Singler on the Wildcats: We've Been Waiting For This One


Singler on the Wildcats: We've Been Waiting For This One

By Jordan Whitley, College Basketball Insider, @JordanWhitley

VIDEO: The Ducks have only hosted one ranked team since the opening of Matt Knight Arena. So, the 3 Wildcats coming to town is a BIG deal.

The students are also back in town and are expected to pack the stands Thursday night. Combine those factors, and the pressure is ON for senior EJ Singler and the Ducks.

But it is a welcome challenge, and one could add yet another layer to the storied Singler legacy.

EJ will be matched with Arizona's Solomon Hill, who he touts as tough player to guard.

NOTES: Oregons game against third-ranked Arizona marks just the second time a ranked team has come to play the Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. Oregon beat No. 20 Washington 81-76 on Feb. 5, 2011 in the first matchup against a ranked team at MKA.

Arizona is the highest-ranked opponent the Ducks have played since losing to No. 1 Duke, 98-71, at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 27, 2010.

Oregon is 1-1 against ranked teams this season with a win over No. 18 UNLV on Nov. 23 and
a 77-66 loss to No. 22 Cincinnati in Las Vegas the next night.

Oregon last beat a team ranked in the top five on Jan. 6, 2007, when the Ducks handed No. 5 UCLA a 68-66 defeat at McArthur Court.

Ducks fall short on scoreboard but not in heart at Cal

Ducks fall short on scoreboard but not in heart at Cal

BERKELEY, Calif. - Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, eyes glassy and voice appearing to waiver, appeared to be emotionally drained and a bit choked up Friday night following his team's 52-49 double-overtime loss at California. 

Following two weeks of intense team introspection, talk of his job being in jeopardy, many questioning the Ducks' desire and character, and whether Helfrich had lost their respect, the Ducks put forth a gutsy effort at Memorial Stadium.  

The team showed heart, no quit, and flashed a glimpse of what could be a bright future. Ultimately, however, the Ducks fell short once again, losing their fifth consecutive game and third by three points to fall to 2-5 on the season. 

This defeat, players and Helfrich say, hurt the most because of all the team had gone through in the two weeks after losing 70-21 at home to No. 5 Washington before the bye week. Oregon desperately needed a win Friday. Not just to help its chances of becoming bowl eligible, a seemingly impossible task at this point, but to validate all they had strived to achieve as a team from the neck up since the debacle against the Huskies. But it wasn't meant to be. 

That fact sunk in for Helfrich, who only expressed admiration and pride in how his team played and has grown.  

“Love ‘em," he said. "They competed their butts off. But, at the same time, that makes it that much harder. That result and that near miss. But they competed their butts off. Bunch of times over the last couple of weeks they could have splintered. Could have fallen apart. But they didn’t.”

Oregon trailed Cal 21-0 early in the first quarter and 34-14 early in the third quarter. Given the team's four-game losing streak and apparent team strife, the Ducks could have easily gone into the tank and lost 55-21 to the Golden Bears (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12). 

But they didn't. Instead, UO adjusted at halftime and found a groove in the second half. The defense began making stops and the offense, led by freshman quarterback Justin Herbert, started routinely finding the end zone. Oregon led 35-34 early in the fourth quarter, lost the lead 42-35 then tied the game to force overtime at 42-42. 

The Ducks had a chance to win trailing 52-49 in the second overtime when Herbert, who threw six touchdown passes during his first road start, misread a coverage on a pass over the middle that was intercepted, ending the game.

The loss left the team mentally exhausted but not totally defeated. They found the good in what ended up being a tough night to swallow. 

"I think the biggest thing was that we were down in the beginning, and to come back and fight and brawl to the end no matter what showed that we've got some grittiness to us," wide receiver Jalen Brown said. 

The Ducks need every bit of that trait in order to win four out of their final five games to become bowl eligible. Oregon (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12) has yet to win a conference game and still faces tough outings against Arizona State, USC, Stanford and Utah before ending the season at Oregon State, which defeated Cal two weeks ago. 

"We can get it," Brown said positively of the team's chances of finishing 6-6 to become bowl eligible. 

It certainty appears to be that the team hasn't quit despite some outside perceptions to the contrary. 

“One of the things about this football team, and whatever you want to believe, those son of a guns have stayed together," Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke said. "They’ve fought. They’ve fought with each other. They fought hard. That’s what tears your heart out.”

