Oregon

Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu rocks Liberty merch for first time

Oregon Ducks star Sabrina Ionescu rocks Liberty merch for first time

The moment you’ve all been waiting for is here. 

We are finally getting a look at Sabrina Ionescu in her New York Liberty threads and we need a Liberty seafoam green jersey...STAT!

[RELATED: Justin Herbert sports new Chargers gear in return to Oregon]

The No. 1 draft pick and former Oregon Duck took her swag level to the extreme in the Liberty’s latest post which features Ionescu in mint and then again in black on a Times Square-esque billboard. 

It’s no surprise her brand new jersey sold out from the WNBA merchandise site in less than an hour. Take a look:  

Be sure to download and listen for free Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football

The Ionescu threads became so popular that some shops began selling jersey t-shirts as a lower-cost alternative to rep the G.O.A.T. 

This isn’t the first or last time Ionescu has made wearing a women’s basketball jersey a pretty big deal. Nike began making her Ducks jersey in November 2019 and sold out within the first two hours.

Nike made it official with the triple-double queen after she moved across the country to join the Liberty, signing Ionescu to an endorsement deal. Now, WNBA fans all across the country can rep Ionescu with pride even when there’s no game. 

In her four-year college career, the Oregon sensation became the first player in NCAA history, male or female, to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career. Ionescu took home two Wooden Awards given to the nation’s top college player and quickly vaulted as the nation’s premier college basketball player. 

She returned to Eugene for her senior year in hopes of pursuing a national championship. The Ducks were a projected No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to COVID-19.

Ionescu never completed her “unfinished business” at Oregon, but soon she’ll be fulfilling another dream come true as she steps on the court at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, as a member of the Liberty. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest Olympian Devon Allen].

Sabrina Ionescu among seniors honored for illustrious college career at Oregon 

Sabrina Ionescu among seniors honored for illustrious college career at Oregon 

Sabrina Ionescu returned to Oregon in 2019 to take care of unfinished business. 

Ionescu and the Ducks were just days away from making a run in the NCAA March Madness Tournament and heavy favorites to win it all, when their season came to an abrupt halt.  

The NCAA made a decision to cancel all remaining winter and spring championships due to concerns over the coronavirus, meaning March Madness was off. The news hit senior student-athletes like a bag of bricks, and just like that, Ionescu’s career at Oregon was over. 

During the ESPYs on Sunday night, Bucs quarterback Tom Brady and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts honored the Class of 2020, including seniors who were unable to compete their final season. 

If you are lucky enough to have a long career, you have your fair share of memorable seasons. But that last year at Michigan, that final run representing my school, that will always stand apart for me. High school and college seniors across the country were robbed of that rite of passage this year and we are robbed of the chance to cheer them through it. To all the seniors out there, we see you, we feel for you, we appreciate you. This is for you. -- Tom Brady 

[Be sure to listen to the latest Talkin' Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and special guest former Oregon men's basketball head coach Ernie Kent].

Roberts commended student-athletes like Ionescu and Michigan State’s Cassius Winston, who both returned hoping to push for a championship, but had that chance taken away from them.

Here’s what I think you should do. Never forget it, never stop chasing what you want, and use your loss to make an even bigger impact than you ever thought possible, wherever your life ends up. -- Robin Roberts

The triple-double queen told WNBA star Sue Bird on the ESPYs that not being able to finish her senior year at Oregon wasn’t easy for her.  

“I didn’t really want to believe it,” Ionescu said. “And then I realized that I wasn’t going to put on a uniform anymore and just be able to play, finish out the year how I would have planned.” 

Ionescu’s impressive list of accomplishments hasn’t taken a hiatus since the pandemic hit, however. 

The triple-double queen was drafted by the New York Liberty as the No. 1 overall pick in April and delivered the commencement address at University of Oregon graduation over this past weekend. 

Download and listen for free to Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly under fire after tweet regarding protests

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly under fire after tweet regarding protests

Following the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, UCLA head football coach Chip Kelly released a statement. But not everyone is convinced Kelly’s words are authentic, including three of his former players.  

“It’s hard to see our community — and humanity — so deeply hurting,” Kelly wrote in the post. “The pain is felt by everyone in our Bruin family. In a time of such tragic destruction, we have been trying to understand how to best offer support to our players.”

