Football Practice Report: Oct. 5
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads
After a trial by fire in the opening week of the season, Oregon's pass defense has shown some progress through the Ducks' current four-game winning streak. It will face another stiff test when the Ducks put that winning streak on the line Saturday.
When the Ducks play Saturday evening at Arizona, they'll be facing one of the top passing teams in the country so far this season. The Wildcats rank ninth in the FBS with 340 passing yards per game, led by quarterback Jayden de Laura and a talented stable of receivers.
"There hasn't been a lot of teams that have really slowed them down offensively," UO coach Dan Lanning said this week. "They only maybe hurt themselves a couple of times, to be honest. They've done a really good job. They get the ball downfield, they take long shots, so this will be a really good challenge."
Oregon enters the game 12th in the Pac-12 in pass defense at 282.2 yards per game, a figure weighed down by the 439 yards Georgia threw for in the season opener. In the following three games the UO pass defense had almost as many interceptions (four) as passing TDs allowed (six), and the Ducks held Stanford to 205 yards through the air last week.
It's a different challenge this week. Not only is de Laura a talented passer, he had an outstanding group of targets. Jacob Cowing leads the Pac-12 with 40 receptions and 113.2 yards per game, plus seven touchdowns. Dorian Singer has 32 receptions and averages 90 yards per game, while acrobatic freshman Tetairoa McMillan averages 18.13 yards per reception with three touchdowns.
"They have a nice group of guys at receiver," UO defensive back Trikweze Bridges said. "They're fast and explosive, and they make a lot of explosive plays."
A key for the Ducks, Bridges said, will be tackling well to limit yards after the catch. The UO secondary has worked on that this week in practice, by trying to rein in Oregon's own talented group of receivers.
"Going against them every day helps the whole secondary get better," UO defensive back Christian Gonzalez said, "and helps them get better as well."
Notable: There were a couple of instances Wednesday of veterans coaching up teammates in Oregon's practice. During a special teams period, the offensive linemen not involved with that unit went to the other field, and senior Alex Forsyth coached one pod of players through the drill. Earlier, quarterback Bo Nix had huddled with receivers Chase Cota and Kris Hutson to talk through a technique they could employ to get more separation on a particular route.
Head coach Dan Lanning
On the Ducks' attempt to win at Arizona for the first time since 2011
"I think our players are aware of the history there, in this game. Any time you go on the road in this conference, it's going to be a challenge. We're expecting Arizona's absolute best, but just like we've said every week, we're not playing Arizona, we're playing Oregon. That's our focus right now. We got to be the best version of us."
On getting off to a better start than the last road trip, at WSU
"We want to start fast. We talked about being battle-tested this week. And we've been in some battles so far this season. We want to start fast. We don't want to hurt ourselves early."
Head coach Dan Lanning
Senior defensive back Bennett Williams
Junior defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus
Sophomore defensive back Trikweze Bridges
Sophomore defensive back Christian Gonzalez
Sophomore punter Ross James