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Football Practice Report: Dec. 15

Dec 15, 2020

Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Helmets and shorts

Perhaps in the big picture, holding two practices for two different opponents on the same day was par for the course this year.

That was the situation the Oregon football team faced Monday, which began with a walk-through focused on their scheduled opponent this weekend, Colorado on Saturday, but ended with a practice focused on USC, the team the Ducks will face Friday because Washington is unable to participate in the Pac-12 Championship game.

"That's kind of how 2020's been," UO offensive lineman Alex Forsyth said. "A roller coaster of events."

That kind of mindset helped the Ducks navigate the quick change of plans Monday. By Tuesday, they had their focus squarely on the Trojans, the unbeaten championship game representatives of the Pac-12 South Division.

"Everyone was just super excited," UO quarterback Tyler Shough said. "We know they're a really good team, that they're undefeated right now, and we love the challenge."

The Ducks enter Friday's game looking for their first win in four weeks. After a 3-0 start to this season, they lost games to OSU and California, then didn't play last week when Washington suffered an outbreak of COVID-19.

Linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia said the silver lining from the losses was identifying areas to clean up in practice the last two weeks. The adversity also, he said, brought the team closer together as the Ducks rallied to get back on track.

"We just have to come out and play with a chip on our shoulder," Slade-Matautia said. "We have that saying: 'Get on edge and stay on edge.' We're gonna have to have that mindset."

The Trojans feature challenges aplenty for the Ducks, from their big-play passing game to a front seven that Forsyth called "the best you'll find in college football." And yes, there are some who think two-loss Oregon didn't deserve a spot in the conference title game.

But Mario Cristobal said Monday the Ducks make no apologies for the circumstances that put them in Friday's game. And his players are ready to take their shot.

"We're in this opportunity, we might as well win it," Shough said. "We may as well make the best we can of the cards we've been given."

Practice highlights: Shough drove the No. 1 offense to a win in the weekly 2-minute drill with some last-minute dramatics. A pass breakup by Deommodore Lenoir helped the defense get an early edge, setting up fourth-and-long on the wrong side of midfield for the offense. But Johnny Johnson III moved the chains with a clutch catch-and-run, sparking the offense. Two more quick completions, to Jaylon Redd and Johnson, got the ball inside the red zone, and Henry Katleman came on to make a "game-winning" field goal from 35 yards out. … The No. 2 offense got across midfield with a pass from Anthony Brown to Spencer Webb. But a sack on the next play by Bradyn Swinson set up fourth down, and the defense held to end the drill. …

The very first play of the first 11-on-11 period Tuesday was an interception by Verone McKinley III against the scouts on offense. … That period also included a long touchdown pass from Shough to Johnson. … In a "good-on-good" period, DJ James was right on the hip of Johnson, but Shough dropped a pass over the coverage and into the receiver's arms for a touchdown. Moments later, Shough put another ball right on his receiver, but JJ Greenfield slapped it away before the reception was secured.

Other observations: Katleman actually made his winning kick during the 2-minute drill twice. His first attempt was blown dead when Cristobal called timeout to ice him, so Katleman went ahead and made it again to win the drill. … Players the last two weeks have made an effort to hold each other to a higher standard, with Kayvon Thibodeaux leading that effort on defense, according to Slade-Matautia. … The defense didn't appear to force quite as many turnovers Tuesday as they did Monday. But there were some near-misses — in one "good-on-good" period, Slade-Matautia punched the ball out of a ballcarrier's arms but saw it bounce out of bounds. Moments later, Thibodeaux had a pass at the line go right through his hands before falling incomplete.