Rich Kolbell

Oregon tops UC Davis in season opener.

EUGENE, ORE. – The revamped Oregon defense looked good, at times and the Oregon offense with a new quarterback, Dakota Prukop also looked good, at times. This was a game when the positives outweighed the negatives as the Ducks put away FCS Cal-Davis, 53-28.

Prukop did his part on offense with a solid performance throwing for 271 yards on 21-of-30 passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 36 yards but was sacked twice losing 14 yards, so Prukop did his. Prukop did his job and so did the Oregon running backs as they controlled the tempo of the game for 251 yards, led by Royce Freeman’s 87 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Brooks-James added 57 yards and a TD. Kani Benoitt contributed 34 yards with one long of 22.

The receivers for their part had a good day. Darren Carrington had seven catches for 117 yards and a TD. Johnny Mundt showed his form with three catches for 57 yards and a TD also. Jalen Brown also scored on a 14-yard pass from Prukop to go along with his two catches for 17 yards for the afternoon.

Yet it seemed the offense was not quite where the Ducks would like it to be as they were forced to punt for times and Aidan Schneider had to boot a 31-yard field goal.

Normally racking up 522 yards (271 rushing, 263) against an opponent is a good day especially considering the Duck defense was below last year’s average of yards given up (392), but this was to a Big Sky team out of the FCS that only won two games last year.

Something was missing.

Was it game preparation, execution, attitude, communications or all of that?

Defensively, Brady Hoke’s new scheme looked like it was going help the Ducks out and in many instances, particularly with the starters in, there was noticeable improvement over last year’s squad.

Freshman Troy Dye for example, might a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Week in the conference as he racked up 11 tackles (seven solos) including 4.5 tackles for loss including a sack.

The Ducks had a total of eight TFLs and two sacks so Dye accounted for half of that figure. Jalen Jelks recorded Oregon’s sole interception.

But this game had lots of mistakes.

There were eight flags thrown at Oregon while UCD had seven. Oregon lost the turnover-to-takeaway stat, because while Oregon intercepted one ball, a player who has always been good at ball security – Charles Nelson fumbled twice and UCD recovered both fumbles.

In the later stages of the game, the Aggies’ Manusamoa Luuga gave a preview of what might happen to the Ducks if they aren’t careful. Luuga finished up with a gross 105 yards rushing on 22 carries and three TDs, but lost nine, so he ended up with 96 net yards.

The Ducks gave up way too many passing yards too; 303 yards in fact, 116 picked up Keelan Doss on seven receptions. UCD quarterback Ben Scott went over 300 yards passing though USD didn’t score through the air.

Oregon’s special teams were pretty good on kickoff coverage when Matt Wogan wasn’t kicking touch backs (6-of-9). Ian Wheeler had a respectable 38.2 yards with three punts inside the 20 but one of his punts only went for 26 yards.

Of course there was Nelson’s uncharacteristic two fumbles on returns, yet there was also some impressive gunning by Fotu Leiato, his reputation as a human guided missile grows.

Next week, the Ducks take on a relative weak team, the Virginia Cavaliers who lost Richmond, 37-20. Coaches always believe the biggest improvement a team makes is between the first and second week, and if the Ducks want success this season, they’ll need to see that big jump in improvement as they prepare for Virginia.

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