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Oregon Football Practice Report: Sept. 9

Sep 9, 2014

By Rob Moseley

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads

Though it’s the largest city in North Dakota, Fargo’s population is a shade below 115,000. That’s well below the more than 150,000 residents of Eugene, which is more than 1,600 miles away from Fargo.

Despite that distance, the Oregon football team is well aware of what’s been going on in college football the last few years in Fargo. North Dakota State is based there, and the Bison won each of the last three FCS national championships under coach Craig Bohl, who moved on to Wyoming this offseason and leads the Cowboys into Autzen Stadium on Saturday (11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks).

As UO cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu walked off the practice field today, he was asked about what has impressed him so far while scouting the Cowboys. It wasn’t a player or a scheme that jumped out, but rather how well the Cowboys play for Bohl and his staff.

“They have great coaching, so that’s something we have to worry about,” Ekpre-Olomu said. “… When you watch them on film, they’re really disciplined. They do a great job of spacing out routes and getting guys the ball quick and easy, so that’s something we really need to work on – keeping our eyes on our keys and not letting them run play action, getting easy throws.”

The Ducks have a small head start on preparing for the Cowboys, in that they run a pro-style offense as Michigan State did last week. Still, Ekpre-Olomu said, the UO defense will expect some new tweaks from Wyoming, and for the Cowboys to execute them to precision due to the quality of their coaching staff. Both coordinators also came over this offseason from North Dakota State.

Ekpre-Olomu may be focused on the Cowboys, but many are still marveling at his amazing interception against the Spartans, helping seal Oregon’s win. Ekpre-Olomu was running at the 15-yard line when a ball was tipped by Reggie Daniels, yet managed the leaping interception before the ball could fall to the turf just inside the 5-yard line.

It was an amazing display of athleticism and hustle, the sort of “finish” that Oregon’s coaches constantly preach.

“When Reggie broke on the ball, that’s something we work on a lot, tip drill after that,” Ekpre-Olomu said. “I was able to run it down, just never really gave up on the play, and that’s why I was able to make it.”

Highlights: Most impressive period of the day was 7-on-7; Marcus Mariota put every single ball right on a receiver, and the only incompletion was a drop. He completed passes to Dwayne Stanford, Darren Carrington, Byron Marshall, Keanon Lowe, Johnny Mundt and Pharaoh Brown, before wrapping up the drill with his prettiest ball yet, a tear drop over a defender to Royce Freeman. I didn’t think Mariota was particularly sharp Monday, perhaps because it was his first look at Wyoming’s scheme, but he was on point today. … Not often blocking grabs my attention, but Lowe and Devon Allen had nice downfield blocks on one run by Freeman, Carrington held off a defender for Marshall, and Doug Brenner got upfield to clear a path for Kenny Bassett. …

While Mariota was peppering passes around the offensive field in 7-on-7, Reggie Daniels and Erick Dargan broke up back-to-back passes on the defensive field, and moments later Dargan came down with an interception. … Dior Mathis, Issac Dixon and Derrick Malone Jr. also had interceptions over the course of the day. … Scout team won a rep against the offense at one point when Jordan Kurahara defeated a block and got to Thomas Tyner in the backfield. Tyner otherwise looked strong during that period, breaking through to the second level at least twice.

Other observations: Jalen Jelks continues to bring it for the scout team. He forced a fumble in one 11-on-11 drill, easily won a rep during pass-rush drills and knocked down a pass at the line during a later team situation. … A big key to Oregon’s first touchdown against Michigan State, on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, was a lead block by Brown. That play jumped to mind today when Brown had another big block to spring Freeman for a long run. … Scott Frost had a rare reception – a pass hit a lineman’s head and caromed into the air. The play was whistled dead, and Frost ran out to catch it before it hit the ground. … Carrington was the recipient of some great protection during a kickoff return drill, and got past the coverage team for a long return.