Said running back Tony Brooks-James: “Everyone gave it everything they had. So, from everyone saying we quit, it’s just lies.”

At the heart of the team not quitting is the very man some have claimed the team quit on. Hoke said that the much-maligned Helfrich has done a great job of keeping the team together during trying times. 

“I think it tells you a lot about this football team and also what Mark has done to keep them all going in the same direction," Hoke said.

That effort includes daily communication and encouragement to the team, Hoke said, efforts that Brooks-James said has kept the squad from falling to pieces. 

“I would honestly say that without coach Helf, a lot of players would have just lost it,” Brooks-James said. “He’s one of those coaches that can bring you back into the program and not have you just on the outside because he cares about the little things. Any time something goes wrong, he blames it on himself when in actuality there are little things that we could have done better. He just takes all of the pressure off the players and puts it on himself."

Brown agrees. 

"I think every single day he goes out of his way to show that he cares and that he is going to have our back no matter what," Brown said. "It's not all on us, it's also on the coaches and we're all one unit."

Oregon's season, baring a miracle 4-1 run the rest of the way, will likely end at Oregon State in the 120th Civil War. 

The good news is that the team's fight appears to have returned, a star quarterback has been discovered and most of the key players are young and will return next season. 

That list, and maybe a couple of more victories, might be all Oregon has to cling to the rest of this season. 

So is it time for the Ducks to officially start playing for next season?

So is it time for the Ducks to officially start playing for next season?

The Ducks and Bears turned a football game into a marathon Friday night, a seemingly endless mix of thrilling plays, touchdowns and bewildering penalties that was befitting two of the Pac-12's lesser teams. This one wasn't pretty, especially from the Ducks' side of the field, at least until a late comeback gave them new life and some degree of hope for the remainder of what appears to be a very disappointing season. Some thoughts about this game:

  • California opened the game with little regard for Oregon's weak defense, twice going for it in their own territory on fourth down and picking up first downs. But maybe the Ducks were unwittingly setting a Bear trap. In the second half California failed on a fourth-down conversion and also made an ill-advised pooch punt that went just 10 yards while trying to make the Ducks think they were again going to go for it on fourth down. It's interesting when you allow teams to think they can gain yards against you anytime and in any field position -- it tends to make them careless and arrogant. And it allowed the Ducks a chance to make a comeback -- which they jumped on.
  • Justin Herbert is showing all the signs of eventually becoming a big-time quarterback and it's going to be interesting to see how the coaches develop him. It appeared that they were being very careful with him against Washington and in the first half of this one, not asking too much. But behind by three touchdowns in the second half he was almost in full gunslinger mode and I liked that a lot. If you're just going to mail this season in and build for the future, you might as well take the wraps off him and let him fire away.
  • That begs the question -- is it time to to commit fully to next season? A bowl game at this point seems impossible, so why not? Well, part of that "why not" is a fan base that expects -- and is paying for -- something better. This is a question that faces pro teams and college teams in every sport -- when do you resign yourself to a lost season and use the remaining games to build for the following season? When do you surrender a battle to win a war?
  • I've been saying all season that defense wasn't this team's only problem and I think it showed in this game. Oregon's offense sputtered in the first half and it cost the Ducks the game. Yes, the defense is monumentally bad ... but if the offense can at least keep things from getting out of hand, the Duck defense is usually going to get a few second-half stops, perhaps just because the opponent's offense is exhausted from all the running. It's not the way you want to win games, but it's the only way to win right now. And there is still enough offensive talent at receiver and running back to rack up some high scores.
  • And speaking of the defense, if you're going to commit to a 4-3 alignment, that's fine. Obviously, the Ducks don't have the kind of talent necessary to make it effective. So why not commit to more pressure on quarterbacks? Why not a few more line stunts? Why not bring the house once in a while? You're giving up points at an alarming rate anyway, why not roll the dice once in a while just to give the other team something to think about?
  • Yes, the offensive line is young. Yes, the quarterback is a freshman. But really, a young team should be improving as the season goes along and we're not really seeing much of that so far -- particularly on the defensive side.
  • Let me say this one more time because I keep seeing my critical remarks about the Ducks being misinterpreted: I am not campaigning for Mark Helfrich to be fired. I don't believe that is going to happen nor do I think it should happen. What I'm doing is pointing out things I see that need to be corrected. I'm second-guessing, quite frankly. That's often considered unfair but really -- it's what we do. I mean, until they give me the chance to first-guess, I'm stuck with it. And, of course, there's a lot to second-guess.
  • Let me tell you what seems to come through whenever I speak with former Duck players who are disappointed in what they're seeing on the field this season. They talk about the culture of Duck football and how it's changed. About how, under Chip Kelly, it was a VERY disciplined program -- and that meant every player from top to bottom was held accountable. What I hear from multiple players is how feared Kelly was by the players. They knew he insisted on certain things and if you didn't do them, you'd sit -- no matter who you were. And from that came a toughness and discipline that they aren't seeing in the program now.
  • A team's culture is a fragile thing that can take a wrong turn at any moment. And it's changeable -- for better or worse. My hope would be that if there's something amiss in Oregon's culture right now, it can be corrected. And forget about all the stuff you see on the field from the Ducks, it's the issue of the team's culture that eventually could lead to a coaching change. If the culture goes south, you've got a serious problem no matter how talented or well-coached you are.
  • I don't doubt for a moment Oregon could be tougher. More disciplined. Those traits must be rediscovered.

