Oregon Ducks

Watch: Rapid Reaction - Give Ducks D credit following win at Wyoming

Watch: Rapid Reaction - Give Ducks D credit following win at Wyoming

Playing at 7,200 feet of elevation the Oregon Ducks proved to be too much for Wyoming, dominating the Cowboys' offense from start to finish. Check back here and on twitter (@CSNNW) through out the night for postgame stories and videos from Wyoming. 

 

Box Score: Oregon 49, Wyoming 13

Videos:
Royce Freeman: We need to develop Mamba Mentality
Coach Taggart: 3rd downs and Freeman's 50 yard play
Justin Herbert analyzes the second half offensive struggles
Did Justin Herbert out duel Josh Allen?
Suke: It is not a stretch to call this a good defense
Sry Not Sry: Herbert vs. Allen & Royce in the Heisman hunt?

Brenden Schooler returns to Wyoming to face his friend and Doppelgänger

Brenden Schooler returns to Wyoming to face his friend and Doppelgänger

EUGENE - Had Oregon wide receiver Brenden Schooler accepted Wyoming's scholarship offer the coaching staff there might have had trouble distinguishing him from junior safety Andrew Wingard

Schooler is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds with long, flowing blonde hair that hangs from his helmet and waves when he runs. Wingard is 6-1, 209 pounds also with long, flowing, blonde hair that hangs from his helmet and waves when he runs. 

"We definitely look alike with the pads on," Schooler said. 

As it turns out, Schooler and Wingard are pals. They became friendly when Wingard showed Schooler around during a recruiting visit last year. While watching game film of Wyoming this week, Oregon wide receivers and position coach Michael Johnson noticed that Wyoming has its own version of Schooler. 

"Coach Johnson was saying it looks like there is a mini you out there,'" Schooler said. "I'm like no, he's not mini. He's a little bigger than me."

He also could be a problem for Oregon (2-0) when the Ducks play at Wyoming on Saturday (4 p.m. kickoff).

The Ducks' offense is going up against a defense that has allowed just 24 points in two games this season with all of them coming during a 24-3 loss at Iowa. The Cowboys' defense was one of the best in the nation last year and Wingard was a big reason why. The First-Team All-Mountain West selection was named a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award and ranked fifth in the conference and 22nd in the nation in tackles per game (9.4). He had 131 total tackles.

Had Schooler gone to Wyoming, he and Wingard likely would have been roaming the Cowboys' secondary together. But Schooler had other plans. 

The only FBS offer Schooler received coming out of Mission Viejo High School (Mission Viejo, Calif.) as a 2-star athlete came from Wyoming and even it didn't come his way until Jan. 29, 2016, just days before signing day.

"It was honestly a blessing to get that offer," Schooler said. "It was my first and only one."

He turned it down.

"I just felt like I always wanted to play in the Pac-12," he said. 

But an offer from a Pac-12 school didn't materialize. So, he considered going the junior college route.

"It was frustrating because I knew my ability, I knew my talent," Schooler said. 

Last summer, Oregon, in need of secondary help, came calling and then coach Mark Helfrich signed Schooler as a defensive back in July. A month later Schooler went from once being considered unworthy of receiving a scholarship from a Pac-12 program to starting for one. 

Oregon's issues in the secondary led to Schooler breaking into the starting lineup in the third game of the season at Nebraska. He never lost his job and finished the season third on the team with 73 tackles and he led the team with four interceptions. 

New Oregon coach Willie Taggart, however, decided to move Schooler to wide receiver during fall camp. On Saturday against Nebraska, he scored his first touchdown on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert in the left corner of the end zone on a ball that was slightly underthrown. 

"The first thing that went through my mind was 'jump ball,' I gotta go get it," Schooler said.

He did. And it could be the first of many big plays to come for Schooler. 

"That was a great confidence booster for him," Johnson said. "He needed that to propel him to that next level of wide receiver play."

Thomas Graham Jr.'s success a product of his family's plan

Thomas Graham Jr.'s success a product of his family's plan

EUGENE – Thomas Graham Sr. rose to his feet in a reaction of excitement and surprise so quickly he experienced a head rush that sent him right back down into his seat in Autzen Stadium.

