Bye weeks have always been considered a good thing for any sport team, and this bye seems to be exactly what Oregon needs after a brutal game against the Utah Utes. The Ducks suffered significant injuries during the game — the biggest and most saddening was Pharaoh Brown‘s. The TE went down with a devastating season-ending knee injury. Plus, well-respected and well-known center Hroniss Grasu also suffered a gruesome knee injury during the game. And to top it all off, All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu left the game during the second quarter with a toe injury. All in all, the Utes didn’t allow Oregon to flock out of Salt Lake City with an easy win. Last week’s match-up was a tough battle ’til the end of the game.
For those reasons and more, bye weeks are essential for every team. Oregon has utilized this bye week by training replacements for Grasu and Brown, and also preparing for next week’s home game against the Colorado Buffaloes. With that in mind, here are three significant takeaways from the Ducks’ second bye week of the 2014 season.
1. Pharaoh Brown’s surgery is completed and the Ducks are training his replacements.
That’s right, folks! Brown, who went down with that horrible knee injury against Utah, has had the surgery back home in Cleveland, Ohio and is on the mend. (The junior wasn’t allowed to return to Eugene after he suffered the injury due to the severity of it) Back home, Brown’s mother (who is also a nurse) assisted him during the beginning process of his rehab. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and Oregon tight end coach Tom Osborne stayed in touch with Brown while he was away. According to Osborne, sophomore tight end Evan Baylis will replace Brown at the starting tight end position. Baylis has seen increasing play time recently, after experiencing some issues with his knee early this season. Baylis will finally get his opportunity to play and show Duck fans how big of an impact he can make on the field.
2. Doug Brenner and Marcus Mariota are building strong chemistry.
When Grasu went down with the knee injury against the Utes, redshirt freshman Doug Brenner assumed the starting center position. It’s evident during this bye week he has not only worked with his other starting offensive lineman, but he has also worked with Mariota on building a connection. This year has been a tough one for the Ducks’ offensive line, as lineman such as Jake Fisher, Tyler Johnstone, and Andre Yruretagoyena all have suffered injuries that have limited their time on the field. Truth of the matter is that Brenner and Mariota will need to form a connection soon, as games against the Buffaloes and Beavers are just around the corner.
3. Oregon is ranked No. 2 in the College Football Playoff poll.
Currently, the Ducks have an overall record of 9-1 and would be in the College Football Playoff if the season ended today. This is not set in stone, however, as teams such as Alabama, Ohio State and Baylor can inch their way in and take the Ducks out of the equation. Because Oregon lost some key players, many expect the Ducks to suffer. But, what many don’t realize is that the Ducks have two unforgettable aspects: they have a great quarterback in Mariota, and they have been dealing with the injury bug all season long. In my mind, Oregon will adapt and figure out ways to replace their starters. Also, with only two regular season games left and then the Pac-12 title game, the Ducks truly have a great opportunity to win the national championship despite the injuries. Bottom line: Oregon controls its own destiny.
It’s been a hectic week for the Ducks; however, because Oregon is taking advantage of this second bye week by working toward getting healthy and training replacements, it’s evident that the Ducks should be fine moving forward.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck