By Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
Today was a Tuesday on Oregon’s practice schedule, given the presence of the Civil War on Friday of this week. The Ducks wanted to stick to their typical schedule, and so today was like a typical Tuesday.
But of course, today was anything but typical. This was a tone-setting practice in all sorts of ways: bouncing back from the loss to Arizona, gearing up to face the Beavers. The proof will show Friday, when the game kicks off at 4 p.m. (FOX Sports 1), but players and coaches were saying all the right things this morning.
Head coach Mark Helfrich: “Really happy with how the guys responded. … Collectively our guys took a step forward today, and that’s the most important outcome.”
Quarterback Marcus Mariota: “Yesterday was a little rough, but I think we were able to go through meetings and the attitude was uplifting. I think we’re in a good spot right now.”
Receiver Josh Huff: “Last week was last week. It’s over now. We’ve just got to focus on Oregon State. We took a tough one last week. We’ve just got to keep going, keep pushing. We’ve got to dig deep within ourselves and fight for each other.”
Helfrich said he met individually with Oregon’s team leaders Sunday, to discuss the “why” of what went wrong at Arizona. He looked for them to set the tone in practice this morning.
“Our guys are disappointed, they’re frustrated,” Helfrich said. “But at the same time, they’ve got the right mindset for bouncing back. The guys that needed to do that showed up, and the guys followed.”
As to the “why” of Saturday’s result, “some of it is very easily explained, some of it is not so easily explained,” Helfrich said. “And those are the things that make this a great job – sometimes very, very, very frustrating, and sometimes very rewarding.”
Asked who showed the best leadership the last couple days, Mariota said it was in fact Helfrich. The Ducks’ coach “really got us in the right mental state of mind,” Mariota said.
That meant focusing on the task at hand: beating the Beavers. There will be time enough for big-picture reflection about the events of the last few weeks following the season.
“It’s very easy to blame, it’s very easy to point fingers,” Helfrich said. “It’s hard to look at yourself and it’s hard to fix. And we need to be in the fixing business. We don’t need to be in the blame business.”
Helfrich did say the Ducks might have been taking some things for granted. Younger players, he said, might have just expected somebody would make a play to get the team going Saturday, rather than stepping up and taking the reins themselves.
“Just because there’s an ‘O’ on your helmet doesn’t mean you can show up and they put 60 points on the board for you,” Helfrich said. “You have to grind it out, every single practice, every play.”
That process began today. Its success will be judged Friday.
Highlights: The best highlight overall was Mariota’s presence, after the quarterback “got my bell rung a little bit” making a tackle after an interception late in Saturday’s game. He said he went through concussion tests, “passed everything and my symptoms are good.” That was perhaps bad news for Oregon’s scout-team secondary, which got picked apart pretty good during a practice period focused on passing plays this morning. …
Matt Wogan began the day with a “game-winning” 42-yard field goal in clutch, after Mariota and Addison connected on a pass to get the No. 1 offense into position for the kick. … Safety Brian Jackson had a couple big stops on run plays in a “good-on-good” period between the offense and defense. … Pharaoh Brown forced a fumble while on punt coverage, and long snapper Drew Howell recovered. … Tight end Evan Baylis put a couple linebackers on their backs with blocks on run plays over the course of the morning.
Other observations: While the news on Mariota was good, running back Byron Marshall sported crutches and a walking boot after practice. He was injured early in Saturday’s game at Arizona. … Receiver Dwayne Stanford played the part of OSU star Brandin Cooks with the scout team today. … Mariota’s parents and younger brother are in town for the week and attended practice today, as did former baseball star Harold Reynolds, the uncle of UO receiver Daryle Hawkins.
Finally, both Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas were asked today if they’d considered the possibility Friday could be their final appearance in Autzen Stadium, given their potential to be top prospects as underclassmen in the 2014 NFL draft.
Mariota: "Not at all and I'm being truthfully honest. I’m not sure. After the bowl season I’ll go home and just kind of talk through this with my family, and see what’s the best fit for my family.”
Thomas: “We’ll see. I’m not really worried about it. Just trying to worry about this game.”