Eugene, OR –The Oregon Ducks got back on track Saturday with a 42-21 win over the Chip Kelly led Bruins.
Coming off two consecutive road losses, Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal met with every player on the team Sunday to figure out exactly what was going on inside. “Overall, our guys wanted to hold our special teams unit to a higher standard, and make them more accountable.” Cristobal stated.
The special teams unit stepped up to the challenge and responded convincingly. Ugo Amadi got the Ducks on the board in the first quarter with a56-yard punt return, and later in the quarter CJ Verdell extended their lead to 14 with a 1-yard touchdown run which was set up by a 28-yard fake field goal pass to Jacob Breeland from punter Blake Maimone.
Offensively, Oregon stayed committed to the run game again, which they’re starting to live and die by in Cristobal’s quest to rebrand into a traditional physical team that can compete with powerhouse programs in the postseason.
“Enough is enough. We are going to put our foot in the ground and we are going to recommit ourselves to being the physical team that we started the season as” exclaimed Cristobal.
The Ducks did exactly that as they opened the game with 6 straight rushes on first down and ended the night with 200 total rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.
The issue with Oregon’s run first offense comes down to consistency. Although Oregon scored more points than their previous two games combined as a result of the commitment to the run game, the production came against the second-worst rush defense in the entire Pac-12.
Justin Herbert and Dillion Mitchell were again the only bright spot of the passing game. After both players were questionable throughout the week with concussions, the pair connected for 156 of Herbert’s 264 passing yards and the only two receiving touchdowns on the day.
Cristobal acknowledged the lack of weapons at wide receiver, and the importance of executing the run stating “It all starts with the run game. The way that we’re built, the personnel we have, the lack of depth that we have at certain skill positions, we’re built to do a certain thing a certain way and when we don’t do it… we’re in scramble mode”.
With the win, Oregon became bowl eligible Saturday, but it’s hard to feel confident about the team’s identity this season. It’s becoming clear that Mario Cristobal is riding out some growing pains in the short term, understanding the run game will cause offensive collapses when they struggle, to hopefully change the course of the program in the long run.
The Ducks will travel to the Utah next week, where they will face the 6-3 (4-3) Utes on Saturday, November 10th.