His son, Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr., had seemingly come out of nowhere to intercept a pass in the fourth quarter of the Ducks’ 42-35 win Saturday over Nebraska. 

“I almost passed out,” Graham Sr. said.

While Graham Sr. gathered himself, his wife Tamisha Graham jumped up and down while screaming: “That’s my baby, that’s my baby.”

Her “baby” right now is very much the man on Oregon’s defense, which appears to have greatly improved over last season thanks in part to the play of Graham Jr.  Through two games, the former four-star recruit out of Rancho Cucamonga High School in the California city of the same name already has two interceptions and two pass breakups, one leading directly to an interception.

Graham Jr. is sure to experience his share of lows this season. Too many elite quarterbacks and receivers operate within the offensively-driven Pac-12 Conference for that not to happen. Nevertheless, he appears to have the makings of becoming an elite cornerback. Not simply because of his extreme athleticism. Graham Jr. has embraced the nuances of the sport he loves to become as mentally prepared to perform at a high level as he is physically. And this is all by design. Part of a plan put forth by parents that demanded excellence from their two children and to avoid the mistakes made by a father who admittedly failed to reach his athletic potential due to lack of guidance and a poor attitude. 

The result is a daughter who is an elite hurdler and a son who could become a dominant defensive back for a program desperately in need of difference makers on that side of the ball.

“He’s a big-time player,” UO coach Willie Taggart Taggart said following Saturday’s game. “For him to be as young as he is and know as much football as he does, he’s great to have and it’s great to know he is gong to be here for a while.”

--- Team Graham 

Graham Sr., a graduate of San Diego High School, grew up playing football and participating in track & field. The son of a single mother, his athletic career peaked at San Jose City College because, the former cornerback said, he lacked academic focus and missed not having the guidance of a father to push him.

“I was a guy who never wanted to take responsibility for my actions,” Graham Sr. said.

Tamisha played softball in high school and grew up academically driven, eventually earning her masters degree in counseling. 

The couple has two children, Thomas, 18, and Jasmyne Graham, 20, forming what the family calls “Team Graham.”  Dad took charge of preparing the children for sports.  Mom handled the academic side. Team Graham's goal has been to assure that their children remain focused and driven to succeed.

Oregon does not allow true freshmen to speak to the media. Jasmyne recalls life as a Graham child. 

“Growing up, my dad would always tell us not to disrespect his name,” she said.

Graham Sr. repeatedly asked his children: “What do Grahams do?”

“We give 110 percent,” his children would respond in unison.

At times, they grew tired of the mantra.

“We get it, dad,” they would say.

Later on in life, they truly got it.

“As I got older I realized what he was trying to do,” Jasmyne said. “Everything we do we’re doing it in honor of ourselves.”

Graham Sr. said he demanded that his children live in the moment and strive to excel.

“Not just in athletics," he said. "I want them to compete in life...It doesn’t matter what you do. If you are a fry cook at McDonalds, be the best fry cook you can be.”

His children, as it turned out, were destined for much greater heights.

Dad coached them hard leading up to high school. He often blurred the lines between father and coach. 

“I’d have to say, ‘dad, turn off the coach switch,'” Jasmyne said with a laugh.

Graham Jr. rarely did. He pushed as the bad cop while mom mostly played the good cop.

It all paid off.

Jasmyne became an elite hurdler, earning a scholarship to USC before transferring to UNLV this year. She hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympic team. 

--- Chasing big sister

Graham Jr.'s road toward becoming a college athlete began with chasing big sis as a small child.

Her success as a youth often made Graham Jr. invisible to outsiders.

“Nobody knew we had a son,” Graham Sr. said. “Everybody thought we just had a daughter because she was so successful.”

Jasmyne showed zero mercy to her little brother. She’d roughed him up a little from time to time if he got out of line. But she did most of her damage in races, repeatedly dominating her little brother in head-to-head races. She’d mock his times at track meets, pointing out that hers were much faster.

“I’d say, ‘you’re slow,’” she recalled. “He was.”

Jasmyne drove her little brother nuts.  But, Graham Jr., who started playing tackle football at age 6 and competed up a level all of his life, wasn’t obsessed with sports as a little boy. Math and animals peaked his interest the most. The National Geographic Channel held his attention more so than televised games and highlights.

