Going into last Saturday’s game, the big question on everyone’s mind was how well will Oregon look going into their first game of the 2016-2017 season. As viewed from the press box inside of Autzen Stadium the Ducks appeared to be heading in the right direction, but there are plenty of areas in need of some improvement. We’ll have to wait and see how well the Ducks can improve when they stack up to play against Virginia, when they come into Eugene this Saturday.
Let’s review some of the good things that Oregon did well against the Aggies of U.C. Davis last Saturday.
Dakota Prukop’s first start at quarterback for the Ducks was pretty good. Prukop managed to go 21 for 30, throwing for 271 yards and three touchdowns, while also scrambling away from pressure 11 times and gaining 48 rushing yards. In addition, Prukop was only sacked three times throughout the game, which is impressive coming in as a starter.
Prukop said, “he felt the nerves kick in when doing the March to Victory pregame and they didn’t go away till after the first couple of drives.” For a quarterback coming into his first major start in front of 53,817 screaming Duck fans, things are looking up for Oregon at the quarterback position. Fans should truly expect an even better debut from Prukop on Saturday versus Virginia.
Oregon’s offense also showed strong with standout performances by Royce Freeman, Kani Benoit, and Tony Brooks-James (totaling up 251 yards) and Darren Carrington (7 receptions for 117 yards). Charles Nelson also had a good game (returning the ball four times for 98 yards) if you throw out the 2 fumbles.
Although the Ducks appeared to struggle on defense, it’s definitely “work in process” for the young defensive team while they focus on learning the new 4-3 scheme that Defensive Coordinator Brady Hoke implemented this summer. That being said, the Oregon defense also showed some promise, forcing U.C. Davis to punt eight times throughout the game. A big part of that defensive showing came from true freshman Troy Dye, who received a ton of praise from Head Coach Mark Helfrich saying “he was very excited about Troy Dye, and was very happy to have him here.” Dye had a phenomenal game totaling 11 tackles, including a sack.
And let’s not forget how well the cornerbacks shut down the Aggie receivers, who just couldn’t get anything going offensively. It is safe to say that Arrion Springs and Ugo Amadi have definitely developed this off-season, and along with Dye, are fast becoming the cornerstone in helping to make Oregon’s defense stronger.
Finally, the Ducks also showed some resilience after falling behind early. In previous years, Oregon often fell into disarray when things weren’t going their way. But on Saturday, after off to a slow start, the team seemed to regroup and remain focused on playing their game, coming away with 53 points and 522 total offensive yards.
But the Ducks also made several mistakes, which led to U.C. Davis scoring 28 points against the Ducks.
First and foremost, Oregon turned the ball over three times, two of those coming from punt/kick returner Charles Nelson. However, those mistakes can easily be corrected and fans should not get down on Nelson, especially since he was one of Oregon’s best returners all of last season. “I would bet my mortgage and everything I own that Nelson wouldn’t make those mistakes again” said Helfrich after the game.
Oregon also made mistakes by giving up big pass plays, which contributed to 303 total passing yards for U.C. Davis. However, those mistakes are easily correctable. Looking back on last year, it’s pretty evident and that both Juwaan Williams and Tyree Robinson have both improved and have taken their level of play to the next level. “As players, we have to take responsibility out there and we just have to play our game.” said Robinson.
Coming up this week, the Ducks play the Virginia Cavaliers at home, who are a better skilled team than U.C. Davis, but lost their season opening game against Richmond. Virginia will be wearing a different colored jersey on offense than it does on defense, and the Ducks will be debuting another new outfit, adding to the million combinations they already have.
On Saturday, look for the Ducks to learn from their mistakes and to keep on improving, while providing more insight into what’s in store for the Ducks this season.
Finally, although the Ducks’ 110-game sellout streak at Autzen Stadium ended against U.C. Davis last weekend, fans should not get down on this Oregon team, as they are loaded with talent and undoubtedly have a very bright future in front of them.