High expectations and laughable goals: WR Mycah Pittman's debut

High expectations and laughable goals: WR Mycah Pittman's debut

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.

Oregon football swagged out in "Nightmare Green" this Saturday

Oregon football swagged out in "Nightmare Green" this Saturday

The well-rested No. 13 Oregon Ducks will be sporting "Nightmare Green" and yellow in their Pac-12 Conference home opener vs. California on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Reaction from Oregon fans has been polarizing, either loving or hating the newest color addition. Duck fans are encouraged to wear green in Autzen Stadium on Saturday. 

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature large "Mighty Oregon" font resembling last season's "Oregon Football 2.0" uniform with slight differences. The addition of Nightmare Green is the biggest change while notably no black set was released (yet). 

Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) is the only remaining team in the North Division without a loss and looking to stay atop of the North standings. The Ducks have won nine of their last 10 games against Cal (4-1, 1-1) and scored 40 or more points in the last eight matchups vs. the Golden Bears.

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Oregon Coach Cristobal's ear-catching comments about penalties and turnovers

How Brenden Schooler and Mycah Pittman's return boosts Oregon's passing attack

How Brenden Schooler and Mycah Pittman's return boosts Oregon's passing attack

Senior Brenden Schooler and freshman Mycah Pittman will take the field for the first time this season in No 13. Oregon’s game against California (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) this Saturday night (5 p.m., FOX).

“Both Brenden and Mycah have been cleared, they have practiced all week, and they will play,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal told reporters after practice Wednesday morning. “They looked real good today. ... They look like they are back to normal. We will practice again the next couple days and figure out a rotation, but you can expect them to play.”

Cristobal also added that senior grad transfer Juwan Johnson is “still progressing.” Johnson has yet to play due to a calf injury.

Schooler returns after rehabbing a foot injury sustained in fall camp. He is listed as a co-starter alongside Bryan Addison. His impact will be felt on the offense, special teams, and the intangibles through his veteran leadership.

Pittman will make his highly anticipated collegiate debut after rehabbing a shoulder injury sustained in fall camp. Before the injury, he was turning heads and splitting first team reps at slot receiver. Pittman has strong hands, a running back body, and excels at getting separation

“He’s got that swagger, he knows who he is, his potential, but he can ball too,” Oregon safety Jevon Holland said. “He’s resilient and he’s got fire in his belly. He’s got a lot of what we need in the receiver position and on the team, period. Especially from a young guy to push the older guys.”

How will the return of these two explosive targets change the passing attack?

It boosts a position group that was spread thin through Oregon’s (3-1, 1-0) first four games. It adds options for quarterback Justin Herbert and will undoubtedly enhance the passing attack in short, intermediate routes and down the field. The biggest area of improvement I expect will come in offensive plays of 20 or more yards. The Ducks’ 14 passing plays of 20-plus yards currently ranks 47th nationally. Herbert’s arm is capable plus Arroyo laments not attempting more downfield passes to Oregon’s inexperienced receivers in the Ducks’ loss to Auburn in week one. Since the defeat, the Ducks’ explosion plays have increased, in particular to tight end Jacob Breeland and wide receiver Johnny Johnson III.

With Pittman’s hands and Schooler’s speed, expect a more explosive and exciting Oregon offense that will stretch the field against the Bears.

 

Oregon vs. California: 10 numbers to know

Oregon vs. California: 10 numbers to know

The well-rested Oregon Ducks will will face California in their Pac-12 Conference home opener on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) is the only remaining team in the North Division without a loss and looking to stay atop of the North standings. The No. 13 Ducks have won nine of their last 10 games against Cal (4-1, 1-1) and scored 40 or more points in the last eight matchups vs. the Golden Bears.

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

BAD NEWS FOR THE BEARS

Cal’s first defeat of the season came with a major blow. Starting quarterback Chase Garbers suffered a right shoulder injury during Cal’s 27-17 loss to Arizona State Friday night. Bears coach Justin Wilcox announced Monday night that the sophomore is out indefinitely.

BETTING LINE

The Ducks opened as 14-point favorites over the Bears. The line has since shifted to -18 with a 46 total points over/under.

