Derrick Malone has been around the block. The redshirt senior will play his fifth game against Stanford on Saturday, a team he has gone 2-2 against during his tenure at Oregon. In the two years Malone actually saw any playing time, Oregon went 0-2. Will Malone come out and say that this game means more to him than another game?
No. That’s not how Oregon is coached; however, we can assume Malone will play with a chip on his shoulder in his last game against the Cardinal. The senior linebacker is the team’s second-leading tackler, and Oregon’s defensive intensity all starts with him. He helps set the tone for the whole game, and Oregon desperately needs him to show up big on Saturday.
I got a chance to talk to Malone about what this game means to him. Even though he said this game was no different than any other, he mentioned, “This is a one-week playoff. Every week is a playoff game.” Regardless if the opponent is Stanford or a Pee Wee flag football team, the Ducks will have to carry that mentality everywhere they go until the last down of the regular season.
I also asked Malone how he felt about Oregon’s No. 5 ranking by the Playoff Committee. He laughed the question off, saying, “When Chip [Kelly] was here he ingrained in me that we never watch that stuff.” Of course, everyone at Oregon would like to be in the Top 4, but Malone made a good point that, “If we take care of business each and every week then it’s not going to matter.” It’s easy to get caught up in rankings and how the Ducks fare against everyone else, but if the team isn’t 100 percent focused on each and every game, then the playoff situation won’t matter at all.
Finally, I asked Malone how he felt heading into the game. He said, ”I’ve been battling with some old man injuries. I have a lot more knowledge of the game; I’m way more of a leader. I’m having fun out here. I’m enjoying this last ride.”
He also said the team as a whole looks good. ”I feel like we’re a better team. We’re better physically and mentally.” No matter what happens out there on Saturday, one thing is for sure: Malone will give it his all. I just hope everyone else on the team follows his lead.
Top photo by Craig Strobeck