Thomas Graham Jr.

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Flashback to a beautifully crisp winter day and Oregon’s win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Junior Troy Dye hoisted his defensive MVP trophy in the air as fans congratulated Oregon’s leading tackler for three-straight seasons on possibly his last victory in a Ducks uniform.

It wasn’t. Despite gaining traction as a “freak athlete” in NFL circles with an opportunity to make major money in the 2019 NFL draft, Dye chose to stay at Oregon for his senior season. 

317 days later, Dye is still leading No. 6 Oregon in tackles, has jumped up to a projected first round 2020 NFL draft selection and has the opportunity to be hoisting a more prestigious trophy in the air in his actual final season.

Through eight games, Dye’s senior tour has featured 42 tackles with 6.5 for a loss including a sack, three pass breakups and an interception on one of Oregon’s strongest defenses in program history.

His highlights are stunning:

  • In his final home opener, the smiling linebacker danced alone to the familiar tune of “Shout” letting loose and pumping up the rowdy crowd in a moment that will go down in history.
  • Dye recorded a career-high 15 tackles and the most in a season opener in Oregon history vs. Auburn.
  • Dye performed a snow angel in the middle of the W at Husky Stadium after overcoming the largest second-half deficit since 2008.
  • Back in his home of southern California, Dye jumped into the stands after handing USC its worst home loss since 2009.

The Ducks are undefeated in Pac-12 Conference play, one win from claiming the North Division and contenders for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

On a scale from 1-10, how much fun is Dye having?

“I’m at a 12. I’m having a blast. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, I come here (to practice) with a smile on my face and I’m going to leave with a smile on my face.”

The most telling moment of his season may have come from suffering a broken thumb and gutting it out at Washington. The injury kept him on the sideline against Washington State, snapping his consecutive start streak at 40 games and bringing a reality that it takes only one snap for a football season, or career, to be over. In a cast the size of a club, Dye returned one game later to beat up on the Trojans and show the truth of his character.

“That’s a significant injury that a lot of people would have probably waited to be fully healed and then go and play,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. “But what he chose to do is different. When guys like Troy speak, those are strong, powerful and impactful words. This (season) means a lot to him and it shows in the way he approaches practice and everything he does. I can’t say enough great things about him, I think he’s as good as it gets in the country.”

His words impacted Oregon's home opener, in which the Ducks trailed Cal 7-0 at halftime. Dye’s halftime speech eloquently made it clear the Ducks needed to play to their standard. The sentiment was echoed and the Ducks overcame their slow start to beat the Bears 17-7.

His actions speak louder than his words. Since returning and still in a cast for his thumb, the linebacker has hit a new level with three conference games left to play.

“He’s done a tremendous job over the course of the season but you really see it now, down the stretch,” Oregon Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos said. “In my opinion, I think he’s turned it up in practice, since the injury. It made him want it even more.”

Troy Dye agrees that he has hit a new intensity.

“I realized that it can be taken from you. Within a snap, it can be gone,” Dye said. “I’m super fortunate to be able to come back and play with my brothers and end the season how I want to end it. I’m happy, I’m having fun with it and enjoying my time here.”

His teammates couldn’t be happier for him, either. True freshman Mase Funa beams when he details all the tips he’s learned from Dye. Junior Thomas Graham loves to see Dye prosper after witnessing him help change the program from a 4-8 team (2016) to a team on an eight-game winning streak with the biggest goals, a conference title and playoff berth, still possible.

What’s it like for Cristobal to witness Dye live his best life this season?

“I’m jealous. I want to go back to college and do it like he’s doing it,” Cristobal said.

In his final season, the future opportunities are ever-present for Dye. Every Oregon game, more and more NFL scouts grace the media press box. Dye accepted a Senior Bowl invite, where he can show off his elite agility and lateral quickness.

But before all of that, the Ducks need their leader to finish a potentially history-making season, which is exactly the kind of season a junior hopes to return for.

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.

Say a little prayer, win a big game --- Camden Lewis comes up big for Oregon

Say a little prayer, win a big game --- Camden Lewis comes up big for Oregon

With 34 seconds remaining on the clock and Oregon's hopes of snapping a four-year losing streak vs. Mike Leach and the Washington State Cougars laying in the balance, there was a moment of calm. A game winning field goal was pending as Oregon ran the ball to the WSU six yard line then centered the ball at the eight, trailing by a single point. 

Thomas Graham Jr. embraced freshman kicker Camden Lewis on the sideline and prayed. 