“He was always eager to learn,” Graham Sr. said. “I didn’t think he would be sports minded.”

Still, Jasmyne remained Graham Jr.’s white whale. Until he finally caught her, past her and won a race in the eighth grade while she was a sophomore at Roosevelt High School in Corona, Calif.

“He got tired of being her little brother,” Graham Sr. said.

Jasmyne didn’t take the loss well. At first. She blamed gender.

“He’s a boy,” she said with a laugh. “Him winning was an issue for him, not me. He should be faster.”

The dynamic between the two changed. Graham Jr. went from 5-foot-3 (the same height as his sister) to 5-9 in just over a year. Suddenly, Jasmyne was looking up at her little brother.

“Once he got taller and started lifting weights, I knew that if I hit him, he was going to hit him back,” Jasmyne said.

Graham Sr. noticed a change in his son. He became more confident.

“Once he started beating his sister, he thought he was the king of the house,” Graham Sr. said.

He was, at least when it came to speed. Jasmyne didn’t like it but what was done was done. Dad came next on Graham Jr.’s race list.

During a junior high football practice, Graham Jr. was dominating teammates in races. Dad decided to take him on.

Big mistake. It would be the last race they ever had against each other.

--- Student of the game

Once Graham's confidence grew, he went all in on football. He trained harder and studied harder. He dove into watching game video. His games. College games. NFL games. It didn't matter. He studied and learned. 

“He knows the routes from teams he played in 7th and 8th grade,” Graham Sr. said. “ He has a really great memory…I think he’s going to be a coach when he is done playing.”

Graham Jr. played varsity as a freshman at Roosevelt High where his sister graduated from in 2015. He transferred to Rancho Cucamonga before his junior year. There, he blossomed into a superstar and began receiving numerous accolades.

Graham Jr.’s high school coach, Nick Baiz, said his star cornerback/receiver was a little shy early on. By his senior year, however, his personality blossomed. Graham Jr’s positive energy proved infectious to his teammates, as did his study habits.

“He’s always kind of been a student of the game,” Baiz said. “His intellect and maturity allow him to understand what the coaches are telling him on film”

Whenever Baiz would get worried before a game, Graham would be there to pick him up.

“He’d always tell me before a game, ‘coach, we’re about to whoop that (butt). Don’t worry,'" recalled Baiz.

Graham Jr. rarely got beaten during a game. But when he did, his support system would all look at one another and know it was go time.

“Let’s go, baby boy,” they’d scream.

Then, something bad would happen for the other team.

“Any time he’s ever done something bad he comes back and does something better to erase that,” Jasmyne said. “He takes it to another place.”

Recruiters flooded the Graham’s home with letters and calls. Rivals.com rated him as the No. 12 cornerback in the nation. Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Nebraska, the entire Pac-12 and a host of other major programs pursued Graham. But most of them were all wasting their time. Graham Jr. committed to USC, his dream school, in July of 2015 before his junior season.

That lasted a year. In the summer of 2016, the USC staff failed to reach out to Graham Jr. for a few weeks. So, he decommitted. USC tried to get him back on board. No dice.

Jasmyne, who had been looking forward to attending college with her little brother, was not happy. But she understood. Graham kept his options open all the way through his senior season.

Graham Sr., always the tough critic, wondered if his son had what it took to play for a team in the Southeastern Conference. He wondered if his son was a ‘UCLA kid,’ which in their household of USC fans, including a Trojan for a daughter, meant “soft.”

Tamisha, however, had greater belief in his son’s abilities.

“I’d said he was a ‘UCLA kid’ and she’d say he could play in the SEC or anywhere he wants to because he’s that guy,” Graham Sr. said. “Thomas and her are like Starsky and Hutch. A Stick and a clutch. They go together.”

Graham Sr. wanted his son to go to Notre Dame. Jasmyne liked Nebraska best for her brother, after USC, of course. Tamisha envisioned her son attending Arizona State.

Graham Jr. remained undecided.

Then, Willie Taggart entered the picture. 

--- Oregon bound

Oregon introduced Taggart as its new head coach on Thursday, Dec. 8.  That weekend he traveled to Rancho Cucamonga to visit the Grahams.