[READ: Oregon football's depth chart has exciting additions]

NEXT MAN UP

Bears backup quarterback Devon Modster will likely be in command vs. Oregon. Modster transferred to Cal this past offseason after leaving the UCLA program in 2018. Last Friday in relief, he completed just five of his 12 passes for 23 yards with one interception in the Arizona State end zone. “Honest, I think I played terrible. I could have played a lot better,” Modster told reporters.

DUCK DEFENSE IS DOMINATING

For the first time since 1933, Oregon hasn’t allowed a touchdown in three consecutive games. The Duck defense has kept opponents out of the end zone for 38 consecutive drives.

HERBERT VS. CAL

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert has nine career touchdown passes vs. Cal, tied for his most against one opponent. The senior looks to extend two nation leading streaks on Saturday: 32 consecutive games with a touchdown pass and 174 attempts without an interception.

QUICK STARTS

Oregon is one of two FBS teams (Wisconsin) that hasn't allowed a first half touchdown this season, while outscoring its opponents 84-15 in the first half through the first four games.

A WIN WOULD…

Improve Oregon to 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013.

BREELAND ALL BUSINESS

Senior Jacob Breeland is the national leader among tight ends with five touchdowns this season. He is fourth in career receiving yards among Oregon tight ends all-time with 1,085. Breeland’s reliability has been crucial, catching 18 of his 21 targets this season.

WATCH OUT FOR HOLLAND

Safety Jevon Holland is coming off a career-high eight tackles and recorded his second interception of the season against Stanford. His seven career interceptions rank second most career interceptions among sophomores in the nation (Syracuse’s Andre Cisco has 9).

CRISTOBAL ON FIRE AT HOME

Oregon looking to improve to 9-1 at home under coach Cristobal against Cal. 

Oregon's Pac-12 home opener in prime time

Oregon's Pac-12 home opener in prime time

Oregon's Pac-12 conference home opener is set for prime time. The No.13 Ducks host No. 15 California at 5 p.m. (PT) on Saturday, Oct. 5 on FOX.

The Bears are the second highest ranked team in the Pac-12 (after Oregon), jumping eight spots to the No. 15 slot, their highest ranking since 2009. 

Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) and Cal (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) are the only Pac-12 north teams with a conference win.

Coming up, the Ducks are on a bye week while the Bears will host Arizona State (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12). 

Ducks win, rise in AP Poll

Ducks win, rise in AP Poll

The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) moved up from No. 19 to No. 18 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after beating then No. 24 California on the road, 42-24. The Bears fell out of the Top 25.

The victory was Oregon's first Pac-12 road victory since 2016 when it upset then No. 11 Utah. Quarterback Justin Herbert made it rain against one of the nation's top defenses and he did it in big play fashion.

In the Pac-12: No 6 Notre Dame's defense lead the Irish past Stanford. The Cardinal dropped from No. 7 to No. 14.

Undefeated Colorado moves to No. 21 after beating UCLA.

Husky QB Jake Browning shined in Washington's 35-7 victory over then No. 20 BYU. The Huskies moved from No. 11 to No. 10 and are Oregon's next opponent

Around the nation: Ohio State rallied late to beat then No. 9 Penn State 27-26 in a thriller. The Buckeyes rose to No. 3. 

Oregon flexes resiliency, Herbert makes it rain vs. Cal

Oregon flexes resiliency, Herbert makes it rain vs. Cal

BERKELEY-- Oregon’s offense shined in the Ducks’ first road test and Pac-12 conference win over No. 24 California. The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) beat the Bears, 42-24, in their first conference road victory since 2016 when they upset then No. 11 Utah.

Quarterback Justin Herbert made it rain against one of the nation's top defenses and he did it in big play fashion. His first touchdown pass was a 30-yard bullet to transfer tight end Kano Dillon that made the nine NFL scouts present lick their chops. His second touchdown pass was a picture perfect 36-yard ball to junior wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

A big question heading into this Top 25 matchup was, will Cal’s multiple looks and tricky defensive scheme confuse Herbert? Entering Saturday, the Bears’ defense ranked sixth in the nation allowing an average of 4.22 yards per play and 19.2 points per game. The answer is no, Herbert looked as poised as ever.

“(Herbert) sees the whole field, he's a great decision-maker and he does not get duped by the coverage” said Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. “You’re gonna hear me say it every week; He just continues to elevate his game.””