The story writes itself from there. The freshman kicker drove home the 26 yard field goal and the madness ensued. 

After the game, Justin Herbert gave praise to his kicker on TV, just as Coach Mario Cristobal did in the press room:

“He went in there cool as can be and got it done.”

It was a storybook ending to a drama-filled game and what better way than a freshman kicker, at home, in front of a packed Autzen Stadium to bring home the win?

Graham Jr. tweeted after the game:

Oregon will head to USC next for a 5pm kickoff on Saturday, November 2nd. For now, Lewis and Graham Jr. will enjoy the excitement of the moment, but will not forget the moment before the moment. 

The Andy Avalos effect: Why Oregon's defense is wreaking havoc

The Andy Avalos effect: Why Oregon's defense is wreaking havoc

A major theme of the 2019 Oregon football season: first-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos is delivering. The Ducks defense is posting eye-popping numbers accompanied by game-saving performances.

It’s exactly the change Oregon desired when hiring Avalos and his “multiple” scheme. In the first five games of the Avalos-era, the most asked question is, how can Oregon keep him?

A look into the bottom line… His three-year $2.445 million dollar contract shows that he’s earning more than double than what he was earning as defensive coordinator at Boise State with an added title of assistant head coach. He has $125,000 worth of performances bonuses.

If Avalos were to leave Oregon before Jan. 31, 2022 he would owe Oregon 20 percent of his guaranteed salary, unless he did so to become an FBS head coach.

Money aside, internal incentive exudes from the 36-year-old coach. He is connecting with the Ducks in a unique way, partly because of his youth, partly because of his communication tactic, but definitely because his philosophy is generating victories.

“He’s very receptive, he’s not just trying to jump down your throat. He’s going to talk to you and try to communicate with you to figure out what you were thinking about and why you were thinking that way or did something,” senior linebacker Troy Dye said. “He’s easy to relate to as a player so that’s what makes it easier to go to him and talk to him about different things.”

The offense has been able to depend on the defense while trying to establish a consistent run game. The Duck defense is leading the Pac-12 Conference in every major category and then some. The multiple and disguising fronts have led to confusion of opponents, holding four-straight teams to single-digit scoring for the first time since 1960.

Almost half way through his first regular season as a Duck, Avalos hasn’t had much time to reflect on his team that ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense (9.8 points per game) yet.

“It all kind of runs together,” Avalos said with a chuckle. “For me, I think the biggest thing that stands out is how we are learning to stay in the fight as a team and as a defense. Over the course of a game, no matter the situations that pop up, we are learning to fight together, work together as a coaching staff and that pays off because then the players do so.”

This isn't Avalos’ first rodeo. He helped the Boise State defense hold 20 opponents from 2016-18 to 20 points or less, while the Broncos tied for sixth nationally with 10 defensive touchdowns over that span.

It’s not easy to describe someone in one word, but that’s exactly what I asked of Oregon football players in regards to Avalos.

Dye’s chosen adjective was “relatable” as his hometown of Norco, Calif. neighbors Corona, Calif., where Avalos grew up.

Also a southern California-native, junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. fondly remembers his first impression of Avalos. Avalos was the first coach to offer a scholarship to Graham, who picked the Ducks over offers from Boise State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, among others. Graham appreciates how “energetic” Avalos is and is passionate about how perfect his scheme is for the team.

True freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux credits Avalos'’ “accountability,” as a factor to his improvement since stepping on campus as ESPN’s No. 1 prospect in the nation.

“I feel like he is one of the smartest coaches that I’ve had coach me,” Thibodeaux said. “He tells us stuff and he goes over hours of film. He’s a stickler. He looks at everything, which is for the greater good. Whether our shoe laces are tied or our hip pads are in, he’s all over everything.”

Thibodeaux will see an increased role with a season ending injury to starting defensive end Gus Cumberlander on Friday vs. the visiting Colorado Buffaloes. Thibodeaux is coming off his best performance yet as a Duck, which earned him Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week honors. Oregon needs the 6-foot-5, 242-pound defensive end to unleash his ability sooner rather than later.

Avalos and the defense will face likely their toughest test this season in Colorado and veteran quarterback Steven Montez. While the Duck defense has dominated through five games, it’s important to note they did play the 11th-ranked Pac-12 offense (Stanford) and 12th-ranked offense (Cal).  Their biggest challenges are ahead of them in the next seven games.

Like Dye, three different defensive coordinators have coached senior La’Mar Winston Jr. during his Duck career. So, it’s not surprising that Avalos’ stability stood out to the outside linebacker.