Ducks' rally falls short in 52-49 OT loss at Cal

USA Today

Ducks' rally falls short in 52-49 OT loss at Cal

California 52, Oregon 49 

How Oregon lost: The Ducks (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12) fell behind 21-0 in the second quarter and trailed 31-14 in the third quarter before catching fire on offense in the second half and showing some grit on defense to take a brief lead. 

However, in the end, Cal pulled it out with an interception in double-overtime to seal the deal.

What it all means: Oregon now must win four out of final five games in order to become bowl eligible with three road games remaining. One could consider that task to be a virtual impossibility. 

Key sequence: Oregon trailed 34-14 early in the third quarter and appeared to be all but done when Herbert caught fire and UO's running game began rolling. More importantly, the Ducks' defense finally started getting stops. 

Oregon forced two consecutive Cal punts and scored on short touchdown passes from Herbert to tight ends, Evan Baylis and then Johnny Mundt, to make the score 34-28 late in the third quarter. 

A third Oregon stop came when Cal attempted to go for it on a fourth down with one yard to go near mid-field. Oregon answered by driving for a touchdown pass from Herbert to wide receiver Charles Nelson from six yards out.  That gave the Ducks a 35-34 lead early in the fourth quarter. 

High flying Ducks: Herbert blossomed in the second half to finish the night with 258 yards and six touchdowns. 

Running back Tony Brooks-James led Oregon in rushing with 109 yards on 15 carries and scored on a one-yard run. 

Freshman linebacker Troy Dye had 14 tackles. 

Next up: Oregon returns home to host Arizona State (5-2, 2-2) at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Sun Devils host Washington State (4-2, 3-0) on Saturday. 

Ducks must fix themselves mentally to win at Cal

Ducks must fix themselves mentally to win at Cal

Oregon senior guard Cameron Hunt said today that when he called out teammates for not caring following a 70-21 loss to No. 5 Washington on Oct. 8 he meant that they weren't giving maximum effort, not that they were actually indifferent to winning or losing.

"I think during that game what I meant to say was that the effort wasn't there," Hunt said. "I don't think anyone's quit on our team. I think we have a really good squad coming together and I believe in coach [Mark] Helfrich 100 percent. I trust him. He's our leader. I'd go to war with him any day."

Problem solved. Maybe. 

Hunt wasn't the only UO player to wonder out loud about player commitment following the loss to the Huskies. Freshmen Brendan Schooler and Troy Dye also said there were players who didn't appear to have their heart into the game. 

UO coach Mark Helfrich said last week that the notion some players have quit was simply not true, and shouldn't have been stated in public. 

Maybe so, but there has certainly been something negative going on internally. Let's not forget the players-only meeting following a 41-38 loss to Colorado in which teammates called out one another for poor play and poor effort. 

As Hunt indicated, there is a difference between effort and caring.  On the other hand, doesn't caring typically lead to greater effort? Doesn't a lack of effort come from a lack of desire?

Whatever the case, the Ducks (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) had better fix themselves mentally or their season will essentially end Friday night at California (3-3, 1-2).  

