PASADENA, California (NWN) – When Oregon’s No. 10 player Kyvon Thibodeau returned for the second half against California on Friday, an outstanding defensive final helped rally the team to a vital victory with goal-line stance.
The Ducks hope this may be an omen of how the second half of their season will play out, as several injured players are expected to return for a crucial game at UCLA on Saturday.
Injuries didn’t stop Oregon (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) from winning their trademark victory over Ohio, but coach Mario Cristobal believes the constant outflow is keeping the two-time defending conference champions from building the necessary cohesion. play at the elite level required to advance to the college football playoffs.
By constantly combining pieces, you don’t get the same consistency as guys playing alongside each other, ”said Cristobal. “We’ve had moments where it worked really well, and in others it’s like, ‘Wow, this is not like us.’
Oregon have lost top running back CJ Verdell, tight end Cam McCormick and much-touted midfielder Justin Flow to injuries at the end of the season, while several other key players have dropped out due to various ailments.
But relief could come as midfielder Mace Fun and center Alex Forsyth are among the notable players expected to play against the Bruins (5-2, 3-1). Funa has been on and off the squad for the past few weeks with a foot injury, while Forsyth has missed the last two games with back spasms.
Even Thibodeau, who is considered one of the best defenders to qualify for the 2022 NFL Draft, has struggled to be approachable. The Los Angeles native sprained his ankle at the season opener and missed the next two games. He missed the end of overtime at Stanford after being kicked by quarterback Tanner McKee and the foul was rescheduled for the first half against the Golden Bears.
When Thibodeau finally joined the game, he converted five tackles, one bag and a few pressures, and Oregon won 24-17.
“He’s a very good player,” said UCLA coach Chip Kelly. “We need to know where he is.”
MAKE OR DISASSEMBLE
While Oregon still hopes to make the playoffs with four teams, UCLA needs a win to stay in the Pac-12 South fight. The Bruins have already lost to Arizona, so another loss would make next week’s game in Utah compulsory, but they still need help reaching the conference title match in Las Vegas.
“You know, every game is our Super Bowl, just like Washington was our Super Bowl last week. We’re going to give our best, ”said protector Obi Ebo.
PRESERVE THE FAITH
Defender Anthony Brown has become a lightning rod among Dax fans due to inconsistent play in the second and third quarters and problems with accuracy, especially on deep balls. Attack Coordinator Joe Moorehead stands alongside the sixth for directing the attack, which still averages 33.8.
“He’s not Marcus Mariota, he’s not Dennis Dixon, he’s not the kind of guy, but he understands who he is, what he’s good at and how it will contribute to our attack and the success of the team,” said Moorehead.
UCLA running defenders Zach Charbonnet and Britten Brown have combined at least 150 yards in five of seven games this season. Charbonnet did most of the explosive runs early in the season, but the transfer from Michigan has shown he can handle heavy loads with at least 21 carries in four straight games.
While he arrived in Oregon to fight off Penay’s younger brother Sewell, freshman linebacker Noah Sewell is fast making his name for the Duck. He has 32 tackles, including 2 1/2 lose tackles and two sacks in three conference games this season, which Defense Coordinator Tim DeRuiter said reflects Sewell’s relentless pursuit of improvement.
“If we could get everyone on our team to train like him, I don’t know we could lose to anyone,” DeRuiter said.
NWN Sports Review writer Anne Peterson contributed to this report.
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