By Rob Moseley
Venue: Autzen Stadium
On a brilliant, sunny day in Eugene, the Ducks held their first scrimmage of this spring with officials on hand Friday morning. It was a spirited, back-and-forth workout, with plays made on both sides, a good sign for the offense after the defense got off to such a good start this spring.
From the start it looked like that would continue, with Erick Dargan grabbing an early interception, one of two he had on the day. But Thomas Tyner scored the first of nine touchdowns for the offense (by my count) a few minutes later, and placekicker Matt Wogan had a good day as well.
Afterward, Mark Helfrich harped on the offense’s tempo, though it should be noted that Marcus Mariota’s participation was very limited, with Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues running the first-string offense, and Taylor Alie and Damion Hobbs quarterbacking the twos.
“We’re very simplified in every phase, trying to get those younger guys out there playing fast and competing,” Helfrich said.
Marshall scampered into the red zone on a pass from Lockie to set up Tyner’s touchdown, and Forde stiff-armed a safety to get the sideline fired up at one point, though moments later he was on his back after trying to pick up a blitzing Rodney Hardrick. Lousi helped clear the way for a couple short touchdown runs during red-zone drills, a welcome development after the Ducks struggled at times in that situation last fall.
Later in the scrimmage, Kani Benoit ran for a couple of short touchdowns (another was wiped out by penalty, another area of concern for Helfrich today). And Devon Allen caught a couple of touchdown passes, one of them out of the slot, a new position for the redshirt freshman.
“It’s good that we’re getting to learn the whole offense, so we have more opportunities to play,” Allen said. “If you just learn one position and somebody’s in there, you can’t play.”
All four quarterbacks threw at least one touchdown pass. Rodrigues scampered around after a play broke down and found Keanon Lowe matched up with a safety early in the scrimmage. During a red-zone scenario, Hobbs had a scoring pass to J.J. Jones, and Allen caught his pass out of the slot from Alie.
Among the final periods of the day was clutch, and the offense made a couple more big, “game-winning" plays. Allen caught a scoring pass from Lockie, and B.J. Kelley made a tough catch at the goal line for Alie’s second TD pass of the day; the redshirt freshman from Eugene ran for an earlier score as well.
“We’ve got to pick it up a little bit,” Lockie said in assessing the scrimmage. “We’ve got to get set, definitely go faster. It’s only going to get more complex and harder from here, so the No. 1 thing we have to work on is tempo.”
Wogan bounced back from a couple misses in field-goal drills Wednesday to make all of his kicks Friday, best I could tell, including attempts of 36 and 41 yards. He was disappointed with his execution during punt drills, but pleased with the improvements on field goals.
“I still had some kicks that didn’t get up as high as they should,” Wogan said. “But overall, better.”
Other highlights: Oshay Dunmore was a man possessed on punt coverage, and also had a nice tackle for loss defensively. Similarly, Troy Hill stood out on punt coverage, and had a big hit to stop a receiver for no gain on a screen. … Derrick Malone had a couple tackles for loss over the course of the scrimmage. ...
Dwayne Stanford had a nice one-handed catch to help Lockie out after the quarterback was flushed from the pocket. … Tyner and Tui Talia had a couple of big collisions on run plays during one drive. … Chris Seisay made a tackle on a run play in the red zone, and moments later broke up a deep ball. … Stephen Amoako blocked a PAT.
Other observations: Coach Helfrich offered no comment after practice about the status of Bralon Addison. There’s a lot of reporting out there about Addison, and nothing I can add to it. … Tyree Robinson looks like a potential factor with both the punt and punt return units. He also had an interception today. … Hamani Stevens did some snapping on a couple drives with the ones. In those cases, Doug Brenner or Jake Pisarcik played guard. … Former defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti was on the sideline for the scrimmage.