EUGENE, Oregon — The Oregon Ducks are headed to Nevada for the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl vs the Boise State Broncos. It will be UO’s first bowl appearance in two years. Head coach Willie Taggart led his team to a 7-5 regular season record amid his debut year with the green and yellow.
“Great opportunity for our football team,” said Taggart on Sunday. “To go to Vegas, I know it’s a bowl game our guys really wanted to play in. Get to play against a Top 25 football team in Boise State. It’s going to be fun.”
The bad blood between them is storied. Not many have forgotten the last time these two met in Idaho in September of 2009. That night, BSU defeated the Ducks 19-8 but the headline was LeGarrette Blount’s punch after the game.
“Our guys are fired up for it,” Taggart replied. “Like we said a few weeks ago, we got an opportunity to finish this season winning eight ballgames. That’s important to our guys and all of us with the progress we’re making with the football team. Looking forward to it.”
Not to mention, Lexus Williams and the BSU basketball team just handed Oregon an earth-shattering end to their nation-best home win-streak from Matthew Knight Arena on Friday night. UO would love another opportunity at their athletic program, no matter the sport.
“I think we all know how bad they wanted to play in this bowl game,” said UO’s head coach. “When they got news of it, they were really excited.”
This will be extra special for someone like senior Tyrell Crosby, who is from Henderson.
“You think about a guy like Tyrell Crosby,” Taggart stated. “He gets to go back home and play in a bowl game. Not often you get to do that in your college career. I know he’ll be fired up. Ooh we, just imagine that guy fired up to play football, which he is every single week. I think it’s great for a guy like Tyrell and all of our guys. It should be great anyway, we got a chance to play in a bowl game.”
During a campaign that saw Taggart start a true freshman at quarterback, Oregon battled to win seven games. A closer look at the numbers illustrate that the Ducks are 6-1 with Justin Herbert starting, including averaging just over 52 points per game.
“I think it’s always good to go against really good competition,” Taggart responded. “I do think it will give us a good idea where we’re at with our football team. Whenever you play a Top 25 team, I think it’s great for your team, your program. It’s great if you win it. If you don’t win it, it’s not good. Our guys will be ready for it.”
The football program hasn’t been able to fully embrace this magnificent moment due to the constant swirling rumors about the future of Taggart. Seemingly overnight, social media has become obsessed with the whereabouts of Oregon’s lead man.
Well, they won’t need to wonder where he is on December 16. He should be patrolling the sideline for the Ducks.
This season, Oregon finished with the No. 25 overall offense in the country, alongside the eighth ranked rushing attack (268.0 YPG) led by running back coach Donte Pimpleton.
As for the bowl status of Royce Freeman, it’s still up in the air with the NFL on his horizon. Taggart addressed it on Sunday afternoon at his press conference from the Casanova Center.
“We haven’t. Something we’ll sit down and talk about with him. I know Royce been practicing with us. We’ve had three practices with him and Tyrell. I’m anticipating those guys playing. It will be great to be full strength.”
We can only imagine where the Ducks would land with a healthy Herbert for all 12 games. The sophomore tossed for 1,750 passing yards, including 13 touchdowns to only three interceptions in 2017. If he stays upright during his junior year, UO will stand to benefit.
Defensively, it was a remarkable improvement from the last regime led by Brady Hoke. Overall, UO and defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt boast the 41st-best defensive group in the nation, alongside the No. 26 ranked rush defense (131.2 YAPG) nationally.
For seniors like Freeman, Crosby, Charles Nelson, Kani Benoit and Aidan Schneider, this will be their last opportunity to officially represent the Ducks in a game. You can bet they want to exit college with a big victory.
“We want to go out and win the bowl game,” said UO’s head coach.
Following back-to-back wins against Arizona and Oregon State to conclude their regular season, the Ducks are just excited to have an opponent to focus on now. The next two weeks will be consumed by preparation for BSU.
UO will resume their regular practice schedule, as the coaches prepare for another recruiting trip. Some adjustments will be made over the next few days, but the head coach doesn’t worry about things he can’t control.
“We’ll have to change some things up,” Taggart said. “We have a big time recruiting weekend coming up. It is what it is. We’ll play and adjust when we have to.”
Next up for Oregon (7-5) is Boise State (10-3) on Saturday, Dec. 16 from Sin City. Kickoff is slated for 12:30 p.m. PT from Sam Boyd Stadium. The game will be televised live on ABC.