Oregon Ducks

Well, the Oregon Ducks weren't going to win the national title anyway

Well, the Oregon Ducks weren't going to win the national title anyway

It was all turning around. The Ducks were about to flip the script on Arizona State Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz.

After pulling to within 24-21, Oregon had the Sun Devils pinned back in their own territory, facing a third-and-16 with five minutes to go. But ASU freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels slung an 81-yard touchdown pass to effectively snuff out any hope that the Ducks could play their way into the College Football Playoff.

But teams with hopes of winning a national championship don’t allow touchdowns on plays like that when they’re in great position to stage a terrific comeback. They don’t allow another one of those OK-but-not-great Pac-12 teams to beat them in a game they had to have.

And if they couldn’t beat Arizona State, which has lost five conference games this season, I have a difficult time believing they could whip LSU or Ohio State.

That’s the cold, hard truth.

And there are other truths that were exposed in the desert Saturday night.

For one thing, the Ducks aren’t as physical as they think they are. On either side of the ball. They could have gotten more pressure on Daniels all night and protected Justin Herbert better. And an even deeper truth is that Pac-12 physical isn’t the same as national-championship physical.

Oregon has a ways to go in that department.

And I think Oregon’s offense this season was trying to go two different directions at once. I believe the head coach was torn between being a run-first, conservative offense and cutting loose his soon-to-be-NFL quarterback. The result was a team that never seemed to find its identity on offense and didn’t function at full throttle in all its games.

The Ducks’ passing attack was not worthy of an All-America caliber quarterback – neither sophisticated nor diverse. I just never thought there was a real commitment to the passing game.

But it matters not. Oregon still has a Civil War game to win and that doesn’t look as easy as it usually is. After that, there is a chance to recover some swag in the conference championship game.

But a national title? It wasn’t going to happen, anyway.

Former Ducks DL Arik Armstead has shed ‘bust’ label and is in line for huge payday


Former Ducks DL Arik Armstead has shed ‘bust’ label and is in line for huge payday

MIAMI – Arik Armstead’s critics used to be numerous and boisterous. Search “Arik Armstead bust” on Twitter and you’ll find a multitude of receipts from 49ers fans who’d given up on the San Francisco 49ers' 2015 first-round pick.

First rounders in the NFL aren’t given the benefit of patience. Fair or not, they’re expected to contribute immediately. After being drafted 17th overall out of Oregon, Armstead’s rookie season was modest at best with just 19 tackles and two sacks. He then played just 14 combined games over the next two years after suffering back-to-back season ending injuries: a shoulder injury in 2016 and a broken hand in 2017.

Between the labels of “bust” and “injury prone,” many fans felt like they’d seen enough.

“It definitely fueled me,” Armstead said on Monday at Super Bowl Opening Night. “People have their opinions of you and they oftentimes switch their opinions. When things aren’t going good, they want to be negative and then when things are going good, they want to be positive. It fuels me when people talk negatively about me. I always knew the player I was and what I was capable of.”

Fortunately, Armstead had plenty of support from within the 49ers organization. Kyle Shanahan, who took over as head coach in 2017, never lost faith in the embattled defensive lineman. That’s noteworthy given the natural urge of first-year head coaches to clean house and make the roster their own.

Shanahan recalled Armstead dominating during OTAs in 2017.

“He would destroy our practices sometimes because we couldn’t block him,” said Shanahan, who never bought into the idea that Armstead was a bust. “Then we got into the year and he didn’t have all the statistics which made people get down on him, but I always thought he was playing at a high level.”

DeForest Buckner, a fellow 49ers defensive lineman as well as Armstead’s teammate and roommate at Oregon, admired his friend’s mental toughness through years of adversity. The age of social media make it tougher and tougher to ignore the noise.

“It’s amazing to see,” Buckner said. “Honestly, his mental strength, man, not wavering when everybody was calling him a bust. Putting all of that stuff in the back seat and just keep going forward.”

Armstead’s haters are quiet these days. Their ammunition has run dry after Armstead posted 10 sacks in 2019 and helped power the 49ers to a berth in Super Bowl LIV. He’s a key cog in the NFL’s most feared defensive line along with Buckner, Dee Ford and Nick Bosa.