Kelly’s statement continued with a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. about the need to “organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.” He added “We must listen to each other, and learn from each other, and realize that all of us are connected to the sorrow and suffering and anger. We must unite, it is our only hope, and the first steps must be taken now.”

His post caught the attention of three of his former players: Bolo Olorunfunmi, Stephen Johnson III and Breland Brandt. 

Johnson III played for Kelly during the 2018 season before departing from the team with one season remaining on his eligibility. He retweeted Kelly’s message and asked, “What does this mean?” On another tweet, the former UCLA receiver wrote “Let’s let the truth be known he threw away classes of black athletes’ careers and did not care.” 

Former UCLA outside linebacker Breland Brandt responded to one of Johnson III’s tweets, saying Kelly “dismantled an entire class of athletes (majority black) and thought it’d be a good idea to copy and paste some sympathy.” 

Brandt retired from football after four concussions in three years, but ultimately said a UCLA staffer calling him a “quitter” over text message led to his departure.  

Bolu Olorunfunmi, a former running back whom the UCLA medical staff barred from participating in the final games of his senior season in 2018 after repeated concussions, questioned Kelly’s intentions and criticized him for using MLK quotes rather than his own. 

“But what are YOU going to do???,”Olorunfunmi said in a thread. “How is UCLA gonna be different and take that first step you are talking about?? Can’t ride the quotes of MLK forever. I wanna hear YOUR true take.”

Not everyone agreed with the criticisms of Kelly. Many Oregon players came to his defense, including former Ducks linebacker Tyson Coleman. Coleman said he wouldn't "let these scrubs try and defame this man."

Former Oregon wide receiver Elvis Akpla responded to a story from the LA Times and said, "I'm not going to hear this toxic garbage. Chip has done so much for so many players."

Nick Cody, who played for the Ducks from 2008-11, agreed with Akpla's sentiments. 

The 52-year-old coach has not yet commented further than his original tweet on this matter.  

Kelly, who coached at Oregon from 2007-12 before stints in the NFL with Philadelphia, San Francisco and now UCLA, has received criticism for his decisions from other former players. 

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson recently spoke out about his controversial release in 2014 and how upon becoming a free agent, he wanted to stay in the NFC East just to face Philadelphia and Kelly twice a year. 

Be sure the listen to the latest Talkin' Ducks podcast with host Jordan Kent.

How Justin Herbert staying at Oregon will pay dividends for LA Chargers

How Justin Herbert staying at Oregon will pay dividends for LA Chargers

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was a first round pick... last year. But, he decided to stay and risk his status and his health for his team and his education. 

Now, it looks like staying that extra year is paying off for the new Chargers rookie.

Herbert posted more passing yards and touchdowns while completing a higher percentage of passes compared to his junior year.

Oh, and he also led Oregon to a Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl victory to round out his collegiate career.

Being selected by the Chargers at the #6 pick in this year’s draft, quarterback coach Pep Hamilton is looking for Herbert to compete on day one with the experience he has gained over the years.

The combination of size, athletic ability and arm talent (is intriguing,) but more importantly, he's had a ton of experience playing in games. It really helped him staying an extra year at Oregon. He has over 1,200 pass attempts in college and you can't teach experience. When it's time for him to play once he's acclimated to the speed of the NFL game and has a good understanding of what NFL defenses are trying to do, I think the sky's the limit.

The starting job isn’t Herbert’s just yet. 

With veteran QB Tyron Taylor still on the team, it could be a little bit of time before we see what Herbert can bring the table.

Still, the keys to the castle are Herbert's for the taking, it's just a matter of when he'll take the throne for good. 

Marcus Mariota, former Ducks QBs congratulate Justin Herbert on NFL selection

Marcus Mariota, former Ducks QBs congratulate Justin Herbert on NFL selection

Justin Herbert has officially joined the NFL’s elite as a member of the Los Angeles Chargers. 

The Oregon Ducks quarterback was taken as the sixth-overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday and he’s in great company. 

In a video via the Oregon Football Twitter account, former Ducks quarterbacks like Dan Fouts, Chris Miller, Vernon Adams Jr., Marcus Mariota, and one of his favorite QBs of all time, Joey Harrington, congratulated Herbert on his next step. 

“Congratulations on a fantastic career,” Harrington said. “Congratulations on being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Your work has now just begun. Keep your head down. Be the leader that we all know you are and have a great career.”