By Dec. 15, Graham had committed. Taggart’s smile, personality and honesty won over Team Graham. 

“Taggart changed everything,” Graham Sr. said. “He sat down and it wasn’t all about football, it was more about life. He said he had a plan to help make Thomas a better man.”

Unlike most recruiters, Taggart didn’ boast about preparing Graham Jr. for the the NFL. He didn't promise him that he would start right away. Taggart simply offered Graham Jr. a chance to compete and to get an education in a disciplined yet nurturing environment.

Graham Jr. had already visited Oregon while being recruited by former Ducks defensive backs coach John Neal. Graham Jr. liked the small-town atmosphere of Eugene and became enamored with the Oregon's scenic outdoors. 

“I could see myself living here,” he told his mom.

Graham Jr. couldn't wait to get started at Oregon so he enrolled during the winter term. Tamisha and her daughter were against that idea. They wanted him to enjoy his senior year. 

"I was also worried because he was only 17 and that's my baby, but I knew he was mature enough to handle it," Tamisha said. "My fear was letting go."

When he returned home for spring break, Jasmyne discovered a different person. 

“He proved me wrong on so many levels,” she said. "He was a totally different person. He had grown up. He was still that goofy, funny, little kid, but he had matured in so many ways.”

The siblings have grown closer as they've gotten older. Jasmyne said despite their childhood spats, she's always viewed him as a very giving and generous person who she now leans on from time to time. 

“There are times when I feel like I can’t do something or I’m down and I know that if I call him he will say, “you need to remember who you are,'” she said. "That always makes me feel better."

Graham Jr. was one of the centerpieces of recruiting class that ranked No. 18 in the country. Immediately during winter drills, Taggart began seeing signs that Graham Jr. could be special. Taggart noticed his maturity and appetite for knowledge. Plus, his energy and determination. He was Taggart's type of player. Someone who wanted to compete at everything, which had been Graham Sr.'s goal for his son all along. 

Graham Jr.'s first roommate, former safety turned receiver Brenden Schooler, said the freshman clearly had natural football ability and instincts and a desire to learn. The two often sat around talking about the strengths and weaknesses of other players.

"He's just a football guru," Schooler said. "He loves it."

Sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell said Graham Jr.'s attention to detail is clear in his play.  

"Thomas has great knowledge of the game plan and that accentuates his athleticism," Mitchell said. 

So much so that he immediately jumped into the mix at cornerback during the spring. That carried over to the fall where he has been competing with senior Arrion Springs and junior Ugochukwu Amadi for playing time. Those two started the first game when Graham had five tackles as a backup. He made his first start Saturday against Nebraska. 

--- The head tilt

Knowing he would field questions about Graham Jr. following his performance against Nebraska, Taggart spoke to his star freshman before entering the post-game press conference. 

"He told me to tell you that he is excited," Taggart said. "That's why he came to Oregon to help this football program and to help turn this program. He said to, 'make sure to tell them, coach, that I appreciate you for coming down to recruit me.'"

Laughter ensued. 

“I’m serious, he did say that," continued Taggart. 

If Graham Jr. could speak to the media, one obvious question would be how he reacted to his day getting off to such and up-and-down start against the Cornhuskers.

On Nebraska's first play from scrimmage, Graham Jr. trailed a receiver who was eyeing a sideline pass over the cornerback's head. At the last second, Graham Jr. threw his hands out and tipped the pass, which was then intercepted by senior safety Tyree Robinson to set up Oregon's first touchdown.

Later that quarter, Nebraska senior wide receiver De’Mornay Pierson-El beat Graham Jr. on a jump ball in the right corner of the end zone. He had solid coverage but failed to look back for the football. Had Graham Jr. done so he might have made the interception. He also made contact with the receiver before the ball arrived and still got scored on to make the score 14-7, Oregon.

The play left his parents stunned, looking at each other with faces that read: “Did that just happen?”

But, just like when their son was in high school, they knew such a moment would only fuel their ultra competitive son. They also saw that signature head tilt to the right that Graham Jr. does when he is about to turn up the heat on his opponent. 

"When that happens, game on," Tamisha said. 

“If you beat him at something he is going to die trying to beat you back,” Graham Sr. said. “He’s a poor sport. He’s a poor sport to the fifth power.”

