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Duck Talk: Willie Taggart Knows Oregon Must Match Cal’s Energy on Saturday

The Ducks have their hands full with a solid Bear team

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Willie Taggart is finding out how the other half lives after losing his first career game with Oregon. Amid a tough loss in Tempe, the team is facing more than just Pac-12 opponents these days.

After the NFL protests over the weekend, Taggart was asked to share his thoughts on justice and equality for all people.

“I think it’s very important. We always talk as a football team. I think it’s our job as coaches to always educate our guys. We want to make sure we’re educated on what’s going on and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Taggart is extremely open with his players and they embrace it. In fact, the head man encourages his team to have open discussions, especially if they have questions or opinions.

“We always talk about things,” Taggart said without pause. “Our guys know they can always bring things up. We’re going to talk about it. We have to continue to educate our young people.”

It’s very important we understand that these players are still people with rights and needs like everyone else. At times, some lose sight of this because they play for their favorite team or get paid an inordinate amount at the professional level.

We move forward but hopefully, we never lose perception of what’s really going on in the world.

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals
The protests of the NFL via the national anthem have been met with mixed emotions. Some believe the players are choosing the wrong platform, while others feel it’s the most powerful time to deliver a message. Nevertheless, the Dallas Cowboys knelt in unison on Monday Night Football.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Ducks’ head coach gave his team 24 hours to “feel bad” after their loss to Arizona State, but that time is over. UO is now squarely focused on a talented California team who is set to visit Autzen this Saturday.

Taggart has been harping on penalties since he arrived. Yet, his reaction to Tony Brooks-James’ penalty was met with criticism by some in the media. Regardless, the head coach did what he thought was right. It’s only fitting that the camera didn’t catch the fatherly moment with his running back.

“I was ticked off he got the penalty after making a great play,” Taggart stated about TBJ. “That was a teaching lesson, again for us. I may have said it demanding with a little intensity, but that’s the way I felt then. I did go back and grab him by the helmet to tell him I love him. The camera didn’t get that.”

Jalen Jelks had his breakout performance on Saturday but he’s been opening eyes at practice since the spring. His coach loves what he’s bringing to the table thus far.

“Each week he’s getting better and better,” said Taggart. “I have been really impressed with his toughness. He’s been getting beat up, but he fights his tail off. He showed what he’s capable of doing.”

Shifting his attention to Oregon’s next opponent, Taggart remembers watching the double-overtime 52-49 loss in Berkeley last season. He understands even without their quarterback Davis Webb (New York Giants), Cal presents a formidable test. Just ask USC who escaped with a 30-20 victory after a first-half deadlock last weekend.

“When I first got here, I looked at the past (game) tape,” Taggart replied. “Been really focused on this year. They’re playing really good team football. They’re physical. They’re well coached, playing with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball.”

Justin Wilcox is the new head man on campus for the Bears. Like Taggart, Wilcox has infused the program with renewed energy and hope. The Bears are young and determined in 2017.

“You see a team playing their tails off for their new coach and taking on his personality,” Taggart stated.

Cal is ranked No. 62 nationally in total offense, while they leave something to be desired with their No. 106 listing on defense. Regardless, with a new gunslinger under center, there will be moments of disaster and greatness.

Oregon v California
Justin Herbert had his finest game as a collegiate player in Berkeley last season. Then, the true freshman completed 22-of-40 attempts for 258 passing yards, six touchdowns, and one interception. Unfortunately, Oregon landed on the losing end of an epic Pac-12 clash.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Quarterback Ross Bowers has already thrown for eight interceptions with six touchdowns this season. He completed 55 percent of his passes thrown, but who knows which team is on the other side of that completion? It will be interesting with Oregon entering the contest as heavy (-13) favorites.

Last season, Justin Herbert matched a program record with his performance against the Bears on the road. He tied five others on an impressive list for the most TD passes in a single game in Oregon program history: Danny O’Neil (‘94), Joey Harrington (‘00), Darron Thomas (‘11), Marcus Mariota (‘12) and Vernon Adams (‘15). The Eugene product will be looking for similar success in his own backyard.

Royce Freeman was injured and did not play against the Bears in 2016, so don’t be surprised if leaves them with a memento to remember him. TBJ handled the starting duty last year, carrying 15 times for 109 yards and a score.

Next up for the Ducks (3-1) is a rematch with California (3-1) at Autzen Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. PT via Fox Sports 1.

Stay tuned, if you want to; Twitter @TheQuackFiend Gram @eugene_levys_eyebrows