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5 Things To Watch: EWU

Sep 9, 2022

The first home game for the Oregon football program under head coach Dan Lanning will be played Saturday evening.

After dropping their season opener a week ago in Georgia, the Ducks will look to get back on track when they host Eastern Washington in Autzen Stadium on Saturday (5:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network). The Eagles opened their season with a 36-29 win last week over Tennessee State.

Ted Robinson will handle play by play for the telecast, with Yogi Roth providing analysis.

Some factors to watch when the Ducks face the Eagles …

1. Oregon's defense is looking to bounce back after allowing 9.2 yards per play and 571 total yards of offense to Georgia. The Ducks struggled to set the edge, missed several tackles and only had one stop on third down.

Eastern Washington historically has fielded an offense that can test FBS defenses, led in the past by quarterback Vernon Adams – before his transfer to Oregon – and receiver Cooper Kupp, now an NFL star. The Eagles' quarterback this year is Gunner Talkington, a dual-threat player.

"They have a really good passing attack," Lanning said. "On offense they challenge your eyes with double moves; they do a lot of good things. And then obviously they can run the ball, and use a variety of personnel groups."

2. Oregon's offense only had one three-and-out against the Bulldogs, and had seven third-down conversions. But turnovers stymied the Ducks' production in the first half, and they didn't get much momentum going in the second half until their final possession of the game.

Time of possession was relatively even – 28:17 for Oregon, 31:43 for Georgia – but that certainly wasn't reflected on the scoreboard. The Ducks must do a better job of sustaining and finishing drives than they did in the opener.

"When you turn the ball over, when you don't finish a drive – we got in the red area twice and didn't finish with a touchdown – those have to be touchdown opportunities for us," Lanning said.

3. The Ducks could have another weapon available on offense soon. Receiver Caleb Chapman has been dealing with some upper leg issues but is receiving treatment and hopefully will make his UO debut soon.

Chapman was an early standout in preseason camp, for his ability to test the defense deep down the field. He impressed teammates by using his big frame to win contestable balls against defenders.

The Ducks are also eagerly anticipating the return of offensive lineman Ryan Walk, who left the Georgia game early with an injury. On the bright side, sophomore Marcus Harper II stepped into Walk's guard spot and performed quite capably against the Bulldogs.

4. With Oregon an FBS team and Eastern Washington playing at the FCS level, Lanning got a question this week about potentially playing a second quarterback Saturday.

The question presumed a comfortable performance by the Ducks. But in the wake of Oregon's showing in the opener, Lanning isn't taking anything for granted.

"All I'm worried about right now is playing the game," he said. "The only thing I'm worried about is winning the game. I want every one of our players to get an opportunity to go out there and perform, but it starts with just us going to play the game. I'm not worried about which guy gets in. What gives Oregon the best opportunity to win? Period."

5. Lanning got a preview of an Autzen Stadium game day at the spring game, but he's hoping to get the full Autzen experience for the regular-season home opener Saturday.

Conditions at the stadium will be back to pre-pandemic operations, including the Moshofsky Center opening for pregame events and a full array of concessions in Autzen.

"It's a fun environment to play in," said defensive lineman Taki Taimani, who played in Autzen while at Washington before transferring to Oregon. "I know fans are going to be here, it's going to be loud. I'm just excited to be back here."