Oregon Ducks

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?

Memphis bringing a big-time player and a big controversy to the PKI

Memphis bringing a big-time player and a big controversy to the PKI

The PK Invitational is going to feature an entire level of intrigue that nobody could have seen coming when it unfolds Tuesday night in Moda Center.

The University of Memphis is coming to Portland to meet the Ducks in the 6 p.m. opening game and Oregon State takes on Oklahoma in the 8 o’clock nightcap of the doubleheader.

And Memphis is bringing a very big controversy and a big-time player who will likely be in uniform for the Tigers against the Ducks – one of the top prospects in the country, James Wiseman, a 7-1, 240-pound freshman center.

Wiseman has a group of sharp lawyers on his side and the University of Memphis, too, after the NCAA had declared him ineligible for accepting money from a Memphis booster.

And that booster? It was current Memphis coach and former NBA all-star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

Stay with me here, because this is a tangled web that seems to be what holds college basketball together these days. Hardaway was the head coach at Memphis East High School, where he won two Tennessee state championships. As you may guess, Hardaway was also an AAU coach in the summer, where he presumably met Wiseman. After Wiseman’s junior year of high school in Nashville, Hardaway reportedly provided $11,500 to Wiseman’s mother for moving expenses, so that her son could play for Hardaway in Memphis.

Hardaway had no connection to the university – except he had made a $1 million donation to the school’s athletic department in 2008. Which, in the eyes of the NCAA, classifies him as a booster of the school. Which means he can’t be handing money out to the mother of a recruit.

The NCAA made its ruling and the university launched its own investigation alongside the one by the NCAA. And the school disagrees with the proposition that Hardaway was a “booster” and believes the player to be eligible. They suited him up for a game last week and he was spotted boarding the team plane for Portland Sunday night. A couple of local Memphis lawyers have signed on to get the case into court and that is supposed to happen next week.

In the meantime, all of college basketball will be watching the Ducks and Tigers – and Wiseman – Tuesday night in Portland, wondering if the kid will end up causing forfeits of any games the Tigers win or leads them to great heights as the No. 1 recruit in the country and the leader of the top recruiting class this season.

The Ducks are undefeated at 2-0 and trying to establish themselves as a tournament threat again.

In the second game Tuesday in the tournament that honors Nike founder Phil Knight, the Beavers and Sooners will also try to get a good jump on what they believe will be promising seasons.

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Oregon true freshman Mykael Wright has earned the nickname “silent assassin” from his teammates. His quiet demeanor, number two jersey and superstar type skills draw the comparison to NBA star Kawhi Leonard. The cornerback lived up to that label in the No. 7 Ducks’ win over USC when he killed USC's momentum and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the first half.

The speedy freshman had only regularly began working as a kick returner earlier that week. However, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was not shocked when Wright completely transformed the energy of the game. The top-ranked cornerback in the nation (ESPN, 2019) returned punts in high school and provided tape highlights, which Cristobal often refers to. Cristobal instantly noticed Wright’s natural instincts as a returner.

“Naturally, when the ball is in the air, he knows how to get to it,” Cristobal said. "He knows how to handle receivers and handle guys who show late hands. When he’s had the ball in his hands in practice when he gets a pick or something of that nature, he just has a natural feel for following his blockers or setting up his blocks.”

His versatility has provided a solid foundation and a major strength for Oregon. During his two seasons at Valencia high school in California, Wright had nine interceptions and 25 tackles on defense. On offense, he picked up 1,986 receiving yards in addition to 26 touchdowns.

Entering this season, junior starting cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. tabbed Wright as a future freshman All-American. Now, Cristobal is game planning an increased role for Wright.

“Without question, he’s an electrifying player back there,” Cristobal said. “I think the more he does it, the better and better he’ll get. We don’t want to extend him too much because he’s got a lot going on with special teams and playing corner for us, but his role on teams is going to expand.”

The natural playmaker’s next opportunity will come this Saturday night, as Oregon looks to beat Arizona to officially punch its ticket to the Pac-12 Conference title game.

Three notable changes to Oregon’s depth chart ahead of Arizona

Three notable changes to Oregon’s depth chart ahead of Arizona

No. 7 Oregon has the opportunity to clinch its third Pac-12 North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship with a win over Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Autzen Stadium.

Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) will look to avenge last season’s loss at Arizona and extend this season’s undefeated streak in conference play and at home (5-0).

