What’s Quack’n: Turn up the heat in Tucson
Ducks looking ahead to Arizona
After a disappointing 34-20 loss in Pullman, Washington last Saturday vs. the Washington State Cougars, No. 19 Oregon looks ahead to the Arizona Wildcats (2-3 Pac-12) for a Pac-12 After Dark showdown in the desert. Kickoff set for 7:30 PM (PT).
Scroll through to see quotes from Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal addressing the media from Monday’s press conference.
Truly a tale of two halves
If you are looking at purely stats alone, who was in those Oregon Ducks shiny white sparkly uniforms in the first half vs. Washington State. It was not the start that anyone predicted, getting completely shutout and only rushed for TWO TOTAL yards in the first half. For a team that prides itself on running the ball and winning the battle in the trenches, this was not the case.
But on a more positive note, the response after halftime was the Oregon that we are all used to seeing and it started with 20 unanswered points lead by the field general that is QB Justin Herbert.
“There was a response, and a strong one. One that put is in a situation where it became a came a one-score game after fighting our way back into that,” says Cristobal. “We have to train for that response to come much sooner. To not let it snowball. College football momentum is the biggest animal there is.”
What happened to the run-game?
It all looked so good from the Ducks run game coming into Pullman last Saturday, Redshirt freshman CJ Verdell earned the starters role, ran for 100+ yards in three straight games, and backed up by another freshman sensation in Travis Dye. All things looked up, until the Ducks ran into the Cougars, or rather didn’t run.
Oregon recorded just 58 total rush yards. Washington State showed multiple defensive line looks and nifty shifts late in the snap count that threw off the Ducks’ offensive line and didn’t allow them to get upfield to the second level.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge with their movements and their stunts,” says Cristobal. “We’d like to stick with the run game more but with the way the game started playing out, we saw ourselves in a situation where we’re going to have to throw the ball a lot more… We got to do a better job coaching our guys to handle that stuff but overall it was up and down, but certainly some things we need to improve upon.”
Running back rotation
Back-to-back weeks of senior running back Tony Brooks-James solely on special teams, no showing of freshman Cyrus Habibi-Likio, a banged up CJ Verdell, unproductive day from Travis Dye what is the status with these Oregon running backs moving forward? Cristobal explained that the game vs. WSU became more of a passing game and so putting Verdell in as an extra blocker was the right move.
“We got to be on schedule in terms of the way we operate offensively to not get in that situation. But we feel good about all three of those guys, Cyrus as well. I know Cyrus hasn’t touched the ball in a little bit, but he is a guy we do depend on as well. Those other guys are ahead of him but that doesn’t mean he is out of the mix…”
Look for Habibi-Likio, aka the Red Zone Warrior, to continue to come in for short-and-goal situations.
Khalil Tate still Khalil Tate
Regardless if the Arizona Wildcats are having a down year, Wildcats QB Khalil Tate is still as elusive, shifty, dynamic as ever. However, his status on Saturday vs. Oregon is still in question after sitting out last week due to an ankle injury.
So now Cristobal and the Ducks defense have to prepare for the possibility of backup Rhett Rodriguez or Tate at quarterback.
“They are both very effective in what they do,” says Cristobal. “You are preparing for two really good football players. One that is always in the talk at Hesiman race in Khalil Tate, and Rodriguez being the son of a coach, you can tell in his demeanor, his poise, and the way he operates and add the fact that he is really talented, that’s one heck of a football player.”