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Football Practice Report: Oct. 18

Oct 18, 2022

Venue: Outdoor practice fields
Format: Full pads

After a quiet weekend, the noise is increasing exponentially this week around Oregon football.

It will be a matchup of top-10 teams Saturday in Autzen Stadium, with first place in the Pac-12 on the line as the No. 10 Ducks (5-1, 3-0) host No. 9 UCLA (6-0, 3-0). The game will kick off at 12:30 p.m. on FOX, and ESPN's "College GameDay" will be on campus for its morning pregame show.

Teams talk sometimes about "blocking out the noise," but when it's at this volume the Ducks have to be realistic.

"We're not gonna ignore the fact it's 'GameDay'," senior defensive back Bennett Williams said after the Ducks held practice Tuesday morning. "Big game, top-10 matchup, all that stuff. To ignore it, that's being ignorant. We've got to acknowledge it."

But what also needs to be acknowledged is, "GameDay" wouldn't be on hand if the Ducks hadn't been taking care of business the last few weeks. So at practice Tuesday, Oregon looked to take care of business. And it will be the same come kickoff Saturday.

"We know it's going to be electric here, and that's something we can kind of count on to our advantage," Williams said. "But as far as preparation goes, it's the same thing: back to the basics. Understanding what we have to work on. Really, it's the details."

For UO defenders like Williams, there's plenty that UCLA has shown on film to command their attention. Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson leads the Pac-12 in passer efficiency with a 180.59 rating, and he's a dangerous dual threat as well. Zach Charbonnet leads the conference in rushing with 123 yards per game.

Given the talent on both sides of the ball, it's no wonder the matchup is attracting the spotlight.

"That's kind of why you come to a place like Oregon, right – to play in games like this," UO defensive lineman Casey Rogers said. "But as a team it's no different of a game. It is exciting, it is cool, it'll be a really good experience for everybody outside the program who's free to do whatever that day. But for us players, we're going to be locked in on the game."

Thanks to the ability of guys like Thompson-Robinson and Charbonnet, UCLA is second in the Pac-12 in rushing at 211.5 yards per game. Williams, Rogers and the UO defense, meanwhile, lead the conference with just 98 rushing yards allowed per game.

The Ducks played at that level through the first half of the season because they were able to, as Williams said, focus on the basics and the details. It's no different this week.

"Our thing is, we're just playing us," UO defensive lineman Jordon Riley said. "As long as we take care of what we need to do, execute the game plan, we'll be fine."

Notable: Perimeter blocking and tackling has been a focus for the Ducks all season, and on Tuesday the defensive backs stood out for their physicality on the perimeter with some big hits. "The corners are the thermometer today," came one shout from the defensive sideline after a loud collision. "The corners are setting the temperature today!" … Tuesday was a dry morning in Eugene, but the forecast Saturday suggests possible rain. On Tuesday the quarterbacks did some drills with a wet ball just in case.

Quotable:

Senior defensive back Bennett Williams
On returning to action following the team's bye this past weekend

"It was nice; obviously good to watch some good football on TV, not have to worry about playing. Still got after it last week in practice, felt like we did pretty good. Getting your body back a little bit is nice, but it's good to be back out playing with the team. You can see that hunger is still there."

Junior defensive lineman Casey Rogers
On the uniforms Oregon will wear Saturday to promote breast cancer awareness

"I love those uniforms. It actually hits me personally – my grandma is a breast cancer survivor. Even when I was in high school, I always liked to rock pink during October. So it's really special I'm going to be able to do that in college. Unfortunately she's not going to be able to come to the game, but when it's all said and done I'll be happy to hand that jersey over for her to keep."

Post-practice interviews:

Senior defensive back Bennett Williams

Senior defensive lineman Jordon Riley

Junior defensive lineman Casey Rogers