“Consistent,” said Winston Jr. “He’s very consistent in his approach, in his energy, his mentality, across the board. And that’s our goal, to be consistent. “

Will the consistency sustain the toughest part of Oregon’s schedule? One thing is for sure, Avalos is ready for the fight.

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 Ducks' surprising hobbies: Can you guess who is the best at video games?

Oregon Ducks' surprising hobbies: Can you guess who is the best at video games?

Have you ever wondered which Oregon Duck football player is the best at video games? Did you know that UO’s leading rusher lived in Japan for three years of his life? Would you guess that an incoming freshman is a huge Star Wars fan?

At Oregon football media day, players’ personalities shined through, and we discovered divulging hobbies and facts that fans might be surprised to find out.

At this point, you’ve seen Oregon football’s strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld and his mustache. You’ve heard of Flex Friday. Today we are trading in Flex Friday for Fun Friday, so you can learn more about the Ducks off the field.

A few highlights from the video above:

- Starting cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. loves video games and is the self-proclaimed “best player at Madden on the team". The only person that can challenge him is fellow junior cornerback Deommodore Lenoir.

- Freshman tight end Patrick Herbert, quarterback Justin Herbert’s younger brother, is a huge Star Wars fan.

- Safety Jevon Holland is from Vancouver, British Columbia. In his spare time, he loves to paint.

- Defensive tackle Jordon Scott can throw down in the kitchen.

Mykael Wright: "Silent assassin" true freshman pushing Oregon's secondary

Mykael Wright: "Silent assassin" true freshman pushing Oregon's secondary

While it’s highly unlikely true freshman Mykael Wright will usurp a starting role, his undeniable talent and drive is pushing Oregon’s aggressive secondary to a new depth from the inside.

2019’s top-ranked cornerback in the nation by ESPN has earned the nickname “silent assassin” on the Oregon football team. His quiet demeanor and superstar type skills are drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard (also both wear the number two) from fellow cornerback teammate Verone McKinley III. More on that later.

Wright enrolled at Oregon early to get a jump-start on adjusting to defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ defense. He’s gained 10 pounds from weight room offseason workouts, doesn’t shy away from contact and excels at stripping the ball. UO’s spring game offered a perfect display of his strengths; he shined with five tackles, three pass breakups and an interception. 

“Mykael Wright, he’s been pushing me for reps,” said junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. “And I want him to do that, I want him to get reps because at the end of the day I want him to get in games. I feel he will be a freshman All-American.”
Entering their third seasons, starting cornerbacks Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir emote confidence and swagger with a desire to prove that they are the best in the nation.

The tandem had a break out game against Arizona State's passing attack last season. Graham Jr. covered one of the best wide receivers in the nation, ASU’s N'Keal Harry, most of the night and recorded a career-high six pass breakups. Lenoir also had three pass breakups, two of which came while defending the New England Patiort’s first round 2019 draft selection.

Last season, Graham’s 18 pass breakups finished second in the Pac-12 Conference and tied for third nationally. Lenoir had three interceptions and finished second on the team with nine pass breakups.

Safe to say, Wright has an opportunity to learn from two highly- skilled cornerbacks.

Contrary to most players who play in the secondary, “silent assassin” Wright doesn’t talk much. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound cornerback’s humble confidence has turned heads and earned the respect from his teammates. He is noticeably pushing himself in the weight room, asking questions at practice and taking mental reps when another group is in.

“One thing I’ve noticed is he’s not really vocal, he likes to put his head down and work,” said junior defensive tackle Austin Faoliu. “He shows up through his actions and I really like that about him… He’s going to be one of the great ones.”

Oregon star linebacker and “quarterback of the defense” Troy Dye picked Wright as a Duck that will surprise fans this season. He described the California-native as intelligent, hard working, quiet and “a dog”.

Wright is also making an impression from the other side of the ball.

“I’ve studied him a lot,” true freshman wide receiver Mycah Pittman said. “I see that he likes to sit and when you weave inside, he moves with you. He’s not a guy who jumps, he’s patient. I think he will be a factor now. He will be able to play now.”

Pittman also highlighted Wright’s offensive background and catching ability as a strength that helps him come down with 50-50 balls. 

At 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.

“He’s running faster, he’s more explosive and more comfortable with the scheme,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “We see a huge future for Mykael and a tremendously impactful season out of him as well.”

Having Wright No.3 on the outside is already elevating the play of Graham Jr. and Lenoir while also providing an opportunity for more rest for the juniors this season.

