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Duck Talk: Limiting turnovers is the focus of Willie Taggart before UCLA

Injuries happen and penalties can be corrected, but the turnovers are a concern of Oregon

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Willie Taggart has the most penalized team in the nation and is playing 13 freshmen, yet turnovers are his chief concern heading into the weekend’s meeting with UCLA.

The Ducks are preparing for their second game of back-to-back California contests. True freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister struggled for the second straight week against a ranked opponent. Nevertheless, he’s not lacking in confidence.

“I don’t think we have to put any confidence in him,” said Taggart assuredly. “I just think he’s got to play better and confidence will come. We have to make sure from a practice standpoint, we put him in those situations more often so he can be sure.”

Burmeister completed just 3-of-8 passes for 23 yards, two interceptions and he lost a fumble. However, he was solid on the ground with 31 rushing yards on nine carries including a touchdown plunge.

“I thought he did a good job running the football,” Taggart stated. “That’s the one thing he looked really comfortable doing when he did run the ball for us. He did some good things from that standpoint.”

Regardless of his running abilities, three turnovers at any level is unacceptable and his coach understands this. Taggart realizes he will only get better with time on the field.

“Early some of those mistakes, which are correctable, he just needs to be more comfortable. I think he’ll continue to get better as we go. There is no better experience than game experience. You take your lumps.”

NCAA Football: Oregon at Stanford
Oregon’s running back group gets hyped before the game against Stanford. With a true freshman quarterback running the show, head coach Willie Taggart must lean on the running game in the coming weeks.
Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback is one of 13 freshmen playing for Taggart this season. Patience is essential with youth and it’s no different for these Ducks. Oregon’s head coach understands the only way to get better is by playing, but mistakes are part of it.

“We definitely can’t turn the football over,” Taggart said. “That’s been two weeks in a row that we’ve turned the ball over two or more times. When you don’t have all your weapons, you can’t afford to give the other team extra possessions.”

With the No. 46 ranked defense in the country, Oregon’s offense must rely on them. Losing your starting quarterback and top weapon would cause most teams to fall off a cliff, especially with so many newcomers. But Taggart is not waving the white flag.

“We got to be smart with the football and take care of the football. If we do a good job of taking care of the football, then things will be a lot better for us.”

Coach Tag and his team are looking to play a sound football game this week. Regardless of the score, they want to limit penalties and turnovers. Obviously, nobody can control injuries, but if you’re disciplined winning will occur. It’s all about being fundamentally solid and UO has been anything but the last two weeks.

Oregon (4-3, 1-3) will continue their California trip with a meeting against UCLA (3-3, 1-2) on Saturday. The last time they met came in 2014 when both were ranked inside the AP Top 20. Marcus Mariota and No. 12 Oregon dominated No. 18 UCLA 42-30 from Pasadena. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. PT from the Rose Bowl via the Pac-12 Network.

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