Let’s take a moment to re-live the Oregon vs Cal game from last season. We all remember the rain, right? In one of the wettest games in Autzen history, the Ducks marched onto a 55-16 victory over the Golden Bears. There is one play in particular that needs to be recognized. It was the first quarter, Marcus Mariota swung out to his left and threw an out route to wide receiver Josh Huff.
Then Huff made a move to the outside and ran in for the 22-yard touchdown. But how did he get so open? Sure Huff is fast, but there was also a gaping hole to the outside. What you might not have noticed was the crucial block downfield from Keanon Lowe (No. 7), which cleared out defenders and created a lane for Huff to explode through and into the end zone.
Don’t let his size at 5’9, 186 lbs fool you; Lowe acted like a bulldozer downfield, creating that necessary space for the Ducks’ receivers to find their way into the end zone. Lowe gave us a glimpse of what it takes to be a Duck and just how dedicated he is to this program.
It was gut-punching for Duck fans to read the news that star wide receiver Bralon Addison went down with a season-ending injury. Fans, coaches and opposing teams all anxiously awaited the names of the starting receiving core to be announced, with Addison now out of the lineup. With all the hype surrounding Johnathan Lloyd joining the team and freshman track standout Devon Allen making his move toward a starting berth on the Duck football team, Lowe has remained patient and steady for the past four seasons with the Ducks.
With a heavy heart for his friend, Lowe explained his deep sympathy for his friend Addison. “It hurt me just because he is a good friend of mine,” he said. “You never want to see any of your friends go through something like that. That’s kind of what football is, on any given day or any given play, you can go down. And I know he will be a stronger player when he gets back. He’s been working hard and helping us and is still a huge part of this team. He has a big influence on people.”
Addison offered guidance to Lowe, as well as the other young receivers on the team. “All of us are playing this year with him [Addison] on our minds,” Lowe continued. “He would have killed to be out there with us.”
As a senior leader on a team of underclassmen, Lowe demonstrates his leadership both on and off the field. “I’ve just been trying to share my story with the team and how I’ve developed with this program,” he said. “It wasn’t always easy for me. I remember the rough days. This is my fifth year, so I’ve been here for a while. I just try to remind them it’s not always easy, you’re going to have hardships the whole way. But you just got to keep going at it and keep pushing. And then I’m always in everyone’s ear in the film room and out there on the practice field.”
New players offer new perspectives on the team. They bring new skills to the table and have a lot of growing room. The relationship between a senior and a freshman is quite interesting. Both players teach each other. “They’ve been teaching me a lot,” Lowe explained. “We’ve got a great group of guys, great competitors. I’m teaching them but at the same time, they push me to compete with them because we all want to be the best.”
Football is a game of misdirection. The shake and bake as some may call it. The Ducks have this concept down to near perfection and are close to impossible to defend. With running backs such as Thomas Tyner, Byron Marshall and Royce Freeman, receivers have to be ready for the possibility of a quick cut back to the outside.
As Lowe explains, “The play might be to the right and you’re lined up to the left, but you never know when the running back will change direction. So you could technically take the play off or you could bust your butt over there and try and cut off someone just in case he breaks through. A lot of the time you’ll be sprinting over there for no reason. But that one time that it pays off for a touchdown is all worth it.”
With the first game finished and a victory in the books, the Ducks now look to cross-country opponent Michigan State. The No. 8-ranked Spartans won impressively over Jacksonville State last week. Sports analyst Joe Rexrode of the Detriot Free Press Sports explained, “Michigan State has earned a reputation for having one of the nation’s toughest and innovative defenses.”
This Saturday will be a game to not miss. Lowe has prior experience in games like this. Both he and Addison have to take charge in order to settle the nerves for the rest of the receiving core. A deep threat presence and agile quarterback will hopefully spread the Spartans’ defense thin, creating gaping holes all over the field.
Lowe is the player to make it happen, and he welcomes the challenge. “I’m the most excited person on the team,” he said.
Top photo by Kevin Cline