His breakout season has been simultaneous to San Francisco’s meteoric rise to become NFC Champions. After winning at least 11 games in his three seasons at Oregon, Armstead endured four losing seasons to begin his NFL career. The 49ers posted a combined 17-47 record from 2015-18. Between a dominant pass rush, a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo and a standout running game, everything clicked all at once for San Francisco in 2019.

“It’s been building for a long time coming, the adversity – both as a team and individually,” Armstead said. “It makes that moment that much sweeter.”

Armstead couldn’t have picked a better time for his breakout campaign. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and the former Duck is set to cash in. Purse strings will be tight in San Francisco as the 49ers are getting thin on cap space. They might not be able to match offers from other bidders around the NFL. Of note, the Seahawks have cash to burn could be a potential suitor given their pressing need to improve the pass rush.

But Armstead reiterated that he hasn’t thought about what might come next. A matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs awaits on Sunday, which means 60 minutes of chasing superstar QB Patrick Mahomes. That’s all that matters this week in Miami.

“I want to be remembered forever as a Super Bowl Champion,” he said.

It’s conceivable that Armstead’s next few months will include a ring and a sizeable raise. Not bad for a bust.

Oregon teammates Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner reach Super Bowl together with 49ers


Oregon teammates Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner reach Super Bowl together with 49ers

MIAMI – Arik Armstead leaned over to DeForest Buckner as the 49ers boarded their charter flight to Miami.

“Bro, we’re going to the Super Bowl,” Armstead said.

They’ve had several Paul Rudd-esque “look at us” moments over the years, but that one hit different.

The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers landed in South Florida on Sunday evening. This hysteria of Super Bowl week is a spectacle that only grows with each passing year. It began on Monday with Super Bowl Opening Night at Marlins Park. Armstead and Buckner spent an hour answering questions from media outlets from all around the world. As is the nature with that specific event, the conversations commonly strayed away from football.

But the two did recognize just how special their journey together has been.

They arrived to the University of Oregon in 2012, each a four-star recruit – Buckner from Oahu, Hawaii and Armstead from Elk Grove, Calif. The pair of 6-foot-7 defensive linemen became an immediate force for the Ducks. Oregon posted at least 11 wins from 2012-14 including a victory in the Fiesta Bowl in 2012 and a berth in the first ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game in 2014.

Armstead opted to leave college early and turn pro after his junior year. The 49ers selected him in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft (17th overall). Buckner came out a year later. In a serendipitous moment, San Francisco drafted Buckner seventh overall. The college teammates, friends and roommates were together once again.

“It’s faith, man,” Buckner said. “It’s crazy how things work out. To be college roommates, teammates, having so much success at Oregon together, him leaving early, me staying another year, both of us getting drafted to the same team – it’s crazy to me.”

Armstead had already endured a 5-11 record as a rookie in 2015. Their first three seasons together in the NFL from 2015-18 saw the 49ers post an abysmal combined record of 12-36. They’ve each played crucial roles in San Francisco’s 13-3 turnaround. The 49ers won the NFC West in 2019 and claimed the No. 1 seed in the NFC before steamrolling the Vikings and Packers in the Divisional Round and NFC Championship Game, respectively.

Buckner, fresh off a 12-sack season and his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2018, continued to be a force in 2019 with 7.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a touchdown. Armstead exploded for 10 sacks after never having a season with more than three. Now, they’re days away from playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

“We talk about it all the time – all the shared experiences we have together, playing alongside each other for seven years,” Armstead said. “It’s been great to have someone who knows what you go through and plays a similar position. It’s been great to play alongside him for so many years.”

The reality is that Sunday could very well be their last game as teammates. Armstead is set to be an unrestricted free agent in March, and with the 49ers tight on cap space, he may be the odd man out in San Francisco. The 49ers will need to work out a mega deal with tight end George Kittle and Buckner could also be in line for a new contract ahead of his fifth-year option in 2020.

That’s not to say it’s impossible as the 49ers would surely love to keep him in a perfect world. But Armstead has made himself a lot of money with his breakout season, and his play may have priced out San Francisco when other bidders come calling.

“We need to cherish every single moment, take it one day at a time and try to get this victory on Sunday,” Buckner said of the chances Armstead departs in a few months.