Mariota, who is now a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, will now see Herbert twice a year when the two teams’ meet. 

“Just wanted to reach out and say congratulations,” Mariota said. “This event tonight is something special and it’s a once in-a-lifetime deal, man. Just enjoy it. I know you’ve worked hard for this moment. Your entire family, you have all sacrificed for this journey. So, enjoy it. All the football stuff, everything else, it will come.

“I’m looking forward to this next chapter. You’re going to kill it, brother.” 

Herbert had the opportunity to go as No. 1 or No. 2 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, but decided to return to Oregon this season. He helped lead the Ducks to a Pac-12 Championship and Rose Bowl victory while finishing his career at Oregon with 10,541 passing yards and 95 touchdowns. 

Las Vegas Raiders want to “rebuild” Marcus Mariota from the ground up

Las Vegas Raiders want to “rebuild” Marcus Mariota from the ground up

The 2019 NFL season for former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was one year in his career that he likely wishes he could forget about.

For the first time since being drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2015, Mariota was benched midway through the season in favor of Ryan Tannehill. With constant injuries and inconsistent play, it seemed the Titans were ready to move on from the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner.

The Raiders, however, still think Mariota has some juice left in the tank. 

In March, they signed him to the most lucrative backup quarterback contract in the NFL, a two-year, $17.5 million contract to back-up starter Derek Carr. Although Carr may have the starting job, it seems now that he may be challenged once spring training gets underway.

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock are known Mariota fans. They have been on his case since he won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 while at Oregon. The two have a strong belief that they can rebuild and shape Mariota back to his former self.

In a teleconference call on Monday, Mayock said, despite having a rough last two season, that he still believes in Mariota.

He knew that both of us believed in him coming out and still believe in him. He’s got to get healthy, We’ve got to rebuild him a little bit, get his confidence back, build him up from the ground up. It’s going to take a little while, I think, just to get him healthy and where he wants to be.

Carr is entering his 3rd season in Gruden's system, but he hasn't truly played at the level to secure himself as the long-term solution at quarterback. This season, he’ll get that chance again to prove himself. With the Raiders planning to put everything around him and adding more depth at the receiver position in this year's draft,  this will be the year to determine if he is their guy or not.

He'll get that chance again in 2020 with the Raiders planning to put everything around him necessary to determine whether or not he's the guy. That will include adding at least one, and probably two, wide receivers in the NFL draft.

Carr will certainly be pushed for the first time in his six-year career, knowing that the Raiders now have a legitimate option at the position if he struggles or sustains an injury.

With Carr as the starter, Mariota will have the ability to get healthy without feeling the pressure of trying to hold onto his job. This gives him all the time in the world to build that confidence back up once again and be ready at a moment's notice when need be. 

Mariota has all the talent to certainly be a great NFL quarterback like he was with the Titans. Certainly being healthy and having a team that believes in him helps, too. Which is something Gruden and Mayock certainly have.

Washington hired the OC that ruined Penn State, Oregon hired who saved Penn State

Washington hired the OC that ruined Penn State, Oregon hired who saved Penn State

Washington and Oregon have both filled their offensive coordinator positions with former Penn State coaches.

Huskies coach Jimmy Lake named John Donovan as his offensive coordinator Friday morning. Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal followed up that announcement naming Joe Moorhead as his offensive coordinator, who coincidentally replaced Donovan in Happy Valley.

Donovan coached under Penn State head coach James Franklin (2011-2013) at both Vanderbilt and Penn State (2014-2015). Following the 2015 season where the Nittany Lions ranked 105th in the country in total offense (348.4 yards) and 100th in points per game (23.2 points), Donovan was fired and replaced by Joe Moorhead. 

Moorhead in his first season as offensive coordinator for the Nittany Lions increased their offensive ranking in every category on their way to winning the Big Ten: 21st in scoring offense (37.6 points) and 50th in total offense (435.6). One season later the Nittany Lions shot up to sixth in scoring offense (37.6 points) and 19th in total offense (460.3 yards). Both seasons Moorhead's offense broke Penn State school records for scoring offense and total offense.

After Washington made the announcement, many Penn State fans sent their condolences to Husky fans.

It's never a good sign when the fanbase for a coach's prior stop has this reaction to him getting another coaching job. However, it seems warranted in this case.

