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Football Practice Report: Jan. 1

Jan 1, 2021

Venue: Chaparral High School
Format: Fast Friday

The 2020 Oregon football team held its final practice of the year Friday, and did it in the calendar year 2021 by virtue of earning the right to play Saturday in the Fiesta Bowl.

This season will be remembered for many things, from the high of beating USC in the Pac-12 Championship game to the disarray created by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Ducks (4-2) have the chance to finish it on the highest of the notes, when they take on Iowa State in State Farm Stadium on Saturday (1 p.m. PT, ESPN).

"I know we've had a lot of growth, especially between the ears, upstairs, in terms of maturity, in terms of understanding what we are as a team and what level of focus and intensity we have to get to, to play our best football," UO coach Mario Cristobal said Friday morning.

"We feel really good about that. Our players do as well, just along the lines of making sure every part of our process has a 1-0 aspect to it. If we can do that, we feel we can always put our best product on the field."

Like everything else during the pandemic, it's been an unusual bowl week. The Ducks held their weekly Thursday walk-through in Eugene, and didn't leave for Arizona until that afternoon — less than 48 hours before kickoff for the Fiesta Bowl.

The team got to spent a couple hours Thursday night at Topgolf, but there haven't been the array of community service and other outings typical of a bowl trip.

Friday began with a visit to State Farm Stadium for a first look at the venue, and to take team photos. Then it was off to Chaparral High School, for the Ducks' "Fast Friday" practice.

The rest of the day allowed for players to get off their feet back at the team hotel, with the exception of unit meetings in the evening. No doubt, some tuned into the College Football Playoff semifinal games, but it was a chance as well to prepare mentally for the challenge the Ducks will face Saturday.

"These guys can't help but turn on the TV, and every other second there's something about the Fiesta Bowl on there, and the matchup," Cristobal said. "They know the caliber of the opponent that we're playing. They know it's a great football team.

"So they're very, very eager and excited about the opportunity."

Development-squad practice highlights: Rather than an 11-on-11 situation, the weekly scrimmage for guys who spent the week on the scout team was divided up, with 7-on-7 for the "skill" players and 1-on-1 pass-rush drills for the linemen. … Sua'ava Poti was easily the most dominant guy among the linemen. He did a set of two reps against two different guys, and seemed to have the edge in all four. Jonathan Denis and Marcus Harper II had positive reps offensively, as did Faaope Laloulu. …

In the 7-on-7 session, Jay Butterfield had a couple completions to the star of the week, Cooper Shults. Cale Millen had a series of three straight completions, including a ball tucked into a real tight window to Justin Collins. … Safety Marko Vidackovic broke up a pass.

Other observations: Cristobal said that a few players who've been battling injuries, including CJ Verdell, Dontae Manning, Adrian Jackson and Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, all travelled with the team to Arizona. "We're hopeful they will play," Cristobal said. "May be game-time decisions, but we feel like they do have a chance to play. … Hydration has been a point of emphasis to players from the staff the last few days, as the Ducks prepared to play in Arizona. Fast Friday was conducted outdoors under a brilliant desert sun, although the temperature never got above about 65 degrees.