Oregon must win four of its final six games to become bowl eligible. Cal is one of the most winnable remaining games on the Ducks' schedule. A loss on Friday and it would be difficult to believe the Ducks could win four of five to reach a bowl game with road games remaining at No. 19 Utah and USC. 

"I trust in this team and we just have to be able to give our full effort and put everything together," Hunt said. 

Here is the reality: These are young men who have grown accustomed to experiencing success that have recently been slapped in the face by a sobering amount of failure. When that happens, some panic. Some blame. Some lash out. It's quite normal. 

"In times like these, certainly character is revealed and guys expose themselves for who they are," Helfrich said. "For the vast, vast, vast majority of our guys, they're doing, or at least trying to do the right things."

Front-runners can kill a team when things go south. The Ducks players hope to avoid that and readjust as a team.

"I feel like players have taken a whole new accountability and responsibility for what has happened," safety Khalil Oliver said. "We've realized that it's on us."

Oliver said the team focused a lot on team unity during the bye week. If that pays off, the team could be in business. If not... 

A quick look at California:

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, California Memorial Stadium. 

T.V.: ESPN. 

Betting line: California by 3.

Records: Oregon (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12), Cal (3-3, 1-2). 

Coaches: Oregon's Mark Helfrich (35-12); Cal's Sonny Dykes (17-26 at Cal, 39-41 overall). 

Last week: Oregon and Cal were both off, previous to that got run over by Oregon State, 47-44. 

Golden Bears' impact players: Cal leads the conference in total offense (530.2 yards per game) and ranks second in scoring offense (42.3) behind Washington, which dumped 70 on the Ducks two weeks ago. 

Leading Cal's offense is senior quarterback David Webb. He leads the conference in passing yards per game (360.2) and is second in touchdown passes with 22, one off of Washington quarterback Jake Browning (23), who threw for six at UO. 

On paper, all of the above spells bad news for one of the bottom five defenses in the nation. 

However, Cal's weakness is also a horrible defense. Oregon State rushed for 474 yards during its 47-44 win over Cal.

Oregon and Cal could set defensive football back about 100 years on Friday night. 

The Golden Bears' leading receiver is Chad Hansen, who leads the conference in receptions per game (9.8), receiving yards (770) and receiving touchdowns (eight). 

Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. Cal's defense is horrible, but so is Oregon's.  The Ducks can put up points. But so can Cal. The big difference here is that UO is starting a freshman quarterback. Justin Herbert's biggest challenge could be making enough plays to keep pace with Cal's offense while making his first road start. 

Preliminary pick: California 43, Oregon 40.  Ducks could win by three touchdowns if they've ironed out all of the problems from the neck up and Herbert and the UO running game can put up 45 points. But that's a big if at this point. 

What happened to Oregon's 2-pt conversions? Receiver Charles Nelson answers


What happened to Oregon's 2-pt conversions? Receiver Charles Nelson answers

Bri Amaranthus and Aaron Fentress of the Ducksquad sit down with junior receiver Charles Nelson to find out what happened to Oregon's 2-pt conversion strategy. On this week's podcast:

-Nelson breaks down what it's like to live with Oregon running back Royce Freeman and defensive back Arrion Springs
-How bad is the inner turmoil in the Oregon football program?
-Can the Ducks beat Cal? Will they combine for 100 points?
-Will freshman quarterback Justin Herbert establish himself as a leader this season?

How the Ducks could go bowling in December

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

How the Ducks could go bowling in December

At this point in Oregon's season it's safe to say that the team is a white hot mess. 

The Ducks are young, lacking impact talent in some areas, dealing with player turmoil, and now, their coach is on the hot seat. 

It appears that UO coach Mark Helfrich's job security is at least a little bit in doubt. At least that's one way to view the fact that athletic director Rob Mullens didn't say the opposite when asked to shed some light on the subject last week during an interview on the in-house Duck Insider radio program. 

For Helfrich to make a strong case to cool off said hot seat it would appear that the Ducks (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) would have to at least qualify for a bowl game. That would mean going 4-2 in the second half of the season, which begins Friday night at California. 

Anything short of going 6-6 and all bets are off. Anything could happen. Oregon has lost four consecutive games culminating with a 70-21 loss to No. 5 Washington (6-4, 3-0) at home on Oct. 8. 

Personally, it's difficult to grasp how the Ducks are going to overcome a freshman quarterback, a horrible defense, a young offensive line, four road games and a crumbling psyche to reach 6-6.