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal released the depth chart ahead of the game and there are three notable changes:

1. Graduate-transfer Juwan Johnson is co-starter with redshirt freshman Bryan Addison at “Z” wide receiver position. Expect an increased role for Johnson after back-to-back clutch performances.

“Coming off some injuries, Juwan is a guy that I knew would step up big,” quarterback Justin Herbert said after Oregon’s win at USC. “I don’t think the public has seen his best yet. We knew all along he would be a special player.”

2. At tight end, true freshman Patrick Herbert is listed as co-backup (with Spencer Webb) to senior Ryan Bay. Patrick Herbert has played in two games this season but has yet to catch a pass.

3. Junior Brady Breeze will start at boundary safety. Junior Nick Pickett was called for targeting in the second half against USC and will be out for the first half against Arizona. Regardless of Pickett's status, Breeze "has certainly earned the right to be on the field more," Cristobal said.

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Sue Bird: Sabrina's got the "stuff" you can't teach

Sue Bird: Sabrina's got the "stuff" you can't teach

“Ducks Nation — I’ll see you next year. Let’s see some packed houses. Kobe — I’ll see you next year, too. Hope you keep watching. And WNBA — I’ll see you soon. Real soon, I promise. Just have some business to take care of first.”

This was the message to Duck fans 218 days ago from Sabrina Ionescu.

The basketball phenom decided to forgo the 2019 WNBA Draft (as the projected No. 1 overall pick) and return to Oregon for her senior year.

That unfinished business? Perhaps a redemption tour all the way to the NCAA National Championship after a heartbreaking loss in the Final Four last year. But let’s not get too far ahead. 

It all started last night when the Ducks defeated Team USA 93-86 in an exhibition game at Matthew Knight Arena. 

Ionescu dropped 30 points, seven assists and four rebounds over the best in the world. In what felt like a ceremonial passing of the torch from “GOATS” Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi to the next generation of talent, Ionescu absolutely balled out in the spotlight.

From one G.O.A.T. to the next:

“My favorite part about her game right now is just her competitiveness,” said Bird on Ionescu. “She’s very relentless. Even when you think you have her stopped, she keeps coming at you. Those are things you can’t always teach. So as the year goes on, people are going to talk about ‘Can she shoot? Can she do this? Is she good enough for that?’ Who cares. If you’re competitive, that can overcome a lot. And for her, you can’t teach those things and she’s got them.”

High praise for Ionescu coming from one of the very best to ever play the game.

Ionescu and the Ducks have a big season ahead. A preseason No. 1 ranking, a roster loaded with talent from top to bottom, an established fan base and basketball culture in Eugene, and of course, a competitive nature.

The WNBA is waiting. The sponsors will come. A potential shoe deal? Why not! We all know just how dominant Ionescu is and a professional career will begin in due time. 

But for now, enjoy the ride.

“All that stuff will be waiting for her. It’s going to come eventually. She needs to just enjoy this ride,” said Bird. “She’s going to want to finish it right. Speaking from someone who won their senior year (UConn, 2001-02), there’s no better feeling than walking off the court a winner. You literally leave with no regrets. Hopefully she has that mindset.”

Oh, we think she does.

Diana Taurasi’s message to Oregon: Stay mad

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NBCSNW

Diana Taurasi’s message to Oregon: Stay mad

EUGENE, OR - It was a night showing off the world’s best vs. the nation’s best. Team USA vs. No. 1 Oregon women’s basketball and it did not disappoint.

In front of an 11,000+ crowd in Matthew Knight Arena, the best of the best was on full display in Team USA’s final stop of their training camp tour. 

In what many, including the Oregon players themselves, thought would be a competitive game but with USA eventually pulling away in the end quickly turned into a “what did we all just witness?” type of feel.

“I mean, we came into the game thinking we have a shot at this… yeah, we’re good but we’re staying humble about it and we know we’re not just going to come out there and beat them by 20,” said junior Satou Sabally following the game. “But I think every team has to go into every game very confident.”

“I think before the game and the week leading up to it, watching the other games, we knew they were the best team in the world, the best players in the world, so we were just going to try and stay within 20,” said senior Sabrina Ionescu, who recorded 30 points, seven assists and four rebounds.

Confidence plus talent would do just that and more.

The Ducks went onto victory over Team USA, 93-86.

“As the game continued to go on, we kind of forgot who they were and what the expectations were of them beating us and we were just trying to play our game and play it to perfection,” Ionescu added.