That competitiveness traces back to simple things like board games, video games, dominoes, card games and racing his big sister. 

"When he loses, he won't let you leave until he wins," Graham Sr. said. 

Late in the second quarter Graham Jr. intercepted Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee at the Nebraska 34 to set up a touchdown that gave Oregon a 42-14 lead. In the third quarter he broke up a pass. In the fourth he made the interception that left his father woozy.

Graham read and then jumped the pass intended for Nebraska's tight end over the middle and returned it 28 yards to the Nebraska 31.

“In the last six months he’s proven to me that he’s a high-caliber player,” Graham Sr. said.

After the game, Graham Jr. didn't have much to say about the game. He doesn't brag much. 

“He goes back into lala mode,” Graham Sr. said. “He wanted to go home and play video games. The most you can get out of him is ‘it was solid,” or ‘it was lit.’”

Watching on television from afar with great pride was sister Jasmyne, who will travel to Wyoming to see her brother and the Ducks play the Cowboys on Saturday. She remains Graham Jr.'s first major conquest. Now she looks up to and is inspired by her little brother. 

“I’m a fan of my brother,” Jasmyne said. “I feel like I’m his number one fan and number one supporter…It took so many fights to get here.”

It also took a lot of Team Graham pushing both along to the point where now the Graham children are thriving on their own. 

Amadi and Winston Jr. move into starting lineup

Amadi and Winston Jr. move into starting lineup

Oregon has made changes to its depth chart prior to this week's game at Wyoming. 

At cornerback, junior Ugochukwu Amadi has moved into the starting lineup opposite freshman Thomas Graham Jr. Last week's depth chart leading up to Oregon's 42-35 home win over Nebraska on Saturday listed Graham and Amadi as co-starters with an "Or" between their names. Graham started opposite senior Arrion Springs. 

Graham, named the player of the game, had seven tackles and two interceptions. Amadi clinched the game with an interception late in the fourth quarter. Now both are clear starters but expect Springs to still see plenty of action.

The once tied battle for the nose guard spot between freshmen Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu now has the latter listed as the clear starter. Faoliu actually started both of the team's first two games but rotated with Scott. We shall see how this slight change in the depth chart impacts the rotation at the nose position. 

Speaking of "Or" situations, there are none listed on the current depth chart. However, some backup positions remained slashed ("/") between second-team and third team players.  

Junior inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu is now listed as the clear starter over senior A..J. Hotchkins. And, sophomore La'Mar Winston Jr. has shed the "Or" between himself and junior Fotu T. Leiato II to become the clear starter at the outside linebacker/Duck position. 

Entering last week, freshman safety Nick Pickett was listed as a backup behind redshirt junior Mattrell McGraw. However, Picket started the Nebraska game and is now listed as the lone starter with freshman Billy Gibson as his backup. McGraw is now listed as the backup to redshirt senior Tyree Robinson, who returned to action last week after missing the opener with an injury. 

Redshirt junior safety Khalil Oliver, who started the opening game, missed the Nebraska game due to injury. 

There were no changes to the offensive depth chart. 

 

Oregon's defense improving in time for Wyoming QB Josh Allen

Oregon's defense improving in time for Wyoming QB Josh Allen

EUGENE - The best thing to come out of Oregon's 42-35 win Saturday over Nebraska at Autzen Stadium was that the Ducks' defense demonstrated legitimate signs of being - gasp - decent. 

The Ducks held Nebraska to 361 yards of total offense, and more importantly, 102 yards rushing. The fact that the Cornhuskers converted on just 2 of 14 third down attempts proved even more impressive.  

“It was great to see our defense step up and make plays,” UO coach Willie Taggart said. 

The defense did so time and time again while the Ducks' offense fell to pieces in the second half after getting the team out to a 42-14 halftime lead. 

Oregon's offense turned over the ball twice in the second half and couldn't muster up much in the way of any offense. That helped put Nebraska in position to score 21 points in the second half. That's still a high number for UO's defense to choke down but the Ducks came up with with numerous stops and key interceptions in the second half (four on the day) to help protect the lead. 