The 49ers have a great chance to beat the Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium. Should that happen, you can envision Buckner and Armstead hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with confetti raining down on them. They’ll know exactly what the other is thinking without having to say a word.

“Look at us.”

A historical weekend leads to Chris Duarte earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors

A historical weekend leads to Chris Duarte earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors

For the second time this season, Chris Duarte has been named the Pac-12 Player of the Week.

Duarte’s historical performance on Thursday night vs. the visiting USC Trojans was nothing short of spectacular. 

[RELATED]: Chris Duarte’s 30 points wasn’t even the best part of his game vs. USC

Offensively, he dominated. A 30-point night off 9-of-20 from the field and 3-of-6 from three-point range. But it was his defensive effort that was 

Duarte nearly recorded a triple-double: 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals. The last player to do that was Niagara’s Alvin Young, who had 34 points, 11 rebounds and nine steals against Saint Peter’s on Jan. 30, 1999. According to GoDucks.com, the eight steals was the most by a Duck since Kenya Wilkins set the school record with nine against Boise State on Dec. 20, 1996. It was also the most steals by a Pac-12 player since 2015 (T.J. McConnell, Arizona).

Oregon went on to win in double overtime 79-70 over USC.

On Sunday against the visiting UCLA Bruins, Duarte picked up right where he left off. His hot-hand continued and recorded 24 points off 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range. He pulled down six rebounds, six assists and added five steals. Oregon won handidly over UCLA, 96-75 at Matthew Knight Arena.

Over the weekend, Duarte averaged 27.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 54 percent from three-point range. 

With the sweep of the L.A. schools, the Ducks now take the sole lead in the Pac-12 conference with a 17-4 overall record and 6-2 in the conference. 

The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

The L.A. Chargers are moving on from Phillip Rivers.....is it Justin Herbert time?

It's the end of an era for the Los Angeles Chargers.

According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Chargers have informed quarterback Phillip Rivers that they will move on from him after sixteen seasons.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last week that the 38-year-old quarterback moved his family "permanently" from San Diego to Florida. Rivers is a free agent coming off a season where he passed for 4,615 yards and 23 touchdowns, his fewest since 2007, and 20 interceptions. 

Schefter states that the Chargers have been impressed with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and may have him start for them next season, which very well may be the case. But, it's hard to believe the Chargers see Taylor as the long-term replacement for Rivers especially when they could have played him last season over him. 

Rivers' replacement may not be on the roster yet, and the Chargers may be looking to the upcoming NFL Draft for his heir... Insert, Justin Herbert?

The Chargers own the sixth overall selection in the upcoming draft which aligns with Herbert's projected draft range of inside the top-ten. The Eugene native has found himself in a consensus top-three among the quarterbacks joining LSU's Joe Burrow and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. The former completed arguably the best college season ever for a quarterback winning the Heisman Trophy, National Championship and breaking the touchdown record for a single season. The latter was the consensus top quarterback in the draft before suffering a season-ending hip injury against Mississippi State.

Herbert impressed scouts and NFL coaches alike last week at the Senior Bowl being named the MVP of both the practices and the game. 

Most of the buzz coming out of the Senior Bowl was about Herbert's stellar play which should keep his draft stock high. The event helped Daniel Jones get chosen sixth overall last season after being named MVP of the event. Perhaps history will repeat itself. 

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan raved about Herbert praising his "prototypical size and athletic ability", intelligence, and a "really, really strong arm". His team also owns the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. The expectation is that they'll select Joe Burrow, however.

[RELATED: Who won the Senior Bowl? Justin Herbert]

After the Bengals, the next team in need of a quarterback is the Miami Dolphins at No. 5 who infamously appeared to tank the season for a high draft pick. But they had a little too much "Fitzmagic" and received the fifth pick. Speaking of the 37-year-old quarterback, Dolphins general manager expects Ryan Fitzpatrick to return to the team in 2020, so it'd make sense for them to take Tua Tagovaloia and sit him for a season.

That would leave the Chargers on the clock with Justin Herbert as the best quarterback available. Given the rest of the Chargers' roster is loaded with talent, they would want to take advantage of it by getting a high-level quarterback in as soon as possible to make a Super Bowl run. Five of the last eight Super Bowls have had quarterbacks on rookie contracts starting the big game, and it would have been six if Carson Wentz hadn't suffered a torn ACL during the Eagles' championship season.

