Linebacker Dye strong in debut
EUGENE — Six true freshman made their debut for No. 24 Oregon on Saturday, but none stood out like linebacker Troy Dye.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound starter from Norco, Calif., had a game-high 11 tackles — seven solo, four assisted — and a sack in the Ducks’ 53-28 win against UC Davis at Autzen Stadium.
Overall, Dye had 4.5 tackles for a combined loss of 20 yards, and he also blocked a field goal in the second half.
“It was great,” Dye said. “The atmosphere was wonderful, it was what I expected. The way I played, I didn’t expect it at all. I just read what I read and played fast and physical as coaches told me to do. I just had fun.”
The development of Oregon’s young linebackers is key for the defense this season. The Ducks lost all of their starting linebackers from last season and started Dye, junior college transfer A.J. Hotchkins and senior Johnny Ragin III on Saturday.
Preparation helped Dye get into the rotation so quickly, he said.
“Knowing the playbook is a great asset because if you don’t know the playbook you’re not going to play fast,” Dye said. “I like to read the playbook over a lot, watch film a lot, so I can go out there and play physical.”
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich predicted this was just the beginning for Dye.
“Troy’s a really good football player,” Helfrich said. “He has nothing but his best in front of him as he develops just from a maturity standpoint. We love his future. He’ll be on the field for us a bunch.”
BOOM OR BUST: Helfrich called Oregon’s return game “boom or bust” after Saturday’s win, and it certainly was that for dynamic kick returner Charles Nelson.
The junior totaled 251 yards combined on four kickoff returns and four punt returns for an average of 31.4 yards.
But he also had two fumbles, including one following the opening possession of the game for UC Davis that eventually led to a touchdown for the Aggies. Nelson dropped a punt, giving the ball back to the Aggies at the Ducks’ 33-yard line and they quickly scored to take a 7-0 lead.
Nelson’s second fumble came at the end of the third quarter when he was stripped on a kickoff return at the Oregon 31.
Helfrich wasn't sweating Nelson's miscues.
“I would bet my mortgage and everything else that I have on Charles Nelson every time out,” Helfrich said. “That guy’s going to make a million plays for us.”
OLYMPIAN RETURNS: Olympic hurdler Devon Allen marked his return to the football team with a carry on a reverse in the first quarter that went for 6 yards.
The redshirt junior receiver, who was fifth in the Rio Games in the 110-meter hurdles three weeks ago, didn’t have a catch.
“Today I was in pretty good shape other than my feet hurting from cleats,” Allen said.
Allen was a bit of a celebrity on the field Saturday, with members of the UC Davis team congratulating him on his Olympic performance during breaks in the action.
“When you compete for Team USA, pretty much everyone is rooting for you which is very cool,” Allen said. “To have some fans on the other team is pretty cool as well.”
BROWN’S BACK: Pharaoh Brown’s miraculous recovery from a gruesome leg injury is now complete.
The senior tight end played for the first time in nearly two years on Saturday and had one catch for 23 yards.
It was his first game back since a freak injury against Utah on Nov. 8, 2014, when he tore ligaments in his knee and damaged an artery in his leg.
“It was great just get back out there, break a couple tackles,” Brown said. “It was fun to be back in that atmosphere. And it’s always good when the Ducks win.”
NOTES: One streak ended and another was extended on Saturday.
Oregon’s stretch of 110 consecutive sellouts at Autzen Stadium is over, with Saturday’s attendance of 53,817 falling just short of the 54,000 needed to fill the stands.
The streak began in 1999.
Dakota Prukop’s three passing TDs marked the 82nd game in a row Oregon has recorded a touchdown through the air. It’s an NCAA record the Ducks have held since passing Texas Tech’s previous NCAA best of 69 straight games.