This is a defense that was much maligned the previous two seasons, and deservedly so. One consistent presence on the defense since 2015 has been senior cornerback Arrion Springs, who said Saturday that he hoped the way the defense's performance earned some appreciation from the fans. 

“I guess it was fun that it had to be on the defense’s shoulders this game toward the end,” Springs said. 

The game-clinching play came when senior linebacker Jonah Moi blitzed, ran through a tight end and then forced Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee into a bad pass that lofted into the hands of junior cornerback Ugochukwu Amadi. 

“(Outside linebackers coach Raymond Woodie) always preaches that we have to win one-on-ones with the tight end," Moi said. "I just drove him back and I saw the quarterback’s arm come up and I just hit his arm."

The Ducks weren't making such plays last season when they allowed 41.7 points per game. This, of course, is a more experienced defense in many spots but does have its share of youth, including freshman cornerback Thoma Graham who intercepted two passes on Saturday. 

“I’m more proud of our defense for stepping up when we needed them to,” Taggart said.

Oregon is going to continue to surrender yardage. Anything under 400 in this day and age is pretty darn good, especially considering the pace of the Ducks' offense. If you're going to score, or not score, in possessions that last two minutes, one can't expect the defense to completely shut down teams.

“Nowadays in football people are going to get yardage," Taggart said. "I think what’s important is to take the ball away from them.”

Oregon forced just 12 turnovers last season (nine interceptions and three fumbles). So far this year, the Ducks' have taken the ball away six times (all interceptions). 

Next up is Wyoming  (1-1) and junior quarterback Josh Allen. He is being touted as a potential high first-round NFL Draft pick but so far this season has been unimpressive. 

He did light up Gardner-Webb University (Big South Conference) on Saturday for 328 yards and two touchdown passes during a 27-0 win at home. However, The week before he passed for just 174 yards and had two passes intercepted during a 24-3 loss at Iowa.

Allen might certainly be headed to the NFL but he doesn't have much NFL-level talent around him and could experience another tough day against what appears to be a solid Oregon defense. 

---

Oregon at Wyoming

When: 4 p.m., Saturday, War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyo.  

T.V.: CBS Sports Network. 

Betting line: Oregon minus 13.

Records: Oregon (2-0), Wyoming (1-1).

Last week: Wyoming won 27-0 at home over Gardner-Webb. Oregon won 42-35 at home over Nebraska.

Past meeting: Oregon defeated Wyoming 48-14 at home in 2014. Saturday's game will complete the home-and-home contract. 

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (42-45, 2-0 at Oregon); Cowboys' Craig Bohl (119-57, 15-25 at Wyoming). Bohl is the former coach of North Dakota, where he won three consecutive FCS national titles (2011-2013).

Cowboys' impact players: Allen's top two targets are Austin Conway (186 yards) and C.J. Johnson (152 yards). The running game is iffy, at best. The Cowboys have just 124 rushing yards on the season at 2.1 yards per carry. Wyoming gained just 59 yards on 30 carries against Iowa.

Defensive end Kevin Prosser has seven tackles with four for loss, including two sacks.

Fear factor (five-point scale): 2.5. Other than this being a road game, the Ducks shouldn't encounter many difficult obstacles on Saturday. Wyoming lacks the firepower on offense to hang with Oregon. The Cowboys' defense has played well, but hasn't seen anything like Oregon's offense. 

Final pick: Oregon, 44-24. Allen will make enough plays to keep the game entertaining but the Ducks' overall team speed will overwhelm the Cowboys. 

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: 153 yards closer to James' record

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: 153 yards closer to James' record

EUGENE - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman rushed for 153 yards on 29 carries Saturday against Nebraska to move closer to breaking LaMichael James' career rushing mark. 

Freeman also scored two touchdowns during the 42-35 win over the Cornhuskers at Autzen Stadium. 

Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break LaMichael James' record of 5,082 (2009-2011). 

Here is a quick look at where Freeman's chase stands:

RUSHING YARDAGE

James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 153 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns vs. Nebraska.  

Previous games: Freeman Rushed for 150 yards vs. Southern Utah. 

2017 total: Freeman has rushed for 303 yards in two games.  

Career total: Freeman now has 4,449 yards rushing. 

Freeman needs: He is 634 yards away from breaking James' record. 

RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS

James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman rushed for two touchdowns.   

2017 total: six. 

Career total: Freeman has 50 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Freeman needs: He is four away from breaking James' record. 

Next up: The Ducks play at Wyoming (1-1) Saturday in Laramie, Wy.

Oregon still unranked but closing in on top 25

Oregon still unranked but closing in on top 25

The Oregon Ducks failed to crack the top 25 in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls this week but did inch closer toward breaking through.

Maybe had UO not allowed a 42-14 halftime lead over Nebraska turn into a 42-35 nailbiter, the Ducks (2-0) would find themselves ranked today. Chances are that a 30-point win over Nebraska (1-1) might have done the trick. As it stands now, Oregon could possibly creep into the top 25 with a win Saturday at Wyoming. 

In the AP Poll, Oregon moved up to 30th in total points with 61. That's up from 31st last week with 44 points. In the Coaches Poll, Oregon moved up to 28th with 68 points, up from 31st  with 41 points.

The Pac-12 Conference is represented well in both polls.  The AP Poll includes No. 4 USC, No. No. 6 Washington, No. 19 Stanford, No. 21 Washington State and No. 25 UCLA. Utah is 28th with 101 points and Colorado is 30th with 66 points. 

The Coaches Poll includes No. 4 USC, No. 6 Washington, No. 19 Stanford, No. 22 Washington State and No. 24 Utah. Colorado is 27th with 70 points while UCLA is 29th with 57.

Oregon's 42-35 win over Nebraska raised more questions than it answered

Oregon's 42-35 win over Nebraska raised more questions than it answered

EUGENE - If you're confused about what to make of Oregon's 42-35 win over Nebraska Saturday at Autzen Stadium, don't be alarmed. You're not alone.  

The Ducks' Jekyll and Hyde performance included them leading 42-14 at halftime only to find themselves clinging to a 42-35 lead with under three minutes remaining and the Cornhuskers in possession of the ball.   

Of course, Oregon coach Willie Taggart put a bow on this game that the Ducks pulled out with a game-clinching interception by referring to what it was: a win. The reality, however, is that it was a win that raised more questions about this team than it answered. Even Taggart was left stuck in the middle about what to make of his wildly inconsistent Ducks.

“We were good the first half," he said. "Second half, not so good. But it was great that our guys found a way. To me, that’s what’s more important than anything. Not necessarily how we played. Our guys found a way to win a ball game.”

Nevertheless, how the Ducks (2-0) play from here on out will ultimately decide their fate. A team can't survive for long giving away big leads. Yes, Oregon did gut this one out and deserves credit for doing so. Then again, the Ducks put themselves in position to have to worry about the outcome at all. 

Thoughts of Oregon possibly making things interesting this season in the Pac-12 North Division were warranted by halftime when the Ducks made a solid Nebraska (1-1) team appear to be out of its league. 

Maybe, it seemed, that these Ducks were for real, having scored 119 points in six quarters this season, counting the 77-21 win last week over Southern Utah.  Sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert looked like a future Heisman Trophy contender. Senior running back Royce Freeman ran as if he should already be in the NFL. UO's defense, although penetrable, displayed enough speed and talent to create turnovers and tackles for losses when needed. 

Then, the second half started. 

Oregon's offense looked awful. Like, Toilet Bowl awful. The defense, which deserves praise for holding on to this win for dear life, still gave up 21 points. Suddenly, flashbacks of Oregon's Alamo Bowl loss two seasons ago when it blew a 31-0 lead in the second half to lose had to be running through the minds of many UO fans.

Taggart himself admitted to thinking about Texas A&M blowing a 34-point lead at UCLA last week to lose 45-44. 

Herbert, who threw for 313 yards in the first half, managed just 52 in the second half. Freeman, who ran well in the second half, fumbled at UO's 22 with 4:56 remaining to set up Nebraska's final score.

It appeared that Oregon became more conservative on offense following an interception in the third quarter on a pass over the middle to receiver Dillon Mitchell that was first tipped. Taggart disagreed that his play-calling lost its pop and instead pointed to the loss of tempo because of a lack of execution on first down and penalties. Oregon earned 12 flags for 103 penalty yards on the day. 

