August 12, 2017
Venue: Outdoor practice fields
The Oregon football team wrapped up its second week of preseason camp with a scrimmage Saturday, a chance for the first unit on each side of the ball to put on a show.
New UO coach Willie Taggart matched the first-string against the second-string in the situational scrimmage, with predictable results. Justin Herbert and the No. 1 offense consistently put points on the board, while outside linebackers Justin Hollins and Jonah Moi helped the No. 1 defense frustrate the No. 2 offense for most of the morning.
“I think we played well,” Hollins said. “Everything went according to plan: offensively they got big plays and moved the ball, and defensively we got stops and got some turnovers. Everybody played hard.”
The various situations in the scrimmage included driving the field after a kickoff, coming out when backed up to the end zone, goal-line and red-zone plays, and clutch situations in which the offense was both ahead and behind late in a game. Coaches devised a scoring system for each scenario, and ultimately the offenses were dubbed to have come out ahead.
That owed in no small part to a really impressive, efficient performance by the Ducks’ returning starter at quarterback.
With the offensive line playing as cohesively as it has all preseason, Herbert had lots of time to throw, and he took advantage. Unofficially, the sophomore finished 17-of-20 for 274 yards and four touchdowns. His first incompletion was nearly intercepted by La’Mar Winston Jr., and another potential interception by Billy Gibson in the end zone was waved off due to a penalty, but overall Herbert looked very crisp.
“It was a fun day,” Herbert said. “Both sides of the ball played pretty well. We did some good things, and also some things we can clean up. But it was a good day overall.”
In the red-zone scenarios, Royce Freeman rushed for three touchdowns, and the No. 2 offense posted its only touchdown of the day, by Cyrus Habibi-Likio. Freeman added a fourth touchdown run to cap a drive that began at the offense’s own 5-yard line, and was sparked by a 41-yard catch-and-run by Dillon Mitchell. Kani Benoit (above) rushed for a 64-yard TD on the last rep of the day for the No. 1 offense, his second touchdown of the scrimmage.
Other than the Habibi-Likio touchdown, the No. 1 defense didn’t allow much. Hollins had four sacks, including a safety when the No. 2 offense was backed up to its own end zone. Moi added a pick-six (below), and Ty Griffin helped provide a stop in the red zone by breaking up a pass from Braxton Burmeister to Brenden Schooler in the end zone on third down.
On the downside, the officiating crew on hand threw about a dozen penalty flags. Most were on the offense for either procedural issues or holding.
“Typical first scrimmage,” Taggart said. “Too many penalties; we gotta tighten that up. But there was some good on both sides of the ball. It was a good learning day for everybody.”
Other highlights: The day began with five chances for the offense to drive 65 yards to a touchdown. The No. 1 offense converted both times, with Herbert going 6-for-7 for 121 yards, including touchdown passes to Tony Brooks-James and Charles Nelson. The No. 1 defense allowed only one first down on three possessions; Moi planted an offensive tackle on his back before pressuring Taylor Alie into an incompletion on one third down, and Hollins posted his first sack to end another drive. … Among the best chances to score all day for the No. 2 offense was on a completion of about 35 yards by Alie to Daewood Davis. But as Davis was coming down with the ball inside the 5-yard line, Thomas Graham Jr. ripped it out for the first turnover of the scrimmage. …
Herbert went 5-for-5 for 77 yards on the long touchdown drive that began on the 5-yard line. Mitchell put a cornerback on skates to get into the open field on his 41-yard reception, and Freeman pancaked a safety to help Nelson get the ball down to the 5-yard line. Two plays later Freeman scored; on the play, two receivers drove a defensive back well out of bounds with a block. “Hey, at some point you guys gotta give up,” one of the officials told the blockers. Sorry, stripes. … Two plays after Hollins’ safety, he nearly had another. But Alie deftly stepped up in the pocket and flicked a pass out to Benoit, who ran for a first down. The combination of composure and athleticism from Alie was impressive, although the drive ended three plays later on yet another Hollins sack. …
The No. 1 defense nearly outscored the No. 2 offense thanks to the safety and Moi’s long pick-six late in the scrimmage. But Aidan Schneider capped a red-zone possession by the twos that actually lost yardage by banging through a 49-yard field goal, with room to spare. … The No. 1 offense had a one-play drive in the red-zone drill, when Cam McCormick reached to grab a Herbert pass that was a bit too high, tipped it to himself and caught it for a 25-yard TD reception. … In end-of game drills, Herbert threw a “game-winning” TD to Jacob Breeland, and also directed a long clock-killing drive with the offense protecting a lead. The one time the No. 1 offense failed to convert was when it needed both a touchdown and a two-point conversion; Benoit rushed for a touchdown and Herbert had Ryan Bay open on the two-point play, but Gus Cumberlander batted the ball down near the line.
Other observations: Taggart said he doesn’t always use a ones-vs.-twos scrimmage format. It stayed consistent this morning, despite the fact the ones clearly wanted a piece of each other by the end of the scrimmage. … Other than Schneider’s field goal, the only special teams reps were a couple for the punt team. Darrian McNeal and Darrian Felix fielded punts. … The Ducks had team photos in the early afternoon, before departing to nearby Camp Harlow for a barbecue. Sunday is an off day for the players.
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