Football Practice Report: Nov. 24
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
Depending on how things play out Friday night in Seattle, Saturday's Oregon-OSU game could be for the highest stakes since the "War for the Roses" in 2009.
Entering the final week of the Pac-12 regular-season, three teams remain in the hunt for the Pac-12 North title. Washington State will advance to face Utah in the conference title game if the Cougars win at UW on Friday, and if the Ducks lose to OSU. But if Washington beats WSU on Friday, the Ducks and Beavers will take the field in Autzen Stadium on Saturday with the winner advancing to face the Utes in Las Vegas next Friday.
"It's not just another game," UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "I think we all know that."
The Ducks held their final full-padded practice of this regular season on Wednesday. The next time they're in pads, it will be to face the Beavers on Saturday. For Oregon's in-state players in particular, there's no bigger game on the schedule.
"Growing up in Oregon, this is always the biggest rivalry, every single year," center Alex Forsyth said. "It's a huge game. It's meant a lot to me for so long, watching these games being played. They're always competitive. We're playing for a lot, especially this year."
Forsyth is in his fifth year with the program, but he said Wednesday he intends to utilize the extra year of eligibility available because of the COVID pandemic and return for 2022. For several of his teammates, though, Saturday brings their Autzen Stadium swan song.
Among them in Nate Heaukulani, who went to two different junior colleges before making it back to his home state and joining the Ducks, first as a walk-on and then on scholarship last year. Heaukulani has been a diligent practice player who kept himself ready in the event of injuries to other linebackers, and he's been tasked with filling significant reps for the Ducks this season.
Saturday brings one more chance to do so, after a childhood spent watching the Oregon-OSU rivalry as a fan.
"Growing up, half my family was Beaver fans, and there was only like two Ducks in the family," he said. "It was a fun rivalry in the Heaukulani family back home."
And of course for Oregon, Saturday not only is a rivalry game, not only is it senior day, but it's a chance to erase the bitter taste of last week's loss at Utah.
"The energy's been strong," Cristobal said. "The players have really been taking accountability in making sure that all the details are being take care of so that we practice hard, practice the right way. It's been a great week."
Practice highlights: Wednesday's workout ended in entertaining fashion — Jay Butterfield lofting a ball into the end zone in a 2-minute drill that receiver Spencer Curtis and cornerback Jaylin Davies each got his hands on. They were wrestling for possession well after falling to the turf, but an official in the end zone called it a touchdown for the offense. … A couple of defensive linemen tallied passes defended over the course of the morning, with Sua'ava Poti intercepting a pass at the line against the scout team and Louie Cresto battling down a ball in another period. … One day after Jayson Jones showed out in pass-rush drills with his power, the athleticism of Terrell Tilmon really stood out in the same drill Wednesday.
Other observations: Tight end and pass rusher DJ Johnson remains day to day as Saturday's game approaches, Cristobal said. Johnson hasn't played since Oregon's win at Washington. … Linebacker Keith Brown is likely to miss his second straight game, Cristobal said. That makes last week's return of Jackson LaDuke all the more timely. … Oregon's post-practice lunch Thursday will be a Thanksgiving meal, and players will also have the option Thursday night of spending the holiday with family or being hosted by their position coaches.
Head coach Mario Cristobal
Senior linebacker Nate Heaukulani
Sophomore defensive back Trikweze Bridges