That said, there is no denying that UO could win every remaining game on its schedule should it play like it did in losses to No. 8 Nebraska and Colorado (5-2, 3-1). The Ducks lost both games by three points back when they were still playing respectable football. Can they get there again? If they do, the Ducks could certainly finish at 6-6. It just doesn't seem likely. 

That all said, let's just for the time being assume that freshman quarterback Justin Herbert made a big leap in improvement during the bye week, the defense goes from hideous to simply bad and the players recognize how embarrassing it would be to not reach a bowl game and finally come together as a team. 

Here is how, in that world, Oregon could win or lose each remaining game on its schedule:

At California (3-3, 1-2): The Golden Bears' defense is nearly as bad as Oregon's. Cal is allowing 40 points per game compared to 41.1 for the Ducks. Cal ranks last in the Pac-12 in rushing defense, allowing 283.8 yards per game while UO leads the Pac-12 with 257 yards rushing per game. If Oregon State could rush for 474 against the Golden Bears two weeks ago then Oregon should go for 674 on the ground. The downside here is that Cal is averaging 42.3 points per game and will certainly put up points against the Ducks' defense. But Oregon should run wild, control the game and win this one. If not, UO's season will essentially end in Berkeley, Calif.  

Prediction: Oregon victory.  

Vs. Arizona State (5-2, 2-2): The Sun Devils won't be a push over and the season could very well come down to the outcome of this game, one Herbert must shine in for UO to win. ASU entered the weekend leading the Pac-12 in rushing defense (89.3 yards per game) then got run over by Colorado for 315 yards in a 40-15 Buffaloes' victory. Arizona State's passing game is weak had it is equally bad against the pass, allowing 384 yards through the air per game, last in the Pac-12. 

Prediction: Oregon victory. 

At USC (4-3, 4-2): The Trojans, who won 48-13 at Arizona on Saturday, have played better as of late, and their defense is the reason why.  USC defeated ASU, 41-20 three games ago and two weeks ago took down the Buffaloes, 21-17. USC is up and down on offense, but will likely be up against the Ducks' defense. So, it comes down to UO's offense going up against USC's athletes. Smart money is on USC winning here, especially at home. 

Prediction: Oregon loss. 

Vs. Stanford (4-2, 2-2): The Cardinal was overrated to begin the season because of running back Christian McCaffrey. His 104 rushing yards leads the Pac-12 but he hasn't been nearly as dominant as he was last season now that he is playing with a vastly inferior team. Stanford ranks last in the conference in scoring (19.4 points per game) and total offense (307). The Cardinal defense remains strong and looked great on Saturday during a 17-10 win at Notre Dame. UO has a strong chance of winning this game if the defense doesn't make Stanford's offense look better than it is. 

Prediction: Toss up. 

At No. 19 Utah (6-1, 3-1): Utah is a tough place to play, especially when the Utes have their defense going like they do this season. Utah is allowing just 18.3 points per game and 130.1 yards on the ground. Utah's offense is average at 26.7 points per game but that means the Utes will score 35-plus on the Ducks while making life difficult for Herbert in a hostile environment. Then again, Utah did just struggle to win 19-14 at OSU on Saturday. 

Prediction: Oregon loss. 

At Oregon State (2-4, 1-2): How dramatic would it be if the Ducks rolled into the Civil War with a 5-6 record and needing one win to become bowl eligible? A victory for OSU in that scenario, or really any scenario, would make the Beavers' season while simultaneously destroying Oregon's.  The Beavers probably don't have enough offense to take advantage of Oregon's defense at a rate that would allow them to overcome UO's offense having its way with their defense. By this time, Herbert should be completely battle tested and ready to shred the Beavers. 

Prediction: Oregon victory if a bowl game is on the line. Oregon loses if sitting at 4-7 when this game comes around. 


Remember that these mostly favorable scenarios are predicated on the team fixing its inner dysfunction. If not, the Ducks could end up 4-8 in a heartbeat. 

The season has been a disappointment for the team and its fans, but the ducks still have plenty to play for. The threat of not reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2004 must mean something to this team.  If not, the Ducks have much bigger problems than Xs and Os could ever solve. 

