshirt. ESPN and Rivals ranked the four-star prospect a top two player from the state of Hawaii. He is competing to be in the mix for starting alongside Dye.

"(Isaac)'s a beast," Dye said. "He's going to surprise a lot of people. There are a lot of things that he has taught me."

Adrian Jackson, freshman, inside linebacker: A consensus four-star prospect and the state of Colorado's top player in 2017. Dye called Jackson a "phenomenal beast" a few days into fall camp. Jackson currently backs up Dye at the JACK linebacker position, but says he’d be willing to move to MIKE.

[READ: How the new redshirt rule helps Oregon]

Keith Simms, sophomore, outside linebacker: Suffered a season-ending injury last season. Played both inside and outside throughout spring practices and totaled 8 tackles and a sack during UO’s spring game. Simms could add quality depth if he can stay healthy.

LONGSHOTS

Sampson Niu, sophomore, inside linebacker: In 2017, Niu played in six games and finished with eight tackles and one tackle for loss. He missed spring drills while rehabbing an injury suffered in the Las Vegas Bowl. Four-star prospect and the top inside linebacker in the state of California by Rivals and 247Sports.

MJ Cunningham, true freshman, inside linebacker: A consensus three-star prospect by ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports. The Portland-native is another freshman that could crack the rotation.

Who will Herbert sling the ball to? The Locks, Contenders and Longshots at receiver

Oregon releases new uniforms; internet blows up

Oregon releases new uniforms; internet blows up

The Oregon Ducks have unveiled their Nike football uniforms for the upcoming season. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature a new large "Mighty Oregon" font. Check them out.

The jerseys are more simple than years past. Everyone (and their mother) had something to say about the reveal on Twitter. Here are some of the most sarcastic, clever, interesting and fun tweets.

Font size humor:

A cool throwback to a life before Twitter from former Duck T.J. Ward:

The team is stoked:

And so is the Oregon Duck Mascot:

Can't forget the age old joke...

Where do they rank on your all-time Oregon uniform list?

 

 

REPORT: Dallas signs former Ducks WR Darren Carrington Jr.

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REPORT: Dallas signs former Ducks WR Darren Carrington Jr.

The Dallas Cowboys have signed former Oregon and Utah wide receiver Darren Carrington Jr., according to multiple reports.

The signing was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Carrington, who played at Oregon from 2013 through 2016, played last season at Utah after former UO coach Willie Taggart dismissed him from the team for violating team rules.

Carrington, who was suspended for six games in 2014 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the national championship game played at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is a talented receiver who has the skills to play in the NFL but has hobbled his career by repeatedly making poor decisions away from the field. 

Carrington went undrafted last spring even after being invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He recently participated in a tryout with Dallas and showed enough to get signed to the team's roster. Plus, Dallas has experienced several injuries at wide receiver during training camp. 

Oregon agrees to home-and-home matchups with Michigan State, Boise State

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Oregon agrees to home-and-home matchups with Michigan State, Boise State

Oregon has agreed to a home-and-home series with Michigan State renewing one of the better non-conference football series in Ducks history. 

Oregon will play at MSU on Sept. 8, 2029 and host the Spartans on Sept. 7, 2030. 

Oregon this summer also agreed to a home-and-home with Boise State. That series will run for three years with Oregon hosting the Broncos on Sept. 14, 2024, and Sept. 5, 2026. UO will play at Boise State on Sept 13, 2025.

Oregon recently faced MSU in 2014 and 2015. The Ducks, led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, defeated Michigan State 46-27 in 2014 to get a key victory on their way to the national title game. 

The following season, Oregon lost 31-28 at MSU.

Boise State is 3-0 against the Ducks including a 38-28 win in last year's Las Vegas Bowl. Boise State won the first meeting in 2008 by the score of 37-32 at Autzen Stadium. The following season, the Broncos won 19-8 in Boise. 

Here is a list of Oregon's upcoming non-conference opponents:

2019: vs. Auburn (Arlington, Texas), Nevada, Montana 
2020: North Dakota State, Ohio State, Hawaii 
2021: Fresno State, at Ohio State, Stony Brook
2022: Eastern Washington, BYU
2023: Portland State, at Texas Tech, Hawaii 
2024: Texas Tech, Boise State, at Hawaii 
2025: at Boise State 
2026: Boise State 
2027: at Baylor 
2028: Baylor
2029: at Michigan State
2030: Michigan State

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.19 - Gary Zimmerman

31 Greatest NCAAF Players in PNW history: No.19 - Gary Zimmerman

Successful college career – Check.

Successful NFL career – Check

Member of the NFL Hall of Fame – Check

 

Who are we talking about?  We are talking about former Oregon Ducks offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman.

Zimmerman has a great career at Oregon and was named the Pac-10 Conference Offensive Lineman of Year in 1983. But it was in the NFL where he truly blossomed.

Zimmerman was selected in the first round of the 1984 supplemental draft and made his NFL debut two years later with the Minnesota Vikings.

Once he hit the field, he never left it, literally. Zimmerman started 169 consecutive games, a streak that came to an end in 1996.

He was named to both the 1980’s and 1990’s All-Decade teams, earned All-Pro honors eight times, and was selected to seven Pro Bowl.  Zimmerman ended his career in fashion, winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.

Zimmerman was enshrined in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and joined his fellow legends in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2008.