If Herbert can continue to impress during the draft process at the NFL Combine and his pro day, which by all predictable measures he will, don't be surprised if he's headed to Hollywood. 

Sabrina Ionescu named back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Week

Sabrina Ionescu named back-to-back Pac-12 Player of the Week


Sabrina Ionescu and the then-No. 4 Ducks are ready to take on a top-10 opponent and rival in then-No. 7 Oregon State. On Oregon’s first possession, Sabrina Ionescu and Ruthy Hebard do what they do best: a pick-and-roll at the top of the key, Ionescu dishes to a cutting Hebard that results in a bucket. This time, this assist, there was something else present: Ionescu passes Gary Payton and becomes the Pac-12 all-time leader in assists.

The Ducks went onto defeat their rival 76-64. Ionescu finished with 23 points, nine assists, and four rebounds.


A different kind of emotion.

A visibly distraught Sabrina Ionescu took the court on Sunday afternoon an hour after hearing of Kobe Bryant’s passing. A close friend of hers and a big fan of the Oregon women’s basketball program.

Trying to collect herself to face the then-No. 7 Oregon State Beavers, her father Dan found her in the locker room and told her “Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls, you deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and get it done today. Go out and play for Kobe.”

Ionescu finished with a team-high 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists to lead the Ducks past the Beavers 66-57. Oregon also broke the Corvallis curse and for the first time since the 2009-2010 season, the Ducks won in Gill Coliseum.

For the second straight week, Ionescu’s performance earned her Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

This is the third time this season and eleventh in her career that Ionescu has earned this honor, good for second-most in league history. 

Portland selected as finalist for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four


Portland selected as finalist for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four

Portland has been announced as a finalist for the 2025 or 2026 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four, the NCAA announced this morning.

The bid process was handled collaboratively by Sport Oregon, Oregon State University, the Portland Trail Blazers, and Travel Portland. If the bid is successful, it would be the first time that Portland has hosted the Women’s Final Four.

The other three finalist cities in the running are Columbus, Phoenix, and Tampa.

“We are excited to be named a finalist for the Women’s Final Four, and look forward to the next steps in the process to make this a reality,” said Sport Oregon CEO Jim Etzel via a release from Sport Oregon. “We are tremendously fortunate to have such great bid partners, and a community that is incredibly supportive of women’s athletics.”

The Moda Center will again be hosting the 2020 Women’s Regional in March.

“Oregon State Athletics would like to thank Sport Oregon, the Portland Trail Blazers and Travel Portland for partnering with us in our goal to bring one of the most iconic NCAA Championship events to the Moda Center,” Beaver Vice President and Director of Athletics Scott Barnes said via the Sport Oregon release. “The record breaking success we experienced hosting the NCAA Regional last March and the awareness of the outstanding women’s basketball programs in this region have elevated the sport to new heights. We’re excited to further enhance our Strategic Plan objective to increase the Beaver brand in the Portland metro area.”

The group bidding on the event traveled to Indianapolis in December to make its’ formal presentation to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.

The next step is for the committee to conduct site tours of the finalist cities this summer and a final presentation will be made to the Committee in September, 2020.

An official decision for 2025 and 2026 for the Women’s Final Four will be made in October, 2020.

After sweeping the Civil War series, Ducks move up in the AP Poll

After sweeping the Civil War series, Ducks move up in the AP Poll

After an emotional, hard-fought weekend, the Oregon Ducks (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) left victorious on both occasions over their rival Oregon State Beavers (16-4, 4-4 Pac-12).

Their reward? A No. 3 ranking by the Associated Press.

Previously, the Ducks had been ranked No. 4 heading into the back-to-back games against the then-No. 7 Beavers. After walking away from both contests the victor, Oregon showed they belong in a higher tier than their rivals from the north. 

The Beavers dropped to No. 10 after getting swept. 

Let's recap the weekend.

Versus No. 7 Oregon State: 

The Ducks opened up the Civil War weekend with a home game that they looked quite dominant in for stretches. 