Wright’s part in the 2019 season may not be starter but it is certainly going to be significant.

[READ: Veteran Ducks impressed by “how smart the freshman class is”]

Oregon football; Defensive Back University?

Oregon football; Defensive Back University?

Oregon football, also known as; Nike University, Running Back University and Defensive Back University?

The Ducks’ highest-rated recruiting class in program history received another major addition; the highest-rated defensive back commitment in program history, Chris Steele.

Steele, the nation’s No. 3 cornerback and No. 19 overall prospect in the class of 2019, transferred from Florida after spring football.

According to the Gainesville Sun, in late January, Steele asked the Florida coaching staff for new roommate assignment, away from quarterback Jalon Jones, expressing concerns about Jones' behavior. In April, Jones was accused of sexual battery by two Florida students. The Florida Staff declined to act and postponed his request until summer and Steele decided to enter the transfer portal.

The 6-foot, 175-pound athlete, out of St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower, California) returned to the west coast via Oregon.

"Coach Donte. Our relationship is known." Steele told 247sports of Oregon coach Donte Williams. "Me and that dude, he’s like a big brother to me. The opportunity to play for somebody who is going to care about me off the field but at the same time is going to develop me better than other people, it’s a win-win situation." 

Had Steele signed with Oregon before National Signing Day, the Ducks’ 2019 class would have been ranked at No. 5 overall, their first top five finish ever. Oregon finished No. 7 without the signing of Steele. 

A few notes on what adding another five-star piece means…

Can Steele play next season?

Steele enrolled at Florida, so it's unclear if he will be eligible for the 2019 season, but he can apply for a waiver to play immediately.

Oregon’s 2019 secondary is locked and loaded with talent.

Juniors Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir have depth and talent behind them. If Steele is granted a waiver to play immediately, Oregon will have two star freshmen cornerbacks in Steele and Mykael Wright, plus redshirt freshman safety Steve Stephens. The pair of safeties, Nick Pickett and Jevon Holland, will also return. 

Lenoir often tweets "TMC," which stands for "The Marathon Continues." It's a reference to the sixth official mixtape by American rapper Nipsey Hussle, but it means something more to the Ducks secondary. "This journey has only begun to become the best secondary," said Lenoir. "It's a marathon not a race. We will prove a lot this year."

The #CaliFlock is real.

The Ducks scored three of the top six ranked players in the state of California in the 2019 class. All three are defensive players; including Steele (No. 5), Wright (No. 4) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 1). A total of seven of California’s top 21 2019 prospects are at Oregon.

The veterans are hyped.

When Steele transferred from Florida, a few Gator wide receivers tweeted pictures of themselves making catches over Steele. When Steele joined the Ducks, he was met with a different feeling on Twitter from Oregon football.

The ripple effect.

Now the defensive backs are rolling in. Four-star safety Jared Greenfield (class of 2020) has included Oregon in his final five. The coveted 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back out of Narbonne High School (Harbor City, California), is expected to having Oregon as his heavy favorite.

Does the good outweigh the bad in Oregon's victory over ASU?

Does the good outweigh the bad in Oregon's victory over ASU?

Did the good outweigh the bad in Oregon’s 31-29 victory over Arizona State in its home finale? You be the judge.

BEST

Seven wins: With two games remaining, Oregon’s victory over ASU matched its 2017 win total with its seventh victory. The Ducks improved to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in Pac-12 conference play.

First half success: After a month of slow starts, Oregon’s offense hit the ground running. The Ducks scored on a 78-yard opening drive, 74 of those yards came on the ground. UO’s 28 first-half points were the most scored by the Ducks since their second nonconference game vs. Portland State. Oregon’s 364 total yards of total offense in the first half were its most in a half this season.

Come at me, bro: The Sun Devils went at Oregon's young cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir all game long. Graham Jr. covered one of the best wide receivers in the nation, ASU’s N'Keal Harry, most of the night and recorded a career-high six pass breakups. Lenoir also had three pass breakups, two of which came while defending Harry.

Gus comes up big: Oregon defensive lineman Gus Cumberlander had a huge impact on the game. He recorded a career high two sacks, the first Oregon player with two or more sacks in a game this season. He also recovered a fumble after when outside linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. strip-sacked ASU QB Manny Wilkins on ASU’s final drive to seal the win.

Hello record books: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell broke tackles and made Sun Devils miss in space to reach 103 receiving yards, averaging 26 yards per catch. The junior’s six 100-yard game ties Oregon’s single-season record (Josh Huff 2013).

