Coming into this weekend’s matchup against the Virginia Cavaliers, the Oregon Ducks knew they had to limit turnovers, play fast from the start, and keep everyone healthy. The good news for the Ducks is that they seemed to make progress towards accomplishing those goals, while coming away with a solid 44-26 winning performance in front of 53, 774 fans at Autzen Stadium.
In comparison to last week’s game against U.C. Davis, the Ducks continued to show improvement on both sides of the ball. Nevertheless, less penalties and more work on defense seems to be the mantra for the Ducks 2016-2017 season, as they go on the road for the first time to face off against a tough Nebraska team.
Coming into last night’s game, both teams seemed to feel that they had something to prove after last week’s rough performance.
First and foremost, Oregon quarterback Dakota Prukop came into his second start looking more relaxed and less nervous, and his performance showed just that, completing 21-31 passes for 331 yards, including three touchdowns. Furthermore, Prukop also scrambled away from pressure seven times while gaining 25 rushing yards.
When asked how he felt going into this game and his overall performance vs. Virginia, Prukop stated, “sometimes I get a little too calm and tight, which showed in my first couple of drives. To counter-act that, I realized that I was too calm, and started throwing to the sideline to loosen my arm and just go from there.” Duck fans continue to have high hopes this season, as Prukop continues to get better week-by-week.
Oregon continued to showcase their offensive strength with a standout performance by Royce Freeman, who had 21 carries for 210 yards, while scoring two touchdowns. After the game Freeman explained, “our tempo is really getting together and it can only get faster from here.” Freeman also mentioned that he was not satisfied with his performance last week, saying “I fell short of my personal goal last week, which is to rush 100 yards per game, so I had to go out there and makeup for it.”
The Ducks also had solid performances from Devon Allen, Pharaoh Brown, and Darren Carrington (totaling up 255 yards of offense). Allen said after the game, “that he felt much better compared to last week’s game against U.C. Davis, and that he is just focusing on continuing to get more into that football shape.” Charles Nelson also had a great return game for Oregon, gaining 68 yards on 2 kickoff returns.
Oregon also did extremely well by limiting turnovers on offense, and therefore were able to maintain momentum and throttle the tempo to their advantage.
But critical mistakes continue to hamper Oregon, allowing Virginia to score 26 points against the Ducks. And while Oregon’s young defensive team grinded it out on the field and arguably showed improvement over last week, Virginia also racked-up 193 rushing yards and capitalized against Oregon penalties and other mistakes.
When addressing the media after the game, both Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich and Defensive Coordinator Brady Hoke said “the defense had a few missed tackles just from a first person perspective, they will be going back to watch the film on the game to correct for the mistakes they did make.” In addition, Helfrich gave a short comment on the defense, saying “simple to correct, but frustrating.”
Oregon also had a ton of penalties (mostly personal fouls), which is totally out of character for this team. In fact, the Ducks were flagged 12 times costing them 117 yards and one touchdown that was called back. However, these types of penalties are a rare occasion for the Ducks and are easily correctable.
Oregon will need to keep their cool against the Nebraska next week in order to have any shot at winning, since Nebraska is a much better skilled team than U.C. Davis and Virginia. The matchup has been highlighted and circled on both teams’ schedule since the beginning of the season, and will be a “true test” for both teams.
Next Saturday, look for the Ducks to learn from their mistakes and to keep on improving from their past two games, while providing more insight into what’s in store for the Ducks this season.