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BY JASON VONDERSMITH/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/But Ducks coach downplays rivalry aspect of Oregon vs. Washington football game

The 70-21 drubbing by Washington last year at Autzen Stadium wasn't going to be part of Oregon's motivation this week, according to coach Willie Taggart, although he couldn't speak for the players, except true freshmen, of course.

"I'm sure any competitor out there, though, wouldn't forget what happened and wants to make sure they're at their best when they play that opponent again," he says. "That's our jobs this week is to make sure we're at our best and see to it that what happened last year doesn't happen again."

After a 12-game losing streak to the Ducks, UW exacted revenge and then some — 10 touchdowns — and anybody who watched the game knows it could have been about 14 or 15 touchdowns and 100 points, if the Huskies and coach Chris Petersen had wanted it to be.

"It was one of those games where it just all clicked," Petersen says. "You always have those games now and again."

The Ducks (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) and Huskies (7-1, 4-1) play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium. Washington, ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press poll and still hoping to win the Pac-12 and be a College Football Playoff team, is about a three-touchdown favorite.TAGGART

• The Ducks, once a national power, would be thrilled to win a sixth game and make a bowl game.

It means extra practice for young players and a chance for seniors who want to make one more impression for the NFL scouts. (It remains to be seen whether running back Royce Freeman or offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby, both firmly on the NFL radar, play in a bowl game or skip it to jump right into preparing to be pros.)

Bowl games are just a "fun time" for teammates and camaraderie, Arrion Springs says.

"Everybody knows it's the last game, one last go-around playing with certain guys," he says. "It'd be fun to do that."

But the Ducks have to get one more win. It won't be easy at Washington, or at home after a bye week against Arizona and QB Khalil Tate. Could the Ducks enter the Civil War against Oregon State, Nov. 25 at Autzen, still needing the one win?

• Taggart says the "pep in their step" and "vibe" and "energy" and "fun" has returned for the Ducks, which really showed itself in practice last week and Saturday before the 41-20 win against Utah. "It seemed like we got our confidence back and guys were focused," he says.

Taggart has plenty of experience helping teams bounce back, having coached losing teams early in tenures at Western Kentucky and South Florida. He adds: "It's human nature when things aren't going your way to get down and out. There's always a right and a wrong way to handle adversity and a negative and a positive way to do it."

• Taggart, who indicated that QB Justin Herbert has been cleared to play, says he has been waiting for Herbert's broken left collarbone to fully heal to prevent re-injuring.

"Look, we're going to put Justin out there when we feel like he's ready to go. We're not going to do anything to jeopardize him," Taggart says. If he's ready, he'll play and true freshman Braxton Burmeister won't have to face the Huskies defense.

Burmeister looked good in winning his first game as a starting QB last week. He went 9 of 12 for 47 yards and a TD pass against Utah, but didn't throw an interception. He was unavailable for comment, as Taggart doesn't allow true freshmen to talk with the media.

• Petersen is complimentary about Royce Freeman, who has eclipsed 1,000 yards three times and stands as UO's all-time leading rusher. He's the first UO player to accumulate 6,000 all-purpose yards (6,036), and he's topped 100 yards rushing in 28 of 48 career games.

"We've seen him for a long time and he's healthy and running hard. He's a hard guy to tackle. He's a physical guy," Petersen says. "Royce is the guy in the backfield that they're going to make sure they hand behind the tackles and the other guys (Tony Brooks-James, Taj Griffin), they're putting them on the edges."

And Kani Benoit can do damage, too.

• It sounds like Taggart is a Chip off the ol' block, downplaying the rivalry with Washington, a la Chip Kelly.

"I think every game we play is a rival game," Taggart says. "It's the next game on the schedule for us.

"We've got three ballgames left, and we feel like if we play our best we could win them all, which would be awesome for our football team and our seniors to go out and double their win total from last year (from four to eight)."

• Safety Brady Breeze has joined linebacker La'Mar Winston as former Central Catholic stars who are now contributing on Oregon's defense. He has been playing more; he had four tackles against Utah.

"Brady's getting better each and every weekend," Taggart says. "It was good to see him, especially last week, come in and be very physical. We really like his physicality out there, and he's getting comfortable doing what we ask him to do playing safety. I think playing on special teams really helped him understand the speed of the game and getting confidence in himself."

Jesuit product and defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux continues to have a good senior year. Offensive lineman Doug Brenner, from Jesuit, won't return after surgery on his hip.

Grant's Aidan Schneider hit two field goals against Utah, while the game was being contested, making him 4 of 6 for the season and 46 of 54 (85.19 percent) in his four-year career.

"It felt good to be kicking at an important time of the game," he says.

Schneider has moved into third on Oregon's all-time scoring list with 331. He's second all-time with 46 field goals.

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