Football Practice Report: Oct. 19
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
The closest Kayvon Thibodeaux could remember playing in anything like Oregon's epic, eight-play stop inside the 10-yard line to beat Cal last Friday was a third-quarter possession at Washington in 2019, when the Huskies ran five plays inside the 20 and settled for a field goal.
Against the Golden Bears, a field goal wouldn't do. Cal needed a touchdown to force overtime. Thanks in part to a penalty, the Golden Bears snapped the ball eight times from inside the 10 – one of them a spike to stop the clock – but the Ducks got a stop on fourth down with 2 seconds left to hang on.
"I loved it," Thibodeaux said. "For me it was being out there seeing everybody on their feet, the crowd really into it, it gave me that surreal moment of, 'Wow, this is why we play.' I wasn't even mad when they got the first down, just being able to keep playing and knowing, whatever happens, we've just gotta fight to the end."
The Ducks got big plays at every level of the defense on those eight plays. Cornerback Trikweze Bridges tackled a receiver at the 3-yard line, and Jamal Hill broke up a pass at the goal line. Brandon Dorlus had a tackle for loss, and Keyon Ware-Hudson hurried Cal's quarterback into an incompletion. And linebacker Noah Sewell was in on each of the last two plays, teaming up with Bradyn Swinson to stuff a run play on third down, then joining Verone McKinley III on a blitz up the middle that forced one final incompletion.
On Tuesday, the Ducks were back to work at practice inside the Moshofsky Center. Among the drills for the defense was a sequence against the scout team at the goal line. For Swinson, it was moments like that one Tuesday that made moments like Friday a success.
"Every day in practice we practice those situations, having our back against the wall," Swinson said. "So in that moment, I feel like I'd seen that moment every day in practice, so it was just like another play. After stacking reps, doing that same play in practice, come game time I was ready."
It was only a couple of weeks ago that neither Swinson nor Thibodeaux was available for the Ducks. Thibodeaux sprained his ankle in the opening game of the season, and missed the next two. And Swinson played against Cal after missing the previous three games, which he disclosed Tuesday was due to minor knee surgery he underwent following Oregon's win at Ohio State.
"Big shout out to the training staff and everybody that took care of me," Swinson said. "I feel better than it was before I ever got hurt."
Thibodeaux returned from his injury for a few reps against Arizona in late September, then rejoined the starting lineup when the Ducks played at Stanford – only to be ejected for targeting in the second half. That meant he had to spend the first half Friday against Cal waiting to play until after halftime.
"I tried to stay poised and contribute to the team, but keep them level-headed," Thibodeaux said. "You don't want to get too high or too low. …
"When you're on the sideline or even when I did pregame warmups, you don't want to get too fluctuated, to get too hyped. Then you crash, and you have to get back up mentally. It was just being able to stay level-headed, and get in and know the job I had to do."
Practice highlights: The Ducks did "good-on-good" work to close practice, a period that included a nice gain by Travis Dye and a run by Anthony Brown on which he got a key block from Jackson Powers-Johnson. With the twos on the field, Keith Brown wrapped up Byron Cardwell after a short gain, a case of No. 21 tackling No. 21. … Jordan Happle and Micah Roth had interceptions in the latter half of practice, and Sewell nearly had another. …. Dontae Manning blocked a kick in field-goal drills, at least the third or fourth time he's done so this fall.
Other observations: There appears to be some really good chemistry building between quarterback Jay Butterfield and receiver Dont'e Thornton. They hooked up several times Tuesday, including in the "good-on-good" situation late in practice. … Cardwell really took advantage of the game reps he got Friday, and perhaps that provided some extra confidence because he was running well again Tuesday. … After a period of drills for the punt team concluded, Tom Snee, Karsten Battles and Peyton Yanagi all had to hustle off and get to campus for noon classes.
Sophomore edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux
Redshirt freshman cornerback Trikweze Bridges
Freshman edge defender Bradyn Swinson