Taggart: 'Losing sucks'
By about 5 p.m. Saturday, either Oregon or UCLA will be feeling better about itself.
The Ducks (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) and Bruins (3-3, 1-2) want to prevent sliding any further out of bowl talk. The Ducks have beaten the Bruins six consecutive times; every Pac-12 team other than UCLA has beaten Oregon since 2014.
"We're both fighting to get a victory, a conference game," UO coach Willie Taggart says. "I'm sure both teams will be fired up and ready to roll, we both need a win; well, I don't know about them, but we need a win. Losing sucks."
Says UCLA coach Jim Mora: "Everything's a challenge for us right now. But, (players) relish the challenge. There's a good attitude in the building."
• Before the Arizona game, Mora felt great about the Bruins and their practices. "Just the energy, effort, enthusiasm, understanding what we're trying to do, focus on getting better on things that hurt us, and tackling ... There was concerted effort and focus," he says.
Then, UCLA lost at Arizona 47-30, as Wildcats QB Khalil Tate exploded again.
Mora's seat has probably overtaken ASU coach Todd Graham's as the hottest in the Pac-12.
• The Bruins, who have pretty good offense led by QB Josh Rosen, give up 313 rushing yards and 523 total yards per game, worst in the Pac-12, and 40.5 points, 11th worst.
Summing up his defense, Mora says: "When you're teetering on the edge of confidence and something bad happens, you go, 'Here it goes again.' We have to move away from being fragile to being confident. That's difficult."
• The tally is now up to 13 true freshmen who have played for the Ducks this season, including players on every unit except offensive line (including tight end) — and, who knows, maybe West Linn product Alex Forsyth makes a debut on the O-line in the next five games?
The players include QB Burmeister, running back Darrian Felix, receiver Johnny Johnson III, defensive linemen Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu, linebacker Sampson Niu, defensive back Thomas Graham Jr. and punter Adam Stack.
In his previous stops at Western Kentucky and South Florida, Taggart played true freshmen, but "not as many" as with the Ducks. "And, they got better," he says. "No better experience than game experience. You take your lumps, especially when you play a winning program with veterans," such as Stanford.
Thirteen players, 13 stories — but Taggart's policy of not allowing true freshmen to talk with the media doesn't allow the media to inform fans/readers about them as contributing, adult-age, scholarship members of the public university's football team.
• Mora watched tape of Oregon's game at Stanford and says, "They're good, they're a good football team. They did a nice job moving the football in the first half, broke runs, had some passes. We have to plan better, prepare better and play better to stop them. Defensively, they create some things up front, they're active."
Huh? Clearly the coach is being kind. Oregon lost 49-7, as Stanford went for 504 offensive yards and Ducks QBs Braxton Burmeister and Taylor Alie combined to go a pathetic 5 of 13 for 33 yards, as the Ducks passed for fewer than 100 yards for the first time since 2012 at Arizona State.
But, on running back Royce Freeman, who had 143 yards on 18 carries and moved into fourth on the Pac-12's all-time rushing list, Mora adds: "Six feet, 238 pounds, great running back. He can break tackles, and when he gets in the open field can make you miss or run away from people. He's one of the special backs. He'll play on Sunday (in the NFL) and make an impact."
• Taggart says Justin Herbert wants to play badly, but "he's not ready." Meanwhile, Taggart just wants Burmeister and Alie to not turn the ball over.
"We gotta be smart with the football, take care of the football," the coach says.
• On Herbert, who's out with a shoulder injury suffered on a running play, Taggart says, "I'm sure he'll be back quicker than we think."
• Freeman has 4,943 career rushing yards, only 101 behind OSU's Ken Simonton for third all-time in the Pac-12. He passed Marcus Allen of USC last weekend.
• The Ducks' 17 points in the past two games are their fewest since scoring 13 in two games Nov. 14 and 21, 1992.
• Stanford coach David Shaw, after his team's 42-point victory, says "it was great to see Willie Taggart," his former fellow assistant with the Cardinal. "I think give Willie a couple years and the guys that he's been bringing in, the guys that they are bringing in, they're doing really well. ... They've got some young guys that are going to be really good."
• The Ducks need two more wins for bowl eligibility. They play UCLA, then Utah at home and Washington on the road — all tough games, given that Burmeister and Alie haven't struck fear in opposing teams.
Hope remains for two victories, because the Ducks believe Herbert will return in November. Oregon finishes the regular season at home against Arizona and Oregon State, although neither game looks like a sure win right now; the 4-2 Wildcats have been reenergized by QB Tate and the Beavers seemingly by their coaching change and Ryan Nall's health.
• Frustrated? Not receiver Charles Nelson, who returned to the UO offense at Stanford and had one carry for five yards — no receptions — despite playing most of the game. "I wouldn't say frustrating," he says, of the UO offense. "We ran the ball well. We gotta execute on third down." Indeed, the Ducks are 6 of 28 in the past two games on third down, mostly because of ineffective pass game.