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Football Practice Report: Dec. 30

Dec 30, 2020

Oregon Notes - Fiesta Bowl

Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Shells

The Shough family was still finding its seats at the 2013 Fiesta Bowl when the game's most memorable play was unfolding.

Oregon beat Kansas State to cap the 2012 season that day, 35-17. The Ducks set the tone from the outset when De'Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, leaning forward as he crossed into the end zone like a sprinter breaking the tape at the finish line.

At that point in his life, Tyler Shough could only dream of playing in a game like the Fiesta Bowl. He'll get the chance Saturday, when the Oregon football team faces Iowa State (1 p.m., ESPN).

"This is an amazing opportunity," Shough said Wednesday. "It's definitely something I've been looking forward to since I was a kid."

Saturday's game will be a homecoming both for Shough, Oregon's starting quarterback in all six games this season, and wideout Johnny Johnson III, the team's second-leading receiver in 2020. They're both natives of Chandler, just southeast of Phoenix, although they went to rival high schools.

The Fiesta Bowl will allow friends and family to be on hand for the game, providing the chance for familiar faces to be on hand when Shough and Johnson take the field in their home state.

"I'm just excited, man," Johnson said. "Excited to go back home, excited to play in this big-time game and ready to attack it."

When they've spent time back home in recent years, Shough and Johnson have gotten together for football workouts. Coincidentally, there were times they were joined by another Arizona native, quarterback Brock Purdy — who leads the offense for Oregon's opponent Saturday, Iowa State.

"It's interesting how it all plays out," Johnson said. "We were just getting work in, us Arizona boys. It was fun. But now it's time to compete. Now it's time to get to work."

For Shough, the Fiesta Bowl also provides the chance to quiet any doubts generated by some uneven moments in the regular-season finale, a loss at Cal, and during the Pac-12 Championship game, when Anthony Brown came into the game for certain situations.

"That's just part of the game, part of life, part of growing through things," Shough said. "I have extreme confidence in myself. …

"I'm always going to have that chip on my shoulder to prove myself right, and prove other people wrong. This is just another opportunity to do that."

Practice highlights: The defense was at its playmaking best in the weekly 2-minute drill. With the first-string groups on the field, Mykael Wright and Jordan Happle broke up passes and Kayvon Thibodeaux had a sack to keep the offense from threatening to score. … With the twos up, Sean Dollars had an explosive play to get the ball past midfield, and Josh Delgado reigned in a pass to move the chains again. But Mase Funa stacked up a run play and Keyon Ware-Hudson tipped a pass at the line to stop the drive, and a long field-goal attempt was no good. …

In the first 11-on-11 period, the defense didn't force quite as many turnovers as the last couple practices, but Thibodeaux hit a quarterback's arm as a pass was being thrown and Austin Faoliu forced a ball to be thrown away with his pressure. … Bennett Williams dropped a potential interception in that period, but Jamal Hill picked off a ball later in a red-zone drill, and Verone McKinley III had a pick in 7-on-7.

Other observations: Tight end Cooper Shults made a tough catch in a drill Tuesday that had all the offensive guys yelling from the sideline, "Coooooooooooop!" Well that became a thing, because pretty much every time he touched the ball the rest of the day Tuesday and again Wednesday, there it came again: "Coooooooooop!" … Oregon's equipment truck was packed up and scheduled to hit the road for Arizona following Wednesday's practice. The Ducks will hold their regular walk-through in Eugene on Thursday before flying to the Phoenix area.