Venue: Moshofsky Center
A week after the offense generally got the better of Oregon’s first spring scrimmage, the Ducks were back in full pads for a scrimmage Saturday morning.
The defense was looking to answer, after a strong week of practice. And answer it did.
“Early, the counterpunch was a strong one — like a Tyson left hook,” UO coach Mario Cristobal said. “It was hard. It was hard to move the football.”
Verone McKinley III set the tone for the UO defense Saturday on an early series, ranging deep down the field and out to the sideline before leaping to make an interception and getting a foot down inbounds. “A spectacular football play,” Cristobal called it.
Bennett Williams wrapped up CJ Verdell on one of the first reps of the scrimmage, a week after Verdell busted loose for a long touchdown to open the first scrimmage. Later, with the first units still on the field, the offense took a shot on third down and McKinley arrived just after the ball, putting his shoulder into the receiver’s chest to break up the pass.
As the scrimmage progressed, however, things evened out. Travis Dye busted loose for a long run that got the offense into the red zone, and was rewarded with a short carry for a touchdown to cap that possession. That sparked a series of successful reps in the red zone, with Verdell and Aaron Smith also running for touchdowns.
Anthony Brown had a beautiful ball from around midfield over the shoulder of Devon Williams in the end zone for a touchdown, and Bradley Yaffe took a shot on which Isaah Crocker made a really athletic play to go up and get it in the end zone. Later, in a drill with the offense backed up to its own goal line, Jay Butterfield perhaps surprised the defense by taking a shot over the top, which Kris Hutson hauled in before racing for a 97-yard touchdown.
In the end, there were highlights aplenty for both sides to celebrate. Which is what a head coach likes to see.
“The course you want to take, we saw that today,” Cristobal said. “We’ve just got to see improvement and stay at it.”
Other highlights: In an early series for the twos, Bradyn Swinson exploded off the ball to wrap up a back on the first rep, and Treven Ma’ae and Keanu Williams combined for a sack later in the series. With the offense facing fourth down, Jeffrey Bassa and JJ Greenfield rallied to the ball after a short pass and stopped the receiver short of the line to gain. … Later with the ones back on the field, Keyon Ware-Hudson and Mase Funa combined on a sack that set up third-and-long. The next play was the big hit by McKinley to break up a pass downfield. …
Daymon David had a couple really physical plays against the run that stood out. … Lucas Noland and Steve Stephens IV had interceptions as the scrimmage wore one, and Bryan Addison ended the day by leaping to break up a deep ball to Hutson. … Addison was one of four guys who started on all four special teams units, along with Dru Mathis, Adrian Jackson and Bennett Williams.
Other observations: Cristobal said the Ducks got through the scrimmage without a significant injury. “Today was a healthy day for us,” he said. “We feel fortunate we were able to get high-quality, high levels of work in today without suffering anything significant.” … Cornerbacks coach Rod Chance is coaching up a young group this spring, and so rather than identify field corners (like Mykael Wright) vs. boundary corners (like Deommodore Lenoir), he’s having his corners stay on one side of the formation and remain there whether that’s to the field or the boundary on any particular rep. Down the road, he said, he might identify field corners and boundary corners based on what he sees this spring. “Let’s get some data, let’s get some tangible evidence we can kind of go off of,” he said.