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5 Things To Watch: Oregon State

Nov 25, 2020

Oregon Notes - Oregon State

The Ducks and Beavers will meet for the 124th time as rivals Friday afternoon in Corvallis at 4:30 p.m.

Oregon improved to 3-0 last week with a 38-35 win at home over UCLA, taking advantage of four turnovers to overcome some inconsistencies at the line of scrimmage. Oregon State is coming off its first win of the season, 31-27 over Cal.

The teams have one common opponent so far, Washington State; the Cougars won in Corvallis on the opening weekend of the Pac-12 season, and the Ducks won at WSU the following week.

The game will be televised by ESPN, with Dave Flemming on play by play, Rod Gilmore with analysis and Shelley Smith reporting from the sidelines.

Some storylines to follow in the game …

1. With no fans in stands for games this season, Mario Cristobal has conjured the image of "packing your juice" in players' suitcases the night before games, to replace the energy they normally would get from a crowd.

Ironically, the Ducks have done that on the road this season, in an admittedly small sample size. Oregon has scored on its first offensive possession in one out of three games this fall, that one being the Ducks' lone road game so far, at Washington State.

Against UCLA last week, Oregon had 24 points at halftime, 21 of which were provided or set up by turnovers. An emphatic scoring drive to open Friday's game at Corvallis would set the tone for the Ducks on offense, and show that they remembered to "pack their juice."

2. Oregon's rush defense against UCLA was able to bend but not break. The Ducks allowed 267 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, but only two carries went for more than 20 yards, and none was as long as 30.

It could be a different story Friday if the Ducks don't tackle well. Jermar Jefferson of Oregon State had runs of 75 and 65 yards against California last week. His other 16 carries were for 56 yards, less than four yards per carry. But Jefferson can hit a home run at any time.

Defensively, the Ducks appear to have dodged a bullet regarding the health of linebacker Noah Sewell. He was carted off the field last week with what looked like a serious leg injury, but was back at practice Monday. That's a welcome development for a unit looking to tighten things up.

3. Oregon, meanwhile, wants to look more like the offense that ran up and down the field against the Beavers in 2018, and improve on last week's showing against UCLA.

Two years ago in Corvallis, CJ Verdell and Travis Dye combined for 386 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Last week against UCLA, Verdell and Dye combined for 58 yards, on 22 carries.

UCLA's defensive front, led by Osa Odighizuwa, gave Oregon's new-look offensive line trouble. Oregon State's front profiles differently, but the Beavers have another "game-wrecker," to borrow a term from UO offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, in outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr.

4. All eyes will be on the personnel group when Oregon's placekicking unit takes the field for the first time Friday.

So far this season, Camden Lewis has handled kicks for the Ducks. The sophomore, who memorably made a game-winner on the final play to beat WSU last season, had his first made field goal of the season last week against UCLA, but also his third miss of the year.

This week in practice, Henry Katleman and Lewis battled neck-and-neck for the right to handle kicks Friday at Oregon State. A rivalry game on the road would be a challenging circumstance under which Katleman would be making his collegiate debut, but the Ducks need to identify a placekicker who will provide reliability.

5. No longer is the Oregon-OSU rivalry known by its previous nickname, after a movement this offseason led by former student-athletes to move on from a nickname that referenced a sad time in U.S. history.

Still, both teams can show Friday that there's no lesson passion on either sideline. Eugene native Ryan Walk, not a starting offensive lineman for the Ducks, addressed the team after practice Tuesday, talking about what the rivalry means to Willamette Valley natives.

And this turf war resonates with more than just the Oregon natives on the roster. UO quarterback Tyler Shough has family in Salem and Albany, and has spent time in their homes – surrounded by Oregon State memorabilia.

"It means something different to them," Shough said this week. "It's great to finally get in this rivalry series and get a game in."