This win wasn’t just like any other, even though it was over the best in the game. No, it all started with a mindset courtesy of Diana Taurasi, the 37-year-old basketball phenom with a killer bun. Before the game, the two teams had the opportunity to meet one another. During this time, Taurasi gave a little piece of advice to the No. 1 team in the nation: Stay mad.

Without knowing the exact context to what experience Taurasi was referencing, one can assume that the Ducks haven’t stopped thinking about last season. A first ever Final Four appearance that ended in a heartbreaking 72-67 loss to Baylor (who would go on to win the National Championship). The Ducks now enter the 2019-2020 season with a chip on their shoulder and a target on their back.

With a mindset of staying mad, drowning out the accolades or the rankings and the talent on the roster, this team is dangerous and it all started tonight.

Podcast: Oregon reaping the benefits of Justin Herbert, Troy Dye returning for senior seasons

Podcast: Oregon reaping the benefits of Justin Herbert, Troy Dye returning for senior seasons

Remember when Justin Herbert gave Duck fans the best Christmas present of them all? On December 26, 2018, Herbert announced he would forgo the 2019 NFL Draft and return to Oregon for his senior season.

On January 10, the good news kept coming: Linebacker Troy Dye would also return to Oregon for his senior season.

What a difference it has been for Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) this season to have these two on the field.

Justin Herbert didn’t look like himself in the first quarter vs. USC last Saturday, but then went on a reign of terror over the Trojans to finish the game. You can’t get over that mental bump without experience, and Herbert has four years of it. The offense couldn’t get it together in weeks one and two of Pac-12 play, putting up just 21 points over Stanford and 17 on California, but now have found their groove.

The defense allowed just 25 points through five games before giving up 31 points to Washington, 35 to Washington State and 24 to USC. Those are a lot of points given up to good offenses, but the defense found a way to get it done. 

Talkin’ Ducks host Jordan Kent said on the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast:

“I look at what this Oregon team has done, and don’t forget you had Troy Dye and Justin Herbert come back for their senior seasons because they felt there was unfinished business, and the issue with the team last year was you got to the second half of the season and this team wilted. You got to the second half of games and this team would wilt. That’s not the case this year.”

The Ducks are reaping the benefits of having the senior leadership of Herbert and Dye out on the field. Their leadership and talent (duh) is helping Oregon finish games: Herbert’s final minute drive to set up the game-winning field goal vs. Washington State and the defense coming up huge vs. Washington stopping a fourth down conversion.

In the last eight games, Oregon has outscored its opponents 170-41 in the second half.

Last season, the Ducks struggled on the road: A 14-point loss at Washington State followed by a blowout loss at Arizona, and then a one-touchdown loss at Utah. Take a breath. This season is a different story. A 3-0 record on the road with big wins in front of hostile crowds: Washington and USC. 

And with just three conference games remaining, the Ducks must take care of business as their hopes and dreams of a College Football Playoff are slim, but exist.

Listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast below:

CFB Playoff scenario: Who gets in? A one-loss, Pac-12 champ or a one-loss, non SEC champ?

CFB Playoff scenario: Who gets in? A one-loss, Pac-12 champ or a one-loss, non SEC champ?

There is no two-loss team that will be in the College Football Playoff come January.

With just three games remaining on No. 7 Oregon’s (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) conference schedule and the first CFB Playoff rankings out, let the speculations begin regarding who will be the last four teams standing with a chance for a National Championship.

Let’s take a glance at the first CFB rankings (through Oregon):

1. Ohio State (8-0)

2. LSU (8-0)

3. Alabama (8-0)

4. Penn State (8-0)

5. Clemson (9-0)

6. Georgia (7-1)

7. Oregon (8-1)

On the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast, hosts Jordan Kent and Anthony Newman break down specific scenarios the Ducks could be in come December.

“A one-loss Pac-12 champion gets into the College Football Playoff. You will not see a one-loss SEC or Big Ten team that did not play in their conference championship game leapfrog a one-loss Pac-12 champion,” said Kent.

Here's a scenario: First, Alabama loses to LSU on Saturday and then will not play in the SEC championship game. Then, Oregon defeats Utah in the Pac-12 title game. So, does a one-loss Alabama team jump Oregon for the potential fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff?

Kent continues:

“If an Alabama team with one loss who doesn’t earn its way into its conference championship game deserves to go, you’re basically assuming if Alabama played in that conference championship game, they would win. They wouldn’t have another loss on their resume. That’s the risk you run when you do go to these conference championships. You have a chance to get loss number two.”

Why would it be beneficial not to play in that game?

In a year where the Pac-12 North was down (underwhelming performances from Washington, Washington State and Stanford), Oregon still took care of business on the road at UW, USC and their only loss came to an eventual top-10 team in Auburn. 

Will that, and potentially a Pac-12 championship, be enough to pass both the resume and “eye test” for the CFB Playoff committee?

Listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast below:

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Five things to root for to help Oregon’s CFB Playoff chances

Five things to root for to help Oregon’s CFB Playoff chances

Oregon’s No. 7 ranking in the first College Football Playoff poll this season keeps the Ducks’ National Championship dreams alive and makes their next four games extremely relevant. Whether you are freaking out (good or bad) or calm as a cucumber like Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal (who watched Oregon’s basketball game at Matthew Knight Arena during the debut rankings release), here is an ideal scenario that’d help the Ducks get into the top four.

First and foremost, it’s essential the Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) cruise through Pac-12 Conference play undefeated. The Ducks are the second highest ranked one-loss team, behind No. 6 Georgia.

The slight against the Ducks is their best wins are against Washington and USC, a pair of unranked 5-4 teams. The combined record of the FBS opponents Oregon has beaten this is season is 30-30. Oregon’s saving grace could be a possible Top 10 showdown with No. 8 Utah (8-1, 5-1) in the Pac-12 Championship Game. A one-loss Pac-12 champion would certainly be in the discussion for one of the four spots.

[READ: "Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks]

Root for Utah… Until the championship game, of course

It’d help Oregon’s chances if Utah excelled in the committee’s “eye test” for the remainder of their conference games. Root for the Utes to destroy UCLA, Arizona and Colorado to finish the season 11-1 in dominating fashion. Then, root for a convincing Oregon victory against a strong Utah team in the Pac-12 title game.

Root for Washington to beat Oregon State in Reser Stadium, 7:30 p.m. Friday

Oregon State is still in the race for the divisional title and is the only team Oregon has not beaten in the Pac-12 North. The Beavers (4-4, 3-2) are second in the Pac-12 North standings and are trending upwards, winning three of their last four.

Ducks fans should root for the Huskies, who are coming off a loss to No. 8 Utah. If the Beavers top Washington, the Civil War would be a pivotal rivalry matchup with the potential for a disaster upset for the Ducks.  

Root for LSU to beat Alabama, 12:30 p.m. Saturday

If No. 2 LSU (8-0) badly routs No. 3 Alabama (8-0) in Saturday’s marquee matchup, it could raise major doubts about the Crimson Tide as playoff contenders (along with its soft non-conference schedule and resume).

Root for Auburn, particularly vs. Georgia (All Ducks fans roll eyes)

Yes,  No. 11 Auburn (7-2) beat Oregon in the season opener, which still stings for many Ducks fans. However, that last second loss will look better if the Tigers can win out down the stretch, specifically against No. 6 Georgia on November 16.

Penn State and Ohio State still play each other. Root for a blowout in that Big Ten clash, one convincing enough to raise serious doubts about the loser.

Root for Oklahoma to lose

Oklahoma (7-1) is ranked No. 9. Root for the Sooners to lose a game against remaining opponents Iowa State, Baylor, TCU or Oklahoma State. If Oklahoma wins out and wins the Big 12 title game, the committee may have to decide between a one-loss Pac-12 champion and a one-loss Big 12 champion.

The poll that actually matters is released on December 8th and there is a lot of football left to be played. No. 1 Ohio State still has to play No. 4 Penn State and who knows, maybe No. 5 Clemson will get upset. However, don’t forget that for Oregon to be a strong candidate, it first must take care of its own business, which Cristobal recognizes.

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: No. 7 Oregon prepares for the final stretch

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: No. 7 Oregon prepares for the final stretch

Just three more games left in 2019 conference play.

The No. 7 Oregon Ducks have their second and final bye this weekend and begin their final stretch of Pac-12 play next Satuday vs. Arizona followed by Arizona State and Oregon State.

Our Talkin' Ducks hosts Jordan Kent and Anthony Newman go over how it looks like the Ducks have finally become a complete team with all cylinders firing. Also, Oregon survives a daunting stretch in their schedule (Washington, Washington State and USC) and end it with a huge win against the Trojans last Saturday. So, what does this mean about their college football chances?

Listen to the full podcast below:

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