Eugene, OR- Mycah Pittman just shined in his Duck debut in No. 13 Oregon’s 17-7 win over California in which he made two spectacular diving catches that awed the sell out crowd of 54,766 in Autzen Stadium. Yet, the freshman walked off the field slowly, with a concerned look on his face that caused senior quarterback Justin Herbert to stop, put his arm around the young receiver and give him some encouragement.
Why so serious?
Because Pittman’s not satisfied.
“If he could, he’d put another hour on the clock and keep playing, that’s the kind of guy that he is,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. “You see how excitable he is when he touches the ball. Those aren’t easy catches, either… I was very happy that he’s healthy because it means the world to him. Looking forward to more explosive moments from him (and fellow slot receiver Jaylon) Redd.”
His four receptions and 43 yards helped the Ducks grind out the ugly win. The Ducks offense woke up just in time to improve to 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013. Oregon (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) remains the only team in the North Division without a conference loss.
But Pittman has higher expectations.
“People tell me that I had a great game, I didn’t have any dropped passes, but at the end of the day I feel like I can do more for this team,” Pittman said. “We got a team win and I’m very grateful for that but personally, I’m very hard on myself… I’m a very competitive guy. If I told you guys my goals, you would laugh at me.”
When pressed, Pittman would only add his goals are “really high."
Since stepping foot on campus, the Pittman hype has been full go. During fall camp, he was the most talked about true freshman, making Oregon fans reel in excitement. A shoulder injury, from (of course) making a diving catch in practice set back his plans, changing course to rehabbing and exercising mental reps.
His first game proved that his athleticism and reliable hands are as good as advertised. The “fire in his belly” is also living up to the hype.
“I’ve always told everyone this, he has amazing hands, the best hands I’ve seen from a receiver,” said corner back Thomas Graham. “He’s very tough on himself and I like that, because I’m tough on myself. If you don’t hold yourself to a higher standard than what standard can you tell people to hold you to?”
Pittman’s ruthless attitude is echoed on the Duck defense, which once again came through to keep Oregon in the game. Oregon forced seven Cal three-and-outs and two turnovers.
Freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux also recorded his first sack, finishing the game with two.
“I was so excited, my blood was going I felt like a shark when there's blood in the water," Thibodeaux said. "I mean it was unbelievable."
The relentlessness is also exemplified in sophomore running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who couldn’t help but stop a rogue fan who ran onto the field during a TV timeout. He was toying with security when Habibi-Likio stepped up to take down the fan, even though strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld told him not to.
“I had no intention to hurt him,” Habibi-Likio said. “It’s a Pac-12 game and we were down and the momentum was slipping away. Cal Coach (Justin) Wilcox seemed frustrated so he was signaling the security to get him and they weren’t able to get him. Coach Feld told me, ‘don’t do it, don’t do it’ because he saw me pacing back and forth but I had to do it.”
Habibi-Likio scored Oregon’s first touchdown late in the third quarter from a situation he is very comfortable with: on the goal line. The Ducks combined for 206 rushing yards, surpassing the rushing total against Stanford (83 yards) in the first quarter alone.
It wasn’t pretty: Travis Dye fumbled the ball twice, Herbert threw his first interception of 2019, Oregon committed eight penalties (four more than their average per game); and CJ Verdell went down an injury (although the X- Ray came back negative, ankle sprain, according to Cristobal).
However, faced with an opportunity to fold, the Ducks stood. Herbert finished 20-for-33 for 214 yards and was able to extend his touchdown streak to 33 games with a one-yard pass to junior wide receiver Jaylon Redd to all but seal the game in the fourth quarter.
All in all, it was a victory in Pac-12 play. The biggest win? The Ducks, like Pittman, aren’t satisfied.