Oregon vs. Virginia Preview: Top Things to Watch

Photo Credit: Russ Long

Get ready Ducks fans! Oregon’s second kick off of the 2016 season is less than 7 hours away.

The Ducks are set to face off against the ACC conference’s Virginia Cavaliers, who they last met in 2013 when Marcus Mariota lead the Ducks to a 59-10 victory on the road in Virgina.

Tonight’s match up marks the first time that an ACC opponent will play at Autzen Stadium and as the Ducks welcome the Cavaliers, they will look to answer more questions about their ability to go the distance this season.

With new coordinators on both sides of the ball and a new quarterback at the helm, it’s safe to say this team is still trying to gel together a bit.

Last week was a good test as the Ducks were able to win by a significant margin while also revealing a number of areas that need some fine tuning- the perfect outcome of an early non-conference game.

Offensively, things looked decent but safe. Quarterback, Dakota Prukop, managed the game well and finished well, statistically, after a rocky first quarter.

After finishing the game with 21 of 31 completions with no interceptions and 3 touchdowns, Prukop said he felt good during the game but most struggled with UC Davis’ early blitz-heavy attack. He went on to say he’d be heading into the film room to correct his response in those situation.

Look for Prukop to show more turn things up a notch against The Cavaliers. Though he played steady last week and got the job done, fans are looking for a few more sparks in his game. Look for at least one big
play from Prukop to prove why the nation’s top programs, including Alabama, tried to snag him away from Montana State.

Now that the first game jitters are out, skill players all over the field will be ready to light it up. Last week, wide receivers, Darren Carrington and Charles Nelson led the way in receiving yards while running backs Royce Freeman (of course) and Tony Brooks-James were the top rushers. That being said, Freeman, who is a contender for this year’s Heisman Trophy, was a bit quieter than usual racking up just 87 yards on the ground compared to his usual 100 plus.

Look for Freeman to make a bigger splash against Virginia and for Charles Nelson to make the Cavaliers to reap the consequences of Nelson redeeming himself (not that he needs to) after fluke fumbles last week against UC Davis.

Also look for TE Johnny Mundt to have a solid game after reminding fans last week why he was becoming a household name a couple seasons ago. Between Mundt and fan favorite, Pharaoh Brown, the tight ends look to be a huge asset this season.

Following last week’s game, the biggest criticism was about the defense. Keep in mind this is a very young group, with a new coordinator who has implemented a new scheme. There are going to be growing pains.

On the bright side, the defense seemed more aggressive compared to recent seasons and much of their struggles were fairly simple things to correct from a coaching standpoint, according to Coach Helfrich.

This week, we asked Helfrich if those things had proved easy to improve upon throughout this week’s practice.

“Guys have played with better pad level, better communication,” Helfrich said, before explaining that gaps had been “fitted up better” in practice this week.

Another bright side on the defense was true freshman Troy Dye who led the team in tackles and earned recognition as the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the week. If as a true freshman playing his first college game, Dye can put on a show like that, imagine what the season holds. Get used to hearing his name for sure.

Look for things to click a bit better for Oregon tonight but don’t sleep on Virginia. They are of course in a rebuilding phase, but after losing to the FCS conference’s Richmond Spiders, last week, at home, look for Virginia to attempt to sweeten the bad taste in their mouth.

On a side note, keep your eyes peeled for #10. If all goes well, Oregon fans should get a look at back up quarterback and true freshman, Justin Herbert, who is quite possibly the future of Oregon Football. He has received nothing but high praise since arriving at Oregon in time for Fall Camp.

It should be a fun one Ducks fans! Night games at Autzen always are. In case you missed it, Oregon’s 110 game sell out streak ended last week.

Will the streak start again tonight?

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