Helfrich talks Mullens, addresses reports of team strife

Helfrich talks Mullens, addresses reports of team strife

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said today that he had a conversation with UO athletic director Rob Mullens following the Ducks' 70-21 loss to No. 5 Washington but declined to elaborate on what was said. 

He did, however, say that he feels like he has the administration's support as he works to turn around a 2-4 season. 

"I feel like we have a ton of support," Helfrich said. "The most support we have is the players and we need to play better. We'll shield them from all the negativity."

With six games remaining, Oregon needs four wins to become bowl eligible, which could go a long way toward helping Helfrich keep his job, assuming that it is in jeopardy.  On Monday, Mullens avoided offering unwavering support for Helfrich during an interview on the in-house Duck Insider radio show. 

That interview has raised speculation that Helfrich's job security is at least precarious as he heads into the second half of the season. 

"Nobody is happy," Helfrich said about the team losing four consecutive games. "There's not one person in our organization that's happy with the result. And again, we have to be about fixing that."

Helfrich said practice during the bye week has been solid. He spoke of righting the team emotionally, working on fundamentals, ball security, pass protection, developing young talent and taking advantage of the extra time to improve before playing at California next Friday.  

Helfrich also addressed the numerous reports of players claims that some teammates are not giving maximum effort and simply do not care about winning. Helfrich said those sentiments expressed Saturday night by freshman linebacker Troy Dye, freshman safety Brenden Schooler and senior right guard Cameron Hunt are simply not true. 

"Certainly, absolutely guys are frustrated," Helfrich said. "And that's fine. Number one, you shouldn't say anything like that to begin with when that's not true. It's emotional. All those things. But then our job is to right the ship from an emotional standpoint, from a psychological standpoint and just continue to point out what's going on and why it's going on."


LaMichael James keeps it real on the state of the Oregon football program


LaMichael James keeps it real on the state of the Oregon football program

LaMichael James joins Bri Amaranthus and Aaron Fentress on the DuckSquad Podcast to talk:

- Should Oregon's coaches be on the hot seat?

-Duck player attitudes

-Can UO turn things around?

Oregon AD Rob Mullens guarded during interview about Mark Helfrich's future

Oregon AD Rob Mullens guarded during interview about Mark Helfrich's future

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich is coaching for his job over the final six weeks of the season. 

At least that's one way to interpret what athletic director Rob Mullens didn't say during his Monday interview on the in-house radio program, “Duck Insider.

The show's host, Joey McMurry, didn't directly ask Mullens if Helfrich's job is in jeopardy after a 2-4 start, which includes a 70-21 loss to No. 5 Washington on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Instead, McMurry asked Mullens what he thought about some fans calling for coaching changes. Mullens, who has declined interview requests from multiple outlets including CSN, responded as such: 

“I understand the frustration, absolutely appreciate the passion,” Mullens said. “We’re six games into the season and not where anyone wants to be. But there still is an opportunity to turn this a little bit and start to see some positive results. As I talked to Mark, they go right back to work and get right back in it. We have a wonderful group of student-athletes, and we need to do everything we can to support the coaches, the student-athletes, especially the seniors as they go this last go-round.”

McMurry attempted in other ways to get his boss to be more direct about Helfrich without coming out and asking, "is Helfrich's job in jeopardy?" Mullens, being very guarded with his words throughout, never provided any clear answers to the only question anyone listening wanted answered. 

Instead, Mullens went on and on about the passion of the fans, the success many sports programs at Oregon have enjoyed, working hard and the disappointment over the football team's rough start. 

“Yes, there’s a lot of frustrations, and no one wants to win more than I do, more than Coach Helfrich, more than the coaches and the student-athletes," Mullens said. "So we’ve got to get back to work and figure out how to turn these results around.”

The bottom line appears to be that if Helfrich doesn't turn things around, his tenure as Oregon's head coach could come to an end shortly after the Civil War. What it would take for Helfrich to lose or keep his job remains a mystery to all outside of Mullens' head. 

There is really no other way to interpret the interview.  At any point Mullens could have said, "Helfrich is our coach moving forward beyond this season."  

That fact that Mullens did not volunteer such support doesn't mean Helfrich is all but done. But it certainly doesn't mean Helfrich's job is safe. Helfrich himself played this game prior to last season's Alamo Bowl when asked if then-defensive coordinator Don Pellum's job was in jeopardy

 "Everybody has to get better," Helfrich said on Jan. 1 in San Antonio, Texas. "Somebody asked me a similar question the other day. I'm never gonna...I could get fired tomorrow. My boss [Mullens] is right over there. He could fire me after this press conference. I don't know....We all have to improve. Every single one of us. We've learned that around the world for a long, long time."

