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Football Practice Report: Aug. 30

Aug 30, 2022

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Shells

It's the season opener, it's a matchup with the defending national champions, it's a game in the Deep South hosted at an NFL stadium, it's a chance for Oregon's new coach to go against his former program – indeed, all of that is true.

It's also, at its basic essence, a football game. No more, no less. When the Oregon Ducks take the field against Georgia on Saturday (12:30 p.m. PT, ABC), head coach Dan Lanning wants them to remember one thing: play the game, not the occasion.

"Ultimately, there's so many stories … but the reality is, that's all they are – stories," Lanning said. "We gotta go play the football game."

Game week dawned for the Ducks with a practice in full pads on Monday. The team was back at it Tuesday, in shells, getting their legs back under them after the strain of fall camp, and honing their focus on an opponent for the first time this season.

The Ducks aren't oblivious to all the narratives floating around about the matchup. They're just not getting caught up in them.

"It's football," defensive back Christian Gonzalez said. "We've all done this since we were 5 years old. It's the same game. Let's go and do our job, and we'll see what happens."

Among the narratives the Ducks have heard is that they're an underdog for Saturday's game. Of course, they were a big underdog before playing at Ohio State in 2021, too. And that didn't stop Oregon from winning 35-28 at Ohio Stadium.

Circumstances this time around are different, in all sorts of ways. But one thing is the same – the Ducks aren't getting caught up in the doubts others may have.

"We don't think we're an underdog – as a team, I really don't believe it," defensive back Bennett Williams said. "With the talent we have and the way we've been working, if we come out and execute, it will show on the field."

As Lanning put it, nobody in Las Vegas will be suiting up for either team Saturday.

"We know what everyone thinks of our team, and that's OK by us," he said. "Our goal is to go out there and play the best game we can possibly play."

Notable: The Ducks have scout-team players designated this week, wearing numbers that correspond to members of the Georgia team. But unlike in years past, those players on what Lanning calls the "look team" aren't wearing jerseys in the opponent's colors – defensive players are still in green, offensive players in white. … Oregon's equipment truck left the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex on Monday, so that it will be on hand in Georgia when the team arrives there Thursday evening.

Quotable:

Sophomore defensive back Christian Gonzalez
On helping mentor a position group heavy on second-year players and freshmen

"It's been really fun to come in and be looked at as a veteran, as a leader, and help these young guys learn the defense and just learn how to go about college. It's been great."

Senior defensive back Bennett Williams
On facing Georgia's preseason all-American at tight end, Brock Bowers

"He's definitely a special player. Size, speed, hands, can block, got finesse—he's definitely a good player. But I feel like we've got really good players. … We're not gearing our whole game plan to stop him. They've got a ton of threats."

Post-practice interviews:

Senior defensive back Bennett Williams

Sophomore defensive back Christian Gonzalez