“Second half, we kind of slacked on (tempo) and weren’t going as fast as we should be,” senior receiver Charles Nelson said.

Lack of overall execution, Taggart said, allowed Nebraska to adjust on defense, both in personnel and scheme, and make life tougher on Oregon. 

If so, isn't that an indication that Oregon's offense might not be good enough to produce big numbers without the element of surprise as an advantage? If so, that could be a problem moving forward.

From the coach's standpoint, he could point to how despite all of the issues the defense made a big play to seal the deal with an interception by cornerback Ugochukwu Amadi off of a poor throw from Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee forced by pressure from Jonah Moi. 

“That’s what you call a team,” Taggart said. “And it was great to see.”

However one chooses to shake and twist this game, the bottom line is that we didn't get out of it what should have been expected. A win over Nebraska should have provided clear answers regarding what Oregon is about? Instead, the win left things where they were before kickoff, wondering just who exactly these Taggart-led Ducks will be this season. 

One thing for sure, they won't be boring. 

Ducks tried so hard not to lose that they almost did

Ducks tried so hard not to lose that they almost did

Some thoughts on Oregon's harrowing win over Nebraska Saturday:

  • Why is it that every fan in America can see when his or her team is playing too conservatively while trying to hold onto a lead, but the coach of said team just doesn't seem to get it? Willie Taggart got so worried about losing that game that he almost lost it. Justin Herbert was passing the Cornhuskers silly in the first half but the Ducks pretty much shut down the vertical passing game and tightened their shirt collars. It was a classic example of getting away from what got you a big lead and just trying to run out the clock.
  • The Ducks are an offensive juggernaut and should not idle that machine until very late in a game.
  • I do not blame the second-half Nebraska comeback on the Oregon defense. The offense put too much pressure on the defense.
  • To me, this game reinforced every reason the Ducks' athletic administration had for bringing in a new coaching staff. Coaching matters and coordinators matter. Oregon's defense is much more sound. It tackles much more reliably. Night and day. If nobody else but me says it -- good job, Rob Mullens. You made the right move when you cleaned house.
  • And speaking of that, when people talk about Taggart "rebuilding" the Oregon program, I smile. Folks, this team wasn't down and out. It was just unmotivated last season. I'm not saying they were bad coaches, but I am saying it was time for a change.
  • With a little better quarterbacking, Nebraska would have won that game. There were a lot of open receivers to hit and a lot of the time, they weren't hit.
  • The Ducks won't get shut out in a half the rest of the season. Unless they decide to go into their conservative mode again.

Early escalation accelerates Oregon over Nebraska, 42-35

Early escalation accelerates Oregon over Nebraska, 42-35

The Oregon Ducks jumped out to an early lead that withstood a Nebraska second-half surge during their 42-35 win against the Cornhuskers Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

A five-play, 75-yard drive from Oregon to open the game was followed by a Nebraska turnover on a tipped and then intercepted pass by safety Tyree Robinson giving the Ducks the ball on the 20-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert's fade pass to senior receiver Charles Nelson from the slot gave Oregon a 14-0 lead with 13:30 left in the first quarter.

The Ducks led 42-14 at halftime before the Cornhuskers made matters interesting in the second half. Oregon had two first half interceptions.

FINAL SCORE: Oregon 42, Nebraska 35 

Nebraska surged back in the third quarter with a quick 14 points to make the score 42-28. The Ducks were kept out of the end zone the entire second half.  A fumble late by Oregon running back Royce Freeman gave Nebraska great field position and it scored on a one-yard run to make the score 42-35 with just under three minutes remaining. 

Nebraska's defense stuffed the Ducks on three consecutive running plays to get its offense back the ball with 2:17 remaining in the game. 

The Cornhuskers' hopes of their biggest comeback in school history were dashed after quarterback Tanner Lee threw an interception on the first play of their final drive. It was his fourth interception thrown of the game. 

Aaron's rapid reaction: 

Justin Herbert connected on 25 of his 33 pass attempts for 365 yards, which included three touchdowns and one interception. 

Royce Freeman finished with 153 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns. 

Oregon's basketball team was honored at Autzen Stadium for its final four run.

Oregon is now 2-0 and complete their non-conference schedule next week at Wyoming.