The junior threw zero interceptions against a Cal team that lead the Pac-12 with seven interceptions. Herbert finished the game 16-of-22 with 225 passing yards, completing passes to eight different UO receivers.

Mitchell continues to prove to be Herbert’s go-to receiver. Coming off a career-high game against Stanford, Mitchell caught seven balls for 105 yards and a score.

Oregon’s rushing attack was without senior Tony Brooks-James. Despite playing on special teams, Brooks-James did not receive a carry because of an ankle injury that limited his playing time.

Freshman CJ Verdell and Travis Dye handled the rushing load, both surpassing 100 rushing yards. Cyrus Habibi-Likio also scored in front of 200+ family and friends in the crowd, the red zone warrior now has six touchdowns this season.

Oregon was able to bounce-back from last Saturday’s shocking loss to No. 7 Stanford with a lot of thanks to its defense, who scored two touchdowns and forced five turnovers. Troy Dye led the defense with 11 tackles and made a huge fourth-and-goal stop on the Oregon one-yard line that tempered the Bears 2nd half strike back.

 

 

"I'm really proud of our football team coming on the road," said Cristobal. "We worked really hard all week, coming off a hard loss and they really took it upon themselves to get right to business. 

 

Oregon flexed its resiliency at a crucial time, entering the toughest part of its schedule. The Ducks are now 1-1 in conference play and get a bye week to rest before facing rival No. 10 Washington on Oct. 13.

Uniform update: Oregon's road digs

Uniform update: Oregon's road digs

Oregon's first road game of the season is this Saturday against the undefeated No. 24 Cal Bears. The Ducks' will be wearing all white and chrome for the Pac-12-After-Dark (7:35 p.m. kickoff) matchup. 

The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature a new large "Mighty Oregon" font. The jerseys are more simple than years past. Fans are also encouraged to wear white. 

Victory is vital for Oregon this Saturday to keep Pac-12 Title hopes alive. I wrote about how the Ducks' loss to Stanford doesn't define them, but their October might.

Did you know the NCAA tightened restrictions on CFB uniforms?

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What's special about Justin Herbert and his preparation?

What's special about Justin Herbert and his preparation?

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, most likely to: “Throw a touchdown pass, be our president, do whatever Justin Herbert wants,” senior running back Tony Brooks-James said. “Anything he puts his mind to.”

This week, Herbert has set his mind to do whatever it takes to lead No. 19 Oregon to its first Pac-12 conference victory of the season against No. 24 California. The Bears are undefeated and have one of the best defenses in the country.

Herbert’s preparation for Cal, the team with the most interceptions in the conference, began late Saturday night after the Ducks’ stunning loss to No. 7 Stanford.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior sat at his locker in Oregon’s Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. Brooks-James walked over to talk to his quarterback. The two Ducks sat and reflected on the mistakes that caused the overtime defeat, but then Herbert changed the trajectory of the conversation.

He told Brooks-James that they needed to move on, learn from loss, adjust in practice, and beat Cal. Brooks-James agreed.

“For him to acknowledge that, is much different from last year Herbert to this year Herbert,” said Brooks-James. “Last year ‘Herb’ would have sat at his locker an hour longer and dwell on his mistakes.”

Brooks-James has witnessed Herbert’s transformation, mentally and physically.

Two years, two head coaches and 20 pounds of muscle ago, Herbert made his first start on the road against Cal. Herbert threw a program record six touchdown passes, including five in the second half and overtime, but the Ducks lost the double-overtime thriller, 52-49. The freshman quarterback threw a pick in double-overtime to seal Cal's victory and collapsed on the field in tears before his teammates picked him up. He had tears in his eyes when he faced the media.

Now, Herbert returns to Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif. as a potential first round NFL draft pick and Heisman Trophy candidate. He’s ready to lead the Ducks to a vital victory at Cal that starts toughest stretch of their 2018 schedule. Herbert has thrown for more than 300 yards in back-to-back games and going into week five, has the best passer rating in the conference at 179.41. 

“He seems to get better and better as the moments get bigger,” said Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. “He is driven. He hungers for that… He won’t allow himself to flinch.”

Cristobal points to Herbert’s preparation as what defines the quarterback. In his first year as UO’s head coach, Cristobal says he’s seen Herbert prepare harder and harder each week.

Herbert, never a boaster, downplayed his game prep when asked. He said he meets with his teammates as much as possible to make sure the team is comfortable with the game plan.

