Oregon's Fisher keys O-line turnaround
EUGENE — Jake Fisher deserved all of the attention and praise he received on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.
Without the steady left tackle in the lineup, Oregon’s running game averaged 190 yards per game and 3.9 yards per attempt against Washington State and Arizona.
Marcus Mariota was sacked a dozen times in the two tightly contested Pac-12 games.
On Saturday, the Ducks ran for averaged 6.3 yards per rush and finished with 258 yards on the ground during the 42-30 victory over UCLA.
Mariota was not sacked and finished with 285 yards of offense and four touchdowns.
After watching the film, coach Mark Helfrich said Fisher was indeed a major factor in the dramatic turnaround, but a group effort unlike any the coaching staff had seen from this offensive line leading into the game was the key.
“I definitely think it was the collective effort of all those guys,” Helfrich said during his Sunday press conference at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. “The O-line especially practiced at a much better level than they ever have before. Now the challenge is to make that the new norm. That’s the new standard.”
Fisher, who suffered an apparent knee injury on Sept. 13 against Wyoming, made the start at left tackle. Matt Pierson started at right tackle and rotated with true freshman Tyrell Crosby.
After holding up well against UCLA’s physical front on a hot day in Pasadena, Fisher was a little dehydrated but otherwise unscathed. Playing alongside left guard Hamani Stevens and center Hroniss Grasu is kind of like riding a bike for the senior.
“From a communication standpoint, I think it helps a bit. Obviously, I have been here for four years compared to Tyrell and some other (younger) guys,” Fisher said. “They don’t lack experience, but they lack a little bit of confidence. I think I bring a little more confidence to Hroniss, Hamani and Marcus.”
There was an unsung hero on the offensive line who had one shining moment.
Stetzon Bair, who is making the transition from the defensive line to add depth at the injury-riddled offensive tackle position, had to enter the game for one snap when Fisher and Crosby were both regrouping on the sideline.
Royce Freeman scored a 4-yard touchdown on the play to give Oregon a 35-10 lead.
“We had a weird little sequence there where Jake Fisher was unavailable, Tyrell had his helmet kind of torn off, then Stetzon goes in and we scored the touchdown right over the top of him,” Helfrich said. “So it was a pretty cool deal there.”
Top 10 once again
Oregon moved up from No. 12 to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll right behind No. 8 Michigan State, a team the Ducks defeated in September at Autzen Stadium.
Arizona, which went from unranked to No. 10 after upsetting Oregon, checks in at No. 16 after losing to USC on Saturday. The Trojans are No. 22.
The other Pac-12 teams in the poll are No. 17 Arizona State, No. 20 Utah and No. 23 Stanford.
The Ducks are also No. 9 in the coaches poll, moving up from No. 11.
The College Football Playoff selection committee will release its first rankings on Oct. 28.
Effort? Are you kidding me?
Jim Mora Sr. was a terrific NFL coach perhaps best known for his “Playoffs?” postgame rant after a tough loss for the Indianapolis Colts.
After Oregon’s victory over the Bruins, Jim Mora Jr. took exception to a reporter questioning his team’s effort.
“Effort? Do you see our team fight until the very end there? You need to give credit where credit is due,” Mora said after UCLA scored the game’s final 20 points. “That is a very talented team that has been running the same system for a very long time. Effort? The word ‘effort,’ I get a little bit sensitive to.
“When you see the way we fought until the end, I don’t think you can question effort. It can be execution or scheme, but it certainly was not effort.”
Helfrich said 5-1 Washington, which visits Autzen Stadium at 5 p.m. Saturday, has the most versatile defense the Ducks will have faced so far this season.
The Huskies have created 15 turnovers, including a 100-yard fumble return by Shaq Thompson on Saturday during a win at California. … Matt Wogan (special teams), Tony Washington (defense) and Pharaoh Brown (offense) earned the Ducks’ team awards for players of the week.