In Donovan's last five seasons as an offensive coordinator at the college level (Vanderbilt and Penn State) his offenses ranked at best 82nd in the country in total offense: 98th, 82nd, 93rd, 114th, and 105th. Huskies coach Jimmy Lake even indirectly references his putrid offenses in his statement welcoming him to the program.

"Coach Donovan has a great deal of experience at both the college and NFL levels, learning from a lot of great offensive minds about coaching the kind of aggressive, pro-style offense we want to play here at Washington," Lake said. "From my own experience, I know how much a coach can learn and grow by spending significant time in the NFL. I'm excited for him to get to Seattle and get started."

Meanwhile, the Ducks hired an offensive coordinator who ran the seventh-ranked scoring offense the last time he was an offensive coordinator. Granted, his offenses as Mississippi State head coach were also lackluster, 71st and 74th in total offense his two seasons as Bulldogs head coach, before getting fired this month. But he was much more successful more recently than Donovan and may have lacked weapons at Mississippi State. A problem he won't have in Eugene given how great of a recruiter Cristobal has been.

It's always possible that Donovan kills it and Moorhead flops at Oregon making this whole article look silly, but given the information available today there's no way you can think Oregon didn't make the better hire. 

WATCH: Penei Sewell's emotional acceptance speech of the Outland Trophy

WATCH: Penei Sewell's emotional acceptance speech of the Outland Trophy

A month ago, Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell won the Outland Trophy which recognizes the nation's top interior lineman.

He became the first Oregon Duck and the first Polynesian football player to win the award.

In his emotional acceptance speech, he remembers talking to Coach Cristobal about winning the award and bringing it to Eugene.

I will never forget. It was right after fall camp, before the season started, [Cristobal] looked me in the eye and said 'Don't wait. Go get it this year.' Well coach, I'm here and I went and got it.

Sewell clearly adores his head coach: "The trust you have in me and the confidence you gave to me is the reason why I'm standing here. And I'm forever grateful for you. Forever thankful for the way you've treated me and my family. You are a man of your word."

But reading the quotes doesn't do his speech justice, watch it for yourself. 

 

College football playoff expansion? Mario Cristobal supports adding more teams

College football playoff expansion? Mario Cristobal supports adding more teams

The current College Football Playoff contract expires in 2026 and the desire for an expanded bracket is intensifying by many.

This year, NCAA coaches were polled to see if they were in favor of a larger playoff system. The results showed that 30 of the 62 head coaches that answered (LSU's Ed Orgeron, Alabama's Nick Saban and UCLA's Chip Kelly declined to vote) were in support of an eight-team bracket.

Both No. 6 Oregon and No. 8 Wisconsin likely would have been in an eight-team playoff, vying for the national title. Instead, the Pac-12 Champion Ducks (11-2) and the Badgers (10-3) are battling for the 106th Rose Bowl Title. The 'Granddaddy of Them All' is, of course, is a great bowl game with long standing tradition and an opportunity for both teams to end the decade with a substantial win.

While coaches do not have the power to change the current six-year-old format, here is where Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal and Wisconson Coach Paul Chryst, stood on a new format:

I think there's a lot of teams worthy of playing it out… I think anytime you could include more, right, in that particular – in that party, I think it's a good thing. –Mario Cristobal

You'd love to have obviously a six-year cohort and get all the data and see how it worked out and how it really played out. –Mario Cristobal

I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. So I want to make sure that part is clear. –Mario Cristobal

I think there's a lot that goes into it, and we're fortunate there's a ton of people that care about it. And so I'm going to let them figure it out. And like Mario said, this experience that our players get to be a part of, I think if you asked every one of the players, this is very unique, and I know both teams were grateful for it. –Paul Chryst

But just tell us what the rules are, and we'll work and try to do all we can to be the best team we can be. And if we earn the right for whatever it is, you're grateful for that. –Paul Chryst

In the current 12-year, $7.2 billion contract between ESPN and the CFP, nine of the 12 semifinals have been lopsided games. Most recently, No. 1 LSU steamrolled No. 4 Oklahoma, 63-28 in the Peach Bowl semifinal. Maybe two-loss, Pac-12 champion Oregon would have given the Tigers a better game. Maybe not.

