By Rob Moseley
Venue: Moshofsky Center
Format: Full pads
With Oregon determined not to let the Civil War be won by OSU through the air, the Ducks’ nickel package got plenty of work during their 36-35 win in Autzen Stadium to close out the regular season.
That meant significant reps for cornerback Dior Mathis, the extra defensive back in that package for the Civil War, and presumably for the Alamo Bowl against Texas on Dec. 30 as well.
For most of the season, safety Erick Dargan and Troy Hill played in nickel situations. With those two unavailable against the Beavers, safety Brian Jackson remained on the field and Mathis joined the starting quartet of DBs, who allowed 314 passing yards, more than 50 fewer than OSU’s average. (The Beavers also ran the ball more than anticipated.)
“I thought I played really good,” said Mathis, who had 18 tackles in the regular season, and a memorable interception at Virginia that he returned 97 yards but was stopped short of the goal line. “I stepped up to the challenge, and when I got my opportunity I made the most of it.”
The Ducks are now preparing to face a Texas team that has an overall pass efficiency rating of 121.99, No. 88 in the country. But the Longhorns run for 197.58 yards per game, No. 36 nationally.
“If we play nickel, that’s good not just for me but the whole team, because we get a chance to stop the pass,” Mathis said. “But our main focus right now is stopping the run, and we’re doing really good. So if we play nickel, OK, but if we don’t, we don’t.”
In Oregon’s base defense, Mathis is the primary backup to both Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell, while Hill is suspended. He was joined with the second-string today by redshirt freshman Stephen Amoako, who played in the opener against Nicholls State but spent most of the season with the scout team.
“Everybody in our group, they can all play,” Mathis said. “He played good today, so we’ll see how he does in game-time situations.”
Highlights: Joe Walker had a couple of impressive stops on run plays midway through practice, at one point teaming with Rodney Hardrick to drive a scout-team back 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. … Avery Patterson popped a running back to break up a pass during drills, and later ran with a receiver to break up another. ...
Tyrell Robinson and Arik Armstead had tackles for loss, Ekpre-Olomu and Jackson intercepted passes and Stetzon Bair nearly intercepted a tipped ball at the line, all during team drills. … Thomas Tyner broke free for big plays both during run drills and on a pass play, getting blocks downfield from Keanon Lowe and Blake Stanton.
Other observations: There was a coaching reunion on the sideline today, with former UO assistants Joe Schaffeld, Robin Ross, John Ramsdell and Neal Zoumboukos in attendance. Ramsdell has been a regular presence for practices this season. … T.J. Daniel, Oregon’s scout-team player of the year on defense, is playing the role of Texas star Jackson Jeffcoat now that the Ducks are employing a scout team. … Ekpre-Olomu was named a third-team all-American by The Associated Press, one of the five major all-America teams used to determine consensus and unanimous all-American status. The other released so far was the Walter Camp team, which included Ekpre-Olomu as well.