Sounds like coach speak, doesn’t it? It kind of is. Cristobal has repeatedly called Herbert a “field general” who understands the run game like a coordinator does. The offense relies heavily on Herbert’s advanced knowledge of protections and the running game. He’s able to quickly get the offense into the right play, based on shifting defensive looks.

His presence in the pocket, paired with his ability to hurt opponents with his legs while also displaying solid arm strength, is one of the reasons he’s become a hot commodity among NFL scouts. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has Herbert ranked as his top quarterback and No. 9 overall prospect.

On Saturdays, Herbert listens to music on walks while rehearsing the game plan. The plan is always the same.

“Not do anything special, stay in my game plan and rely on my teammates,” Herbert said.

Herbert, not special? There are 11 defenses in the conference that would probably disagree.

Oregon Ducks' loss to Stanford doesn't define them, but their October might

Oregon Ducks' loss to Stanford doesn't define them, but their October might

How Oregon fairs in October can set the No. 19 Ducks up for a nice run at the Pac-12 conference title or it can be their demise. It all starts Saturday when Oregon (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) faces undefeated No. 24 Cal at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif.

The Ducks’ first road test comes against their second of back-to-back ranked opponents. Oregon lost to No. 7 Stanford at home in jaw dropping fashion in overtime while Cal (3-0) was resting up on a bye week.

After slugging it out with the Cardinal, it’s critical for Oregon to win Saturday because a win over Cal would set the tone for arguably the toughest stretch of Oregon’s 2018 schedule. Should Oregon go undefeated through this stretch, come November, the Ducks would be 3-1 in conference play and on a path to be challengers to win the North Division.  But just as easily, the Ducks could enter November with an 0-4 conference record, searching for answers.

“This win is crucial to show how resilient we are as a team,” said senior running back Tony Brooks-James. “In the Pac-12, any given day you can lose and any given day you can win by a 50-point margin. It all depends on how you and your team are prepared on that day.”

In order for Oregon to win the division outright, Stanford would have to lose two games. The Cardinal play at Washington and have potential upset games vs. Utah, Cal, and Washington State. Looking at the Pac-12 Conference, it seems like, for the most part, any given game is a toss up. The Ducks’ next four opponents (Cal, Washington, Washington State and Arizona) are particularly mysterious. 

Cal beat BYU on the road, a victory that looks better with each passing week as the Cougars have since upset then-Top 10 Wisconsin. The Ducks are facing a much improved Bears defense that ranks as one of the best in the country

After traveling to Berkeley, Oregon has a bye week to prepare for most likely its third consecutive ranked opponent in No. 11 Washington, the only other Pac-12 team in the AP Poll Top 25. The Huskies (3-1, 2-0) were a heavy preseason favorite to win the conference but lost to Auburn and only beat Arizona State by one touchdown.

After that mid-October rivalry game, Oregon travels to Pullman to face a Washington State (3-1, 0-1) team that is coming off its bye week. The Cougars almost beat Pac-12 South preseason favorite USC, but a blocked field goal sealed the victory for the Trojans.

The Cougar air raid is strong this season, which does not pair well against UO’s young secondary. Quarterback Gardner Minshew II is second in the country in passing, leading WSU’s offense to 401.8 yards passing per game, which also ranks second in the country.

Also, playing in Cougar territory won’t be easy, as Washington State has claimed nine straight victories at Martin Stadium.

Then Oregon travels again, to face Arizona (2-2, 1-0) in Tucson, where it’s never easy to win as a visitor. Yes, the Wildcats got off to an 0-2 start to the season, including being upset by Houston. But since, Arizona has seemed to turned it around with back-to-back wins, including a critical conference-opening road win at Oregon State. The question remains, will first year coach Kevin Sumlin and quarterback Khalil Tate electrify again?

Talk about a tough month! Oregon coaches have lived by the idea that a prepared Oregon team that executes efficiently can beat anyone in the conference and the nation.

“I think it’s really important (to set the tone against Cal),” said co-offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. “Anybody can beat anybody. The best team doesn’t always win, the team that plays the best wins.”

Despite losing their Pac-12 opener, the Ducks can still reach their goals they set in January, to win the conference and a bowl game. The Ducks’ loss to Stanford does not have to define them, but their October might.