So, whether adding more teams is a good decision based on the eye of the beholder, it appears that Coach Cristobal is in favor of the eight-team expansion.

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

Friday’s battle between No. 13 Oregon (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) and No. 5 Utah (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) for the Pac-12 Conference crown is bound to be intense with major post-season implications. 

The Ducks still have a chance at playing in the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 Conference champions (among another option). Standing in their way? The Utes, packed with experienced offensive weapons, one of the toughest defenses in the nation and imminent College Football Playoff dreams.

AN OREGON WIN WOULD…

·      Tie Oregon with Stanford for most Pac-12 Championship Game victories (3).

·      Clinch the program's eighth appearance in the Rose Bowl.

·      Give Oregon seven seasons with 11 or more wins (first time since 2014).


A UTAH WIN WOULD…

·      Be Utah’s first conference championship.

·      Extend its winning streak to nine games, their longest winning streak since 2008 when Utah went undefeated (13-0).

·      Keep its college football playoff hopes alive.

THREE KEYS TO AN OREGON VICTORY

Oregon can hang with anyone when they put it all together but how can they defeat a Utes team looking for a statement win to display to the College Football Playoff rankings committee?

1. Shake up Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley

Dual-threat quarterback Tyler Huntley is dangerous and experienced. The senior is crazy efficient (has completed 75.5% of his passes, which is second behind LSU’s Joe Burrow) averaging 11.1 passing yards per completion, a Pac-12 best and third in the FBS. 

Huntley and Burrow are the only two quarterbacks who have thrown under 70 percent in two or less games. They are also the only quarterbacks that have thrown for 80 percent or higher in four games this season.

The Heisman-Trophy candidate also has 74 carries for 255 yards and five rushing touchdowns.

“Huntley runs that offense like he’s been there for four years because he has been. We’re looking forward to playing against them,” senior linebacker Troy Dye said.
Oregon must disrupt Huntley and the ball-controlling Utes. The Duck defense has been mostly dependable this season, allowing 10 points or fewer in seven of 10 games. The Ducks have recorded a conference-best 35 sacks and will need to continue to play to that strength.

Look for starting defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux to have a major impact. The freshman has heated up in the last four games, totaling eight tackles for loss and four sacks. Coming off a two tackles for loss, one sack performance, Thibodeaux matched a program freshman record with 6.5 sacks on the season, tying Troy Dye’s 2016 total. Entering this season, Thibodeaux’s goal was 10 sacks: an accomplishment still in reach.

2. Win the turnover battle

The rainy, windy conditions in a clash between the most physical teams in the conference could lead to some mistakes and sloppy play. Oregon must be on the winning end of the turnover battle to contend against Utah. The Ducks practiced with a wet ball this week and aren’t overly concerned with “mother nature”. Some numbers to consider:

  • Keep Utah’s defense out of the end zone- The Utes defense has five touchdowns this season, ranking second in the FBS.
  • Oregon ranks first (17) and Utah (13) ranks second in interceptions.
  • Utah is 10th in FBS in turnover margin (0.83).
  • Oregon has scored 113 points off turnovers compared to opponents' 27 points off turnovers.
  • This season against Pac-12 teams, Oregon is undefeated when winning the turnover battle (4-0).

3. Passing game success

Utah is known for its defense, which is giving up a conference-best 11.3 points (third in the nation) and 56.3 yards rushing (first in the nation) on average. Opponents haven’t found an answer to the Utes rushing defense that is allowing an average of 2.26 yards per carry. The Utes have held 11 of their 12 opponents to under 100 yards rushing.

So likely, the Ducks will have to get it done through the passing game.

This is considerable reason for concern regarding Oregon’s offense, which has struggled in the last two games. After quarterback Jusin Herbert threw two interceptions against Arizona State, the Ducks totaled their lowest yardage of the season against Oregon State. Oregon’s receivers have lacked separation and Herbert has had some errant throws.

[READ: Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title]

The Ducks will need junior wide receiver Johnny Johnson III to maintain his dependability in his strong season finish. In the last three games, he has 18 catches for 335 yards and four touchdowns. 34 of the junior’s 49 receptions have gone for first downs and he has three-straight games with a touchdown catch.

How and where to watch

Time: Friday, Dec. 6, 5:14 p.m. (PT)

Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

TV: ABC

Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KUJZ-FM (95.3), KZEL-FM (96.1)