The Ducks lost to TCU in the Alamo Bowl, 47-41 in triple overtime, Pellum got demoted back to linebackers coach, Oregon hired Brady Hoke as the new defensive coordinator and UO's defense is statistically worse than it was last season. 

Now Helfrich finds himself on the other end of ambiguous words from his boss. 

“When you’re a coach in any sport, your results are very transparent,” Mullens said. “People watch it on the field, and in football it’s 12 Saturdays and it’s there for everybody to see. There's a lot of things that happen Monday through Friday or Sunday through Friday that you’re also evaluating. It’s just a continuous process of what can we do today to help support the coaches, support the student-athletes to meet these lofty expectations."

(Insert confused-looking Emoji face here).

Helfrich is 35-12 as a head coach at Oregon. He went 11-2 his first season in 2013 taking over for Chip Kelly. The following season, Helfrich went 13-2 while guiding the Ducks to their greatest season, which included a Pac-12 title, a Rose Bowl win over defending national champion Florida State, a Heisman Trophy for quarterback Marcus Mariota and a loss in the national title game to Ohio State. 

Last year the team dipped to 9-4 in large part due to a horrible defense and lack of a backup quarterback. Those problems persist this season, especially on defense, and the Ducks are getting pounded. 

Some players claim teammates have mentally checked out, and/or aren't giving maximum effort. There are rumors that some players have quit and do not like playing for Helfrich. 

"We're here working every single day to produce the results that we all want," Mullens said. 

For him, working sometimes includes hiring and firing coaches. Mullens faces by far his biggest challenge as athletic director in that regard. 

So what must Helfrich do to keep his job?

If the Ducks go 4-2 over the second half to finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game, one could assume that Helfrich's job would be safe. Anything short of that: all bets are off. 

One could surmise based on Mullens' lack of outwardly, steadfast support of Helfrich that if the Ducks continue to play poorly a coaching change will be made. A 4-8 record, or worse, could be difficult for Mullens to overlook if he is already not fully standing behind Helfrich at the moment. 

However, if the Ducks were to finish poorly, but Mullens is convinced the ingredients exist to turn things around next season, maybe that would be enough to earn Helfrich one season to right the ship. 

Other factors Mullens will have to consider involve player support for Helfrich and the staff and if the AD is ready to see the entire coaching staff dismissed. Hiring a new coach would mean going after someone accomplished, and that person would likely want to assemble his own staff. 

Assistant coaches John Neal, Gary Campbell, Pellum, Steve Greatwood and Jim Radcliffe, have been with the Ducks seemingly forever. Do they deserve to lose their jobs after one bad season when they were integral parts of program reaching such lofty heights?

Also, there is not-so-small matter of the $11 million remaining on Helfrich's contract, signed following the 2014 season. Is Oregon willing to eat that money, and pay a new coach a contract that probably would amount to about $15-$25 million over five years? 

Maybe disgruntled boosters would pick up Helfrich's tab? Could Phil Knight pressure Mullens to fire Helfrich and offer to pick up the $11 million check? Or, maybe Knight pressures Mullens to give Helfrich another year. 

Finally, whom is Oregon going to hire to replace Helfrich? What coach more accomplished than Helfrich would be available? And if he is available, is it because he recently got fired? If so, how is he then a better option? If a strong candidate already has a job and is winning, why would he leave his current situation for Oregon? Would the Ducks have to overpay to pry away such a coach?

Could Oregon even upgrade at head coach or would a move simply prove to be costly and lateral?

Would a new coach and his staff be as loyal to Oregon as this staff has been? Helfrich is an Oregonian, born and raised in Coos Bay. This is his dream job. Would a new coach merely view Oregon as stepping stone to the NFL or to a bigger collegiate program? Yes, there are numerous programs bigger than Oregon's.

Mullens job isn't an easy one. He must ponder all of the above and an untold number of other factors. 

But it all starts with Oregon's final six games. All are winnable. Helfrich probably needs at least four wins to remain safe.

Only Mullens knows for sure. That's the scary part for Helfrich.