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Football Practice Report: Nov. 23

Nov 23, 2020

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Shells

After improving to 3-0 on the season with Saturday's win over UCLA, the Oregon football team will be back in action Friday with a road game at Oregon State (4:30 p.m., ESPN).

Usually, Monday is an off day for the Ducks. But with this week's game being played one day early, practice began a day early, too. So Oregon was back in action at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex on Monday, in its Tuesday practice format, albeit in shells rather than full pads in a nod to having just played a game.

Rivalry week has a different feel this week than it has for most of the history of Oregon's games against Oregon State. The teams agreed to move on from the previous nickname for the series, and Friday's game will be played with no fans in attendance due to the pandemic.

After practice Monday, UO coach Mario Cristobal expressed sympathy for the fact that fans of the Ducks and Beavers won't be able to cheer on their teams in person.

"I feel for the fans, I do," Cristobal said. "Because you can feel the enthusiasm, the energy, the anticipation for games like this, in the community."

On the field, Oregon is moving on from a narrow 38-35 win over UCLA in which the Bruins responded to the absence of their starting quarterback by relying on an up-tempo, triple-option offense to keep the Ducks on their heels. Oregon forced four turnovers and turned all four into touchdowns, but the Ducks know they needed to tighten some things up on the defensive end this week.

"We know there's areas that are not to our standard right now," defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.

But, he went on to say, there's also enthusiasm for working to improve those areas and get better as the season progresses. And the Ducks know they can't relax this week, given the prospect of facing reigning Pac-12 player of the week Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State's running back.

Jefferson ran for 196 yards in a win over Cal last week, including a 75-yard touchdown on his first carry and a 65-yard gain in the fourth quarter.

"He's a bigger back that has that explosive step," Avalos said. "He hits the crease, he's got the speed to take it the distance."

As the Ducks prepare to tangle with Jefferson and the OSU offense, they had a welcome sight at Monday's practice. Freshman middle linebacker Noah Sewell (above), the starter each of the last two weeks, was in gear and a full participant, two days after leaving the field Saturday on the back of a motorized cart due to a lower leg injury.

Practice highlights: In 1-on-1 drills, Mykael Wright intercepted a pass, and Devon Williams made a leaping grab of a back-shoulder pass. … During a service period, some young guys made their presence felt. Converted receiver JR Waters broke up a pass at his new position, cornerback, running stride for stride with a wideout on a deep ball. Keyon Ware-Hudson had back-to-back big plays, teaming with Kristian Williams (below) on a tackle for loss and then sacking the QB on the next rep. …

Jaylen Smith continues to help out on the offensive line, and showing some proficiency, despite signing as a defensive lineman and having a bright future there. This morning's pass-rush drill was conducted backed up to the goal line, and on two different occasions Smith lined up at left tackle, turned his man outside and kept turning him – and driving him backwards – all the way out the back of the end zone. … Isaah Crocker continues to work with the No. 2 offense after joining that group last week, and Monday he had a sweat diving catch, barely keeping the ball from hitting the turf.

Other observations: Cristobal said the placekicking job is an open competition this week, after a 1-of-4 start to the season by sophomore Camden Lewis. The other top candidate is Henry Katleman, who was 4-of-4 during Monday's practice period for the kickers. … Jordan Happle's versatility continues to pay dividends for the Ducks. He started at field safety two weeks ago, and boundary safety last week, before his pick-six against UCLA helped him earn Pac-12 player of the week honors. On Monday, he got some reps at a third position in the secondary, working in at times with the No. 2 defense at nickel.