By Rob Moseley
Editor, GoDucks.com

Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads

The last couple of weeks, Mark Helfrich has had a recurring message for the Ducks – embrace the grind.

It’s the time of year when nicks and tweaks might slow guys down. Players are busier with school having started, so they can get more worn out, even sick for a day or two. The finish line of the season is still well off, so the schedule right now can feel repetitive, with no end in sight.

Only one way to tackle those circumstances, Helfrich tells the Ducks every day. Embrace the grind.

Potentially complicating matters this week is a perfect scheduling storm: On Saturday, Oregon hosts Washington State, which is a considerable underdog entering the 7 p.m. game. Next week, the Ducks welcome UCLA to Autzen Stadium, for what at this point is a matchup of top-10 teams, perhaps even a Pac-12 championship game preview.

So it’s reasonable to wonder if there’s a chance the Ducks might overlook the Cougars. But there’s no need for wonder to become worry, apparently.

“Guys have the right mindset,” quarterback Marcus Mariota said after today's practice. “We’ve just got to focus on having a good Wednesday and get ready for the rest of the week.”

Each of the last two years, Oregon’s conference record ended with a “1” in the loss column. Those were to USC in 2011 and Stanford in 2012, but Mariota said the risk of getting tripped up is real every single week.

“Guys understand that for the last couple years we’ve let one go,” Mariota said. “Guys don’t want to have that happen again, so guys have the right mindset.”

Highlights: Alejandro Maldonado, who connected from 34 yards out at UW on Oregon’s only field-goal attempt of Pac-12 play so far, hit from 37 and 47 to open practice today. … During the first 11-on-11 period of the day, Mariota looked to hit Josh Huff on a short route. The ball was tipped at the line, slowing its flight, but Huff hung in the air and maintained his focus to make the reception regardless. … During a period focused on run plays, Tyler Johnstone got to the second level and made the pads pop hitting a linebacker. Thomas Tyner was the beneficiary of extra yardage thanks to that block. …

Chad Delaney found big holes in the secondary a couple times, for completions from Mariota and Jeff Lockie. … During the final period of the day, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had a pick-six, Brian Jackson intercepted a deep jump ball and Joe Walker knocked down a pass before a running back could make the catch. … Also during that period, offensive lineman Brian Teague, filling in as usual at tight end, hauled in a pass to his body despite being hit right when the ball arrived.

Other observations: In individual drills, Johnny Mundt made a smooth one-handed grab, providing me the chance to pass along here that he’s been added to the Mackey Award watch list. That’s the award for the nation’s top tight end, and Mundt is one of two freshmen now on the watch list. … Safety Tyree Robinson took a few reps at cornerback. … Funny moment during individuals, when the offense is on one half of the field and the defense is on the other. A receiver crossed the 50-yard line briefly and safety Avery Patterson ran over and barked at him, playing sheriff and protecting the border for the defense.