Freshmen shouldering a big load: CJ Verdell played Mr. Versatile. Verdell scored a rushing and receiving touchdown, his first touchdown catch of his career. Travis Dye showed off his cuts and spin moves to lead the Ducks on the ground, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, totaling 105 yards on 18 carries.

WORST

Second half blunder: Oregon’s offense couldn’t move the ball in the last 30 minutes, almost causing the Ducks to lose the game. Herbert passed for only 13 yards in the half, the team only gained 85 overall yards, and scored three points.

Turnovers: 17 of ASU’s 29 points came off of Oregon’s four turnovers: Herbert threw two interceptions, Ugo Amadi mishandled a punt return and Tony Brooks-James fumbled.

Injuries: According to Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, CJ Verdell is good to go after taking a "shot to the rib area" that took him out vs. ASU. Kano Dillon is "probable" after missing last week with strained ab. Steve Jones (concussion protocol) will be cleared or not on Tuesday. Penei Sewell (ankle) will not return for Saturday but could be cleared for the bowl game.  

Ready or not, it’s Civil War week! Oregon faces the Oregon State (2-9, 1-7) in Corvallis on Friday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. 

Good, bad and the worst: Oregon's offensive stars in concussion protocol

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US Presswire

Good, bad and the worst: Oregon's offensive stars in concussion protocol

Oregon's offensive woes just got worse. The Ducks' two best offensive weapons, quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, are in concussion protocol and their status for this week's game vs. UCLA is undetermined. 

That's the worst, but there was plenty more good and bad from Oregon’s loss at Arizona. 

Before moving on to Oregon’s (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12) next game (4:30 p.m. kickoff vs. UCLA in Eugene, Ore.), let's look back to last Saturday vs. the Wildcats. It wasn’t ALL bad against Arizona… Or was it?

BEST

Defense dug deep: Despite having to dig deep into its reserves to stay on the field for 36 minutes (Arizona's time of possession), Oregon’s defense did its part in trying to swing momentum back. In the first half they held the wildcats to three consecutive field goals and started the second half by intercepting Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate.

However, Oregon’s defense ran out of gas and ultimately gave up nearly 300 yards on the ground and 44 points.

Dependable Dye: Linebacker Troy Dye led the team with 13 tackles, including one for loss. He is the first Oregon player with four consecutive games with 10-plus tackles since Joe Farwell in 1990.

Graham’s season best performance: Sophomore Thomas Graham picked off Tate to start the second-half and he finished the game with a season-high seven tackles.

Go-to guy, Dillon Mitchell: The lone offensive bright spot and the only receiver Herbert could find. Mitchell finished the game with six catches on 15 targets for 69 yards and a touchdown.

 

WORST

Atrocious running game: The Ducks amassed only 84 yards on 23 carries against a Wildcats rushing defense that entered the game ranked 102nd in the nation. It was the second straight game that Oregon has rushed for less than 100 yards (58 yards at Washington State).

“There's really no excuse,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of Oregon’s running game. “It was not good enough."

Not a good sign when Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert leads the team on the ground with 31 yards. It is an even worse sign when the offense couldn’t get a first down until its fifth drive of the game.  The offensive line struggled to create holes for Oregon's running backs and did not protect Herbert, who took hard hits.

Mitchell in concussion protocol: Mitchell was clobbered in the third quarter when Herbert led him into a big hit by a defender on a crossing route. He did not return. After the game, Cristobal added that he did not think Mitchell’s injury is serious. On Monday, Cristobal updated that Mitchell is in concussion protocol. However, Mitchell says via Twitter that he is ready to play:

We shall see as the week progresses.  

Herbert’s struggles: Herbert passed for a season-low 186 yards on a season-high 48 attempts with two touchdowns and one interception, his first in a Pac-12 road game in 215 attempts. He repeatedly missed open targets and forced throws into tight coverage. While he is not completely to blame for Oregon’s lack of offense, it was his worst performance of the year.

Herbert in concussion protocol: On Monday, Cristobal said that Herbert is in concussion protocol. Cristobal said he wasn't sure when the injury happened, but it could have been at towards the end of the game. Herbert was kept in the game through the final drive.

"We were not having much offensive success and we wanted to end the game on some type of positive note offensively," Cristobal said.

Ducks drop out of Top 25: The latest AP poll left the Ducks out of the Top 25. Oregon dropped from No. 19 to unranked following the loss. At their highest, the Ducks were ranked No. 12 in week eight after beating rival Washington.

 

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