After falling behind 10-2 early, the Ducks would storm back to take a 45-29 halftime advantage. The lead would get as high as 21 points in the fourth quarter before a late Beavers rally made things more interesting.

Sabrina Ionescu showed why she's the best player in college basketball by scoring 23 points along with four rebounds and nine assists; including two buzzer-beating three-pointers to end the first and third quarters. 

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: The Ducks break open the floodgates against the Beavers]

@ No. 7 Oregon State: 66-57 WIN

The Ducks persevered through one of the most emotional environments you'll ever see. Just an hour before tipoff, both teams learned that NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna tragically passed away. The loss especially affected Ionescu who had developed a relationship with both Bryants.

[RELATED: Sabrina Ionescu paying tribute to Kobe Bryant: “This season is for him”]

Her father told ESPN the advice he gave to his daughter before the contest. "Of all the times you worked with him, of all the phone calls. You deserve to play for him and his legacy. Go out and do it today. Go out and play for Kobe."

She did just that, playing all 40 minutes and putting up 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds. After the game, she told ESPN that this season is for Kobe. 

NEXT: Now Oregon looks ahead to traveling east to play Utah on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. PT, then Colorado on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. PT, before traveling to play No. 4 Connecticut on Monday at 4:00 p.m. PT. 

Oregon men's basketball team moves up in latest AP Poll

Oregon men's basketball team moves up in latest AP Poll

The Ducks are ascending once again.

After sweeping the Los Angeles schools at Matthew Knight Arena this past weekend, the Ducks moved up one spot to No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll.

Oregon (17-4, 6-2 Pac-12) entered the weekend ranked No. 12 after losing in Pullman and narrowly defeating Washington in overtime. 

What's better than one overtime? Two overtimes.

Versus USC: 79-70 2OT WIN

The Ducks outlasted the Trojans in a war of attrition Thursday night winning in double-overtime. Guard Payton Pritchard became the first player in Pac-12 history to record 1,500+ points, 600+ assists, and 500+ rebounds in a career. To defeat the Trojans, he scored 24 points, dished out seven assists and got two steals.  

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: Payton Pritchard sets record, Chris Duarte balls out in win over USC]

However, it was guard Chris Duarte that led Oregon to victory recording one of the more wild stat lines you'll see this season: 30 points, 11 rebounds, and EIGHT steals. Duarte and Pritchard scored all of Oregon's points in double overtime. 

[RELATED: Chris Duarte’s 30 points wasn’t the best part of his game vs. USC]

Versus UCLA: 96-75 WIN

After a stressful win over the Trojans, the Ducks cruised to the program's largest victory over UCLA since 2003, winning 96-75 at Matthew Knight Arena. The Bruins turned the ball over a season-high 23 times, including 15 Oregon steals. Duarte had six of those by himself to go along with 24 points. 

UP NEXT: Oregon travels to Berkeley to play the California Golden Bears (9-10, 3-3 Pac-12) at 6:00 p.m. PT on Thursday, before traveling to Palo Alto to play Stanford (15-4, 4-2 Pac-12) at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. 

Family members of former Oregon baseball player J.J. Altobelli among victims of helicopter crash

Family members of former Oregon baseball player J.J. Altobelli among victims of helicopter crash

In a tragic helicopter crash that resulted in nine dead, amongst Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, the parents and sister of former Oregon baseball great J.J. Altobelli (2010-2012).

John was the current head baseball coach at Orange Coast County and the former coach of the Brewster Whitecaps, where J.J. played in the summer of 2011.

“John meant so much to not only Orange Coast College, but to baseball,” says Coast Athletic Director Jason Kehler. “He truly personified what it means to be a baseball coach. The passion that he put into the game, but more importantly his athletes, was second to none - he treated them like family. Our deepest condolences go out to the Altobelli family during this time of tragedy.”

According to the Orange Coast College website: Altobelli led the Pirates to numerous conference and state championship titles, notching more than 700 wins during his career and four state championships. In 2019, he was honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association as an ABCA/Diamond National Coach of the Year, a testament to his incredible work ethic and passion for the game.

Alyssa was basketball teammates with Gianna on Kobe’s team.

J.J. is a current scout for the Boston Red Sox.

Our hearts are with you, Altobelli family!