Denver RB Royce Freeman scores in NFL preseason debut

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Denver RB Royce Freeman scores in NFL preseason debut

Denver rookie running back Royce Freeman rushed for a 38 yards on four carries and scored on a 23-yard run in the second quarter of the Broncos' 42-28 loss Saturday night at home to Minnesota in the preseason opener for both teams. Freeman, listed second on the team's depth chart behind Devontae Booker, also caught one pass for no gain. Booker started the game but received just two carries for seven yards. 

Freeman, selected by Denver in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, received his first three carries out of a single-back set with quarterback Paxton Lynch under center. Freeman's touchdown run, however, came on a zone read play run out of the shotgun formation with four receivers, both familiar scheme elements to Freeman from his days at Oregon. 



Freeman received the handoff from Lynch's right after the quarterback read an outside linebacker keying on him. The quarterback then carried out his fake to further draw the defender allowing Freeman to zoom by him and to the second level of the defense. There he encountered a hard-charging safety that Freeman successfully juked to the right. From there, he was gone, racing down the right side with the help of downfield blocking from receivers. 

Freeman is believed to have a shot at earning the starting job. His performance Saturday was a good start in that direction. 

How the new redshirt rule helps Oregon

How the new redshirt rule helps Oregon

Oregon’s cupcake nonconference schedule just got more interesting and the Ducks may see less transfers this season. 

If you are not familiar with the new NCAA rule passed in June, college football players can now play up to four games in a season and redshirt without burning a year of eligibility. College football players are granted five years to complete four seasons of eligibility.

The rule was unanimously agreed upon amongst college football coaches, including Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal is excited for how it changes the developmental aspect of the sport.  Whether it be to injury or a player developing throughout a season, he plans to award playing opportunities to Ducks who he believes can help the team.

“The opportunities are endless to not only help your team, but to prevent a guy from losing an extra year of eligibility,” Cristobal said. “It certainly helps you plan differently.”

With that said, Cristobal made it clear he expects the level of competition to increase, not decrease.

Playing time will not be handed out

Just because the new rule allows participation in four games a season doesn’t mean Oregon players are guaranteed to see the field. According to Cristobal, playing time will remain a privilege, not a right. 

“That would create the wrong kind of dynamic within the walls of our locker room,” Cristobal said.

Oregon’s cupcake nonconference schedule just got more interesting

The Ducks’ nonconference opponents (Bowling Green, Portland State, San Jose State) went a combined 4-32 last season. Those three yawn-worthy games just got more interesting because now coaches and fans will get a chance to see plenty of freshmen from that highly touted 2018 recruiting class get on the field.

This means true freshman quarterback Tyler Shough, who many have described as starting quarterback“Justin Herbert-like” is likely to get a chance to play at the college level right away without wasting a year of eligibility. The back-up quarterback competition could play out between Shough and sophomore Braxton Burmeister in live games instead of just behind closed doors at practice. Keep in mind that Burmeister could also utilize his redshirt if he does not appear in more than four games.

Freshmen get valuable experience

It’s hard to emulate the speed of the college game in practice, even on scout team. Now freshmen will be able to get on the field in low-pressure situations, which is great to get their feet wet and for coaches to see how they handle being under the lights.

Oregon could give an early opportunity to see how a player reacts to the level of college level or allow them to continue to grow and learn the playbook before potentially playing later in the season.

Those meaningless bowl games that some player skip? Freshmen can get added into those, with the added month of bowl practice.

“The development process is real now,” Cristobal said. “It’s almost like the developmental squad in the NFL where down the line the opportunity, whether it be due to injury or whether that player has developed to a point where they can help us and actually contribute to the team.’

Incentivizes and may limit transfers

The new rule keeps players involved and motivated by the possibility of playing time at some point during the season.

Oregon could show a player how he fits into a game scheme, without losing a year of eligibility. Which is a great way for a coach to prove the school has a plan for him, which could potentially prevent some players from transferring.

Takes pressure off starters

Oregon starters will be less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries. The change provides more roster depth and the opportunity for Ducks at the top of the depth chart to experience less wear and tear throughout the season.

[WATCH: Cristobal continues to impress on the recruiting trail]

Imagine how different last year could have been

In 2017, the Ducks redshirted eight players on the 2018 roster; CJ Verdell, Cyrus Habibi-likio, Demetri Burch, Daewood Davis, Cody Shear, Alex Forsyth, Popo Aumavae, and Isaac Slade-Matautia. All of those players could have played in four games and still have four years of full eligibility left if this rule was in place last season.

The rule allows for the development of the player to be improved and the coaches’ ability to evaluate the player. Which Duck freshman are you most looking forward to utilizing this rule?

 

Marcus Mariota tosses TD pass in Titans' preseason opener

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Marcus Mariota tosses TD pass in Titans' preseason opener

Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who had a down statistical season last year, got off to a strong start in Tennessee's first preseason game Thursday night at Green Bay.

Mariota completed 2 of 3 passes for 41 yards and a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darius Jennings and then promptly called it a night. Green Bay won, 31-17. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not play. 

The Titans' scoring drive covered 71 yards in nine plays. Mariota got sacked early in the drive before completing a 38-yard pass to wide receiver Nick Williams to the Green Bay 30. Two plays later, Mariota scrambled for seven yards to the Packers' 15.

Mariota threw a career low 13 touchdown passes last season with a career high 15 interceptions.