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Football Practice Report: Nov. 24

Nov 24, 2020

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads

As the Oregon football team moves on from last week's narrow win over UCLA to Friday's game at Oregon (4:30 p.m., ESPN), there are plenty of details to address.

There are techniques and fundamentals to stress in practice. Fine-tuning the game plan takes place during meetings, among the staff and with players.

But as much as anything, Mario Cristobal this week has been stressing one of the foundational principles within his UO football program — the need to play with physicality and dominate at the line of scrimmage. The Ducks have done that often since Cristobal became head coach, but the win over UCLA was an exception.

So the Ducks will look to re-establish their identity Friday when they take the field in Corvallis. On offense, new coordinator Joe Moorhead has been happy to see Tyler Shough and the passing game excel through three games, but he wants the production to be more balanced as well.

"We need to be able to run the ball effectively," Moorhead said, "regardless of what the looks are (from the defense)."

Wednesday's practice was the last of the week in full pads, the last chance to really hone a mindset of physicality before the Oregon State game. Cristobal reinforced that mindset at every turn, starting with the team huddled at midfield prior to practice's start, to his final message in the post-practice huddle.

The goal is to see more production on the ground like the last time Oregon played in Corvallis, when Travis Dye and CJ Verdell combined for 386 rushing yards and six touchdowns in a 55-15 win in 2018. That was a better story than the one the Ducks wrote against the Bruins, when they ran for 88 yards — or 112 if sacks aren't counted.

"First off you gotta tip your cap to UCLA; they had a nice game plan," Moorhead said. "… Like anything, it's numbers, angles and grass in the run game — where can we put our kids in position to be successful, based on the play call and scheme? Gotta play with a tremendous amount of physicality and finish. And the quarterback's gotta do a great job making the correct reads and getting the ball where it needs to go.

"All of those things will be of primary importance moving forward."

Practice highlights: Practice ended with the 2-minute drill, and Moorhead had to like what he saw. Shough quickly drove the offense into the red zone, with help from an explosive play by Dye. The drive got down to the 2-yard line before Shough called timeout with enough time for one last play. Henry Katleman came on and drilled a "game-winning" field goal to win the drill for the offense. … The No. 2 defense evened the score, forcing a fumble on the first play, which DJ James jumped on to end practice. …

The offense tends to have an edge in 1-on-1 receiving drills, but on Tuesday the secondary put on a show. There were nice pass breakups by Verone McKinley III, Bennett Williams, Lucas Noland and Trikweze Bridges. McKinley and Williams both demonstrated great "finish," to borrow Moorhead's term, knocking balls out just when it looked like receivers were about to secure them. … Kayvon Thibodeaux and Nick Pickett had interceptions during team periods.

Other observations: After practice, offensive lineman Ryan Walk addressed the team about the rivalry with Oregon State. Walk grew up attending Oregon home games and also games in Corvallis when the Ducks played at OSU. But he also told the Ducks that Friday was important because it was a chance to get back to playing to their standard, after last week's result was too close for comfort. … JR Waters had another impressive rep during drills Tuesday, getting physical with a receiver off the line and forcing the quarterback to tuck the ball and run. There's still much to learn in terms of technique and Oregon's defensive schemes, but the converted receiver is showing some early flashes of promise at his new position.

Post-practice interviews:

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough

Senior receiver Johnny Johnson III

Junior linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia