After a rough and costly week for Oregon Football, the Ducks will look to turn the page as they welcome the much-improved Colorado Buffaloes to Autzen Stadium tomorrow at 2:30 pm.
The game will be each team’s first Pac 12 meeting this season and both will enter the match up with a 2-1 non-conference record after each lost their respective road games against Big 10 teams last Saturday. The difference losses however, was the post-game analysis.
While Colorado was credited for putting up a good fight and showing solid improvement, the Ducks have faced intense criticism this week due to risky play-calling (ie: going for 2pt. conversions after all 5 touchdowns), multiple penalties received, a very limited passing game and the all-too-familiar struggles on defense.
Add to the criticism the fact that the Ducks lost 2 veteran players, WR Devon Allen and OL Tyrell Crosby, for the season and it was a very ugly week for Oregon and its fans. While many fans remain optimistic, expectations are very high and a loss tomorrow could signal troubled times ahead.
But let’s just assume that won’t happen, shall we? For what it’s worth, Oregon is favored by 10.5 points.
What to Watch
Some may have thought it was a joke (or maybe that was just me) but Oregon announced yesterday that the team would be honoring its beloved mascot, The Duck, via it’s uniforms that will resemble said mascot.
Call it crazy or call it awesome but either way, it’s a bold move that got everyone talking. One question though, if the players are dressing like The Duck, what will he be wearing?
2. Oregon’s Passing Game
After completing only 60% of his passes and ending an 82 game streak with at least 1 passing TD, quarterback Dakota Prukop will need to show he has improved chemistry with the plethora of receivers and tight ends at his disposal.
Though Prukop showed he was a solid runner, it seems taking off with the ball is his default play when pressured. Several times last week, Prukop missed reads to wide open receivers, including Darren Carrington, who was visibly frustrated more than once with the lack of pass completions and/or missed opportunities to get him the ball.
This week, Prukop was asked about building chemistry with his receivers, including Carrington. He brushed off the concern and said he actually felt things were going well but added the only way it get better is through reps.
Although Prukop lost key receiver, Devon Allen, he will gain WR Dillon Mitchell who is returning from a fall camp injury after being one of Prukop’s favorite targets in the Spring Game.
3. Two Point Conversions
This was by far the most popular topic of conversation in the world of Oregon Football this week. The Ducks have become known for their regular 2 point conversion attempts but in Lincoln it turned disastrous and likely cost them the game after they failed 4 out of 5 attempts.
When asked repeatedly about the decision to go for so many 2 point conversions and not kick any PAT’s, Head Coach, Mark Helfrich stuck to his guns, saying he believed the attempts were the right call for the “looks” the Oregon special teams had each time.
It’s hard to say for sure if the coaching staff will make adjustments after taking a second look at game film but watch expect a few more kicks from Aiden Schneider tomorrow (and an erupting crowd when that happens).
The Ducks really shot themselves in the foot last week with the amount of penalties it received against the Huskers. Although several of the calls left Oregon fans wanting a complete overall of Pac 12 officiating (again), several were definitely warranted. This week, coaching staff focused on technique and discipline in an attempt to improve the issue. Part of that “focus” including running. Lots and lots of running.
For the record, the coaches were running too.
Interceptions will be key for both teams tomorrow as this could wind up being a very close game. Oregon quarterback, Dakota Prukop, has yet to throw an INT this season but that could easily change tomorrow as he will have to move the ball more through the air against a decent Colorado secondary.
Conversely, one thing Oregon’s defense does tend to do well is snagging interceptions (we’re looking at you, Arrion Springs). The question will be whether or not Colorado’s starting quarterback, Sefo Liufau, plays tomorrow after injuring his ankle last Saturday. He is said to be a “game time decision” for tomorrow’s game. His back up, Steven Montez, showed some promise in game one, but last week failed to complete any of his 7 pass attempts as the Buffalo’s ended up being defeated by Michigan.
Colorado Player to Watch
WR Shay Fields currently averages 28.4 yards per catch which currently ranks #3 in the country.
Facts to Know
1. Oregon hasn’t lost 2 consecutive games since 2007.
2. Oregon is currently 0-7 when trailing the game, entering the 4th quarter.
Like always, there’s a lot on the line for the Ducks tomorrow. It’s a tough pill to swallow but we might as well address the elephant in the room.
A loss tomorrow will be more than just that. While the Ducks certainly deserve time to grow, in this modern-day era of Oregon Football, there is very little grace. The climb has been treacherous (and expensive) and no one, bandwagoner or not, is ready to start the descent- especially in the wake of a potential avalanche.
For now, let’s just focus on the positives and continue hiking toward the summit.
Follow Nichole Brown on Twitter @UOgridirongirl