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Royce Watch: Heisman Climbing

207 rushing yards against Virginia certainly opened the eyes of the nation to Oregon back Royce Freeman

Oregon v UCLA Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Royce Freeman of the Oregon Ducks declared his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy on Saturday with 236 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against Virginia, amidst the Duck 44-26 onslaught. If it wasn’t already abundantly clear, Freeman should be garnering far more attention than he is currently.

Growing up in Chicago as one of the “only” Oregon Duck and Wisconsin Badger fan’s respectively, earning actual respect was no easy task. You won’t even imagine the obscenities that were shouted at me when I would wear my LaMichael James jersey in downtown Chicago.

“What is a Duck you —-?!” was my personal favorite, but I digress. Earning respect should be easier for someone who possesses the talent of Royce Freeman, but that is not always the case, especially when you live on the west coast.

Located in the northern part of Illinois, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were crammed down your throat like meat and potatoes. Illinois and Northwestern fans are everywhere, believing they are one season away from being legitimate contenders, which is laughable.

My dad was a Northwestern season ticket holder for a decade and half my family has graduated from the University of Illinois, so avoiding their influence was difficult. Nevertheless, it was relatively easy for me as a 6-year-old to choose my two favorites.

For years, I have been puzzled by the lack of publicity and public support for Oregon from the midwest, east and south of our great nation. It is almost as if Eugene does not appear on their collective map. Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest and began wondering how anyone could overlook it, the most beautiful place on earth.

Last season, during March Madness was a perfect example that nobody watches the Ducks, but the people of the west. Oregon was picked by the nation to be the first No. 1 seed eliminated from the basketball tournament because everyone in the midwest and east coast time zone was sleeping when Ducks’ games were being televised, plain and simple.

Oregon State v Oregon
Following his brilliant performance against the Cavaliers, the Heisman voters will be hard-pressed to not start thinking about Royce Freeman as their lead man.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Freeman will really need to put together an amazing campaign for the collection of SEC lovers that can’t stomach any other player from any other conference. 207 rushing yards and two scores in just his second game of the season certainly can’t hurt his chances.

“Initially the hole opened up pretty wide. I knew I had one person to beat, it was probably going to be a safety or corner,” said the Heisman hopeful. “Jalen was really blocking his tail off and I honestly wouldn’t have made that run without him. So, I came to the sideline and showed him some love. Plays like that are what make our receiving core the best.”

By just reading that last statement from Freeman, you can tell what an unselfish player he is with his teammates. They love him and it shows when he does well on the field. It is not just one or two players that congratulate Freeman, it is nearly the entire squad. That is real respect and you can’t fake it.

It was Freeman’s 18th career 100-yard rushing game. With his incredible performance, Freeman is skyrocketing up the Ducks’ all-time rushing list. In fact, he passed Derek Loville for No. 3 on the Oregon all-time rushing ranks on Saturday against the Cavaliers.

For his career, Freeman has 3,492 rushing yards, placing him a little over 1,500 from LaMichael James’ record. However, Kenjon Barner is next in his sight at No. 2 overall with 3,623 career rushing yards.

“Definitely found a little rhythm. There was a lot of times out there where Virginia wasn’t even set and we were snapping the ball, so that always works to our benefit,” said Freeman. “If we could go even faster from here on out, that would just be great.”

The speed and tempo of Oregon’s offense is sure to amplify this week with a much stiffer test on the docket in Lincoln, Nebraska. Freeman understands their season could hinge on how they play this weekend. He is taking nothing for granted.

“Just more aggressiveness. (We need) more discipline as far as penalties, we still had a couple penalties out there,” Freeman mentioned. “Definitely more bringing it to the defense, being patient and going for those extra yards.”

Freeman and the Ducks rank No. 2 in the Pac-12 with 552 total rushing yards as a team. Yet, this writer’s Heisman frontrunner has rushed for 294 of those 552 yards thus far in 2016. Averaging 276.0 yards per contest as a unit, alongside a YPC clip of 6.7 yards, only Arizona State’s backfield ranks higher in the conference.

UC Davis v Oregon
Whether he is alluding defenders or just running them over, Freeman is the most versatile athlete at the running back position in America.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Wear those No. 21 jersey’s loud and proud this week! The biggest challenge of the young season will emerge Saturday, when the Ducks visit corn nation. Nebraska will pose a very difficult challenge, especially against the Oregon rush defense.

The best way to attack the Huskers is rapidly and from all angles; good thing for the quack attack, they are modeled to play that way. It should be a great one from Lincoln!

You can find the Ducks’ game on at 12:30 p.m. local time, so please try to find your nearest Starbucks or Voodoo Doughnut for that wake-up call. If you’re headed to the game, Memorial Stadium is a great place to watch a sporting event.

The Heisman committee will definitely be in attendance with their first opportunity to be awake for an Oregon contest this year. Don’t be late, you have a date with Mr. Freeman and his legion of quack.