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Football Practice Report: Oct. 7

Oct 7, 2021

Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Shells

Oregon's bye week is giving the Ducks a chance to deal with some reshuffling on the offensive side of the ball, although not at the most conspicuous position of all.

The Ducks returned to practice this week following their loss at Stanford without offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who missed the loss with a non-COVID illness. They're also processing the loss for the season of running back CJ Verdell due to an injury suffered against the Cardinal.

One position that does look the same this week despite some struggles at Stanford is quarterback, where Anthony Brown remains at the helm of the UO offense. But as the Ducks prepare to host California at Autzen Stadium next Friday, they do so without Verdell and also Moorhead, who was at least back in Eugene as of Thursday.

"Our prayers and thoughts are with him, and our support is with him as well," UO coach Mario Cristobal said after practice Thursday. "We're glad he's finally home and getting better."

Running backs coach Jim Mastro called plays for the Ducks at Stanford, where the Ducks were in the lead and in control of the game before a series of UO penalties contributed to a Stanford comeback and eventual win in overtime. Mastro will call plays again against Cal, in collaboration with the rest of the staff, if Moorhead can't be on the sideline, Cristobal said.

At Mastro's position group, veteran Travis Dye becomes the feature back after the loss of Verdell to injury. With Sean Dollars also sidelined long-term due to injury, the rest of the depth chart lacks experience, though is plenty talented. That includes freshmen Trey Benson, Byron Cardwell and Seven McGee, and veterans Cross Patton and Aaron Smith.

"You've got some guys that have really worked hard and are ready for an opportunity," Cristobal said.

Joining Dye and the younger backs in the backfield with the No. 1 offense is Brown, who had led Oregon to a 4-0 start to the season before being harshly critical of his own play in the loss to Stanford. Young quarterbacks Ty Thompson, Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford continue to share reps in practice behind Brown.

"He's had some really good moments; some other moments we need to improve upon, would like to have back," Cristobal said. "But he certainly gives us the best chance to win."

Practice highlights: Brown completed a couple of nice deep balls in 11-on-11 work Thursday, including a touchdown pass of about 55 yards to Jaylon Redd and another long completion moments later to Spencer Webb. … Dont'e Thornton showed off great concentration in that period, when Jonathan Flowe tipped a pass out of Thompson's hand but Thornton stuck with it and made the reception. … Kristian Williams forced a fumble that Micah Roth recovered. …

Ashford electrified the sideline late in practice with a series that included a pass feathered through the defense for a completion to Jack Vecchi, a ball down the sideline to Moliki Matavao and a deep ball over the shoulder and into the hands of Spencer Curtis. … In the final 11-on-11 period, Butterfield completed 7-of-8 passes to set up a final-play scoring chance from the 5-yard line. Butterfield took another shot into the end zone as practice ended but the ball was slapped away by Trikweze Bridges.

Other observations: Director of player development Tony Washington addressed the team in the post-practice huddle. He related the experience he had as a player on Oregon's 2014 team, which also lost its fifth game, in part due to a costly penalty Washington incurred. Washington told this year's Ducks of the way the 2014 group rallied together after the loss, all the way to the College Football Playoff. … In case anyone was worried about the level of "juice" in practice coming off a loss, veterans like Dye and Redd were their usual boisterous selves, setting the tone for an energetic morning of work. …

Along with confirming Verdell's loss for the season, Cristobal said safety Bennett Williams also is out for the year after being hurt last Friday. But there's optimism players including Bradyn Swinson, Adrian Jackson, Daymon David, Dawson Jaramillo and Kingsley Suamataia should be available against Cal. … Some young linemen are getting chances with the No. 1 offensive line during the bye week, with Faaope Laloulu, Marcus Harper II and Jaylan Jeffers taking some reps with that group at times in practice.