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Published: September 26, 2016
The Oregon Ducks are outside the top 25 for the first time this season. The Ducks suffered their first loss of the season when they visited the Nebraska Cornhuskers in week three, losing 35-32. The Ducks offense has been dangerous as usual, averaging 43 points per game. The defense has given up 29.6 points per game and costs the Ducks the game against the Cornhuskers.
Transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop has lived up to the hype. Prukop has thrown for 748 yards and six touchdowns on 66.7% passing, along with 152 yards and one touchdown on the ground in the Ducks’ first three games. The Montana State graduate transfer Prukop won the starting quarterback job for Oregon over true freshman Justin Herbert and Terry Wilson. Prukop hasn’t had all the pressure on him to make plays since he has explosive junior running back Royce Freeman in the backfield.
Freeman is 19th in the country with 325 rushing yards and tied for 13th with four rushing touchdowns. Freeman’s numbers could be better if he didn’t suffer a leg injury in the first quarter against Nebraska. The Ducks’ record might be sitting at 3-0 if Freeman didn’t get injured, but that’s a part of the game. Freeman is day-to-day and it is unclear if he will play against Colorado.
The Oregon Ducks defense has forced five turnovers in two games and has a 58.2% stoppage rate on third down this season. The defense has had a few standouts this season, starting with junior defensive back Tyree Robinson with his team-leading 18 tackles and two pass deflections. Freshman linebacker Troy Dye has played outstanding, recording 17 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and one sack. In total, the defense has sacked the quarterback nine times and has three interceptions on the year.
However, the defense did give up the game-winning score to Nebraska in week three. With 2:29 left in the game, Cornhusker senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. made two defenders miss tackles on a 34-yard quarterback draw touchdown run. The loss cannot be totally put on the Duck defense, as the Ducks went 1-5 on two-point conversions. Anyone who can do simple math could figure out if head coach Mark Helfrich elected to kick PATs instead of going for two after every touchdown, the outcome might be a little for the Ducks. This is nothing new for Ducks fans, as the Ducks have attempted four two-point conversions in one game at least once a season dating back to the Mike Bellotti days back in 2008.
Head coach Mark Helfrich explained his team’s two-point conversion philosophy saying, “We just believe a lot in what we’re doing in the swinging gate. That is one of the situations that we have one guy to break down and coach that better and Charles (Nelson) kind of ended up with nothing left to do in that situation. Just kind of attack mode. It’s all based on look, we can chip back in and kick it if we want. The situation was exactly how we planned it. We need to coach it better, we need to execute it better. It’s based on the look on the field.”
Helfrich might get a pass for the two-point conversions since it is just the Oregon philosophy at this point, but he does not get a pass for the team’s lackluster discipline. The Ducks have an astonishing 33 penalties for 314 yards in three games. That is clearly unacceptable. In their tight loss to Nebraska, the team committed 13 penalties for 126 yards. The Nebraska lost also broke the 82-game streak that a Duck recorded a passing touchdown.
The Ducks will now only play Pac-12 opponents for the remainder of the season, starting with welcoming the improved Colorado Buffaloes to Eugene this weekend. Overall, the Ducks offense can still put up a lot of the point as it always has, but has to vastly improve their discipline and maybe be a little more conservative with the two-point conversions.