Mario Cristobal addressed the media on Monday ahead of Oregon’s final non-conference game on Saturday against Montana.
After blowing out Nevada 77-6 last week in Autzen, the Ducks’ focus is on avoiding complacency and staying hungry for improvement.
“Lots of room for improvement,” Cristobal said. “What we gathered from the tape: Sure we’re getting better, but we still haven’t seen our best football. We still haven’t seen our best performance.”
When asked what was left to improve on before Pac-12 play, Cristobal hammered home the emphasis on physicality at the line of scrimmage — a recurring theme for the 2019 Oregon Ducks.
“You can’t let yourself lose eye discipline,” he said. “You still gotta play fast, you got to play physical, play blocks and knock back defenders, then figure it out on the run. Sometimes we just caught ourselves peeking or not completely finishing a block.”
Cristobal addressed injuries as well, saying that wideout Juwan Johnson is 50/50 for Saturday's game against Montana. He said that if Johnson were to sit out again this week, he would almost surely be ready for the following week on the road at Stanford.
Having Johnson back this week could help depth and size to an injury-ridden group of wide receivers.
In other news, tight end Cam McCormick is still day-to-day and Andrew Johnson is ready to play after tweaking a hamstring. Freshman Mycah Pittman, who injured his shoulder back in mid-August still no timetable for return.
One of the offensive stars from Saturday’s blowout was backup running back Darrian Felix. Felix went for over 100 all-purpose yards, adding a touchdown — his second of the season. His recent performance could help him break out into a bigger role moving forward.
“He’s part of [the starter conversation] now,” Cristobal said of Felix. “He’s had some health issues early on … now he feels healthy, he is showing it in the way he practices and obviously the way he performed.”
Felix added: “We all bring something different to the table … we are very close friends, basically brothers in there. We try and keep the group close.”
Another theme of the young season has been the number of impact freshmen on defense. While many are seeing time in backup roles, when they do enter the game there is seemingly little to no drop-off.
Cristobal attributes their early success to preparation and a hunger to get better.
“You’ve seen the way we practice,” Cristobal said. “They’re very organized, very detailed … There is a rhyme and reason for everything, the what to do, how to do and why we do it that way. And like any player, when they see themselves have success they want more.”
When the young defenders get an opportunity to play, they make the most of it. This shows up in the open-field tackling Oregon has displayed thus far.
“Our guys actually think they can get a lot better,” Cristobal said. “We work tackling drills on a daily basis … We’ve really emphasized rugby tackling as well, making sure that we’re wrapping up well.”
After a heartbreaking loss in week one, the Ducks are re-energized, rejuvenated, and ready to wreak havoc on the Pac-12. First, they have to get past one more non-conference test.
“Saturday can’t get here soon enough,” Cristobal said.
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