Royce Freeman and the Ducks were crucified by the No. 5 Washington Huskies on Saturday, 70-21. A “rebuilding” season is upon us without much warning, so get ready to watch some youthful football moving forward.
The Duck workhorse was unworkmanlike with just 50 yards on 11 carries and one reception for no yards. Freeman also uancharaterically fumbled away a golden opportunity early-on in the blowout from Autzen Stadium.
It was Freeman’s first time in open space on Saturday and for a little part of it, he was masterful. On the final third of his run though, gaining speed and nearing the end zone, the Huskies defense stepped up in a major way to poke the ball free on the 7-yard-line.
Washington defensive back JoJo McIntosh made the touchdown-saving turnover deep in Huskies’ territory. Oregon scored just three times, so every opportunity was important, albeit sparse, last weekend.
For the season, Freeman has rushed for 513 yards on 67 carries including seven touchdowns on the ground. He has also received six balls for 47 yards. Yet, he isn't going to catch up to LaMichael James’ record anytime soon if he is only touching the ball 12 times a game.
No matter the script, Freeman needs to be fed the rest of the way. This is his swan song season and he has a real opportunity to break the Oregon all-time rushing mark. He must be used at an exponential rate however, needing just under 1,500 total yards in the final six games of the season. At this pace, Oregon may not have the luxury of bowl game.
Nevertheless, at 2-4 and clearly at the bottom of the Pac-12 North, all four talented running backs should have mass opportunities. Even Charles Nelson should be sprinkled in for an occasional run.
Tony Brooks-James will look to continue his impressive season in the coming weeks, which could derail any hope of the record being dethroned by Freeman. Taj Griffin has been very good lately, scoring almost at will when he is on the field. And enough good things can not be said about Kani Benoit, who really stepped up as the fourth back on the depth chart this season.
For now, Oregon has a bye week and desperately needs it. All four running backs should put their feet up for a few days because after six games in 2016, the running back position has been the best and most consistent part of Oregon football, period.
Hopefully head coach Mark Helfrich allows Freeman an opportunity to become No. 1 all-time in Oregon rushing history. However, most would exchange a record being broken for a bowl game appearance any day of the week. Right now, The Meineke Car Care Bowl aka The Continental Tire Bowl would be welcomed by Helfrich and company.
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