EUGENE — No. 3 Oregon beat Washington State, 38-24, Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.
Mario Cristobal recapped the Ducks’ six conference win.
Below is a transcript of Cristobal’s postgame press conference.
Q. On the halftime adjustments…
We started fast and we took the momentum and then we allowed for them to take the momentum right back, so we did. We tried some things in the second quarter, we tried to create some explosive plays from a coverage standpoint. They took it away, plus they got a little pressure on us so we made some adjustments at halftime to handle some of their pressures, to create some angles and some leverage on some plays that we thought we could exploit. But we came out and we played really hard, we played hard the entire game. So proud of our guys for doing that
Q. On Travis Dye, Byron Cardwell and the Oregon running game…
Yeah, [Byron] and Seven McGee, he only got a couple carries but he is ready to explode too and so is Trey Benson. Talking about Travis, Travis continues to be a tremendous leader, a difference-maker in this program, one of the best players in college football in our opinion. Anthony again continues to find ways to continue to move our offense, make plays with his arm, with his feet. And then Byron has stepped up and played a significant role and has made some really big runs, some explosive runs, made people miss on contact plus-two. He is a big guy. He plays with older eyes. He sees things and he is a quick study, learns quickly. All in all, just really proud of all those guys.
Q. On Mykael Wright’s impact in the return game…
Huge play. Mykael had been ready to bust out all year long. Blocked it up really well. Good design by (special teams coach Bobby) Williams. Those guys blocked it really well. Mykael hit it and he also broke a couple tackles, almost came out of it clean and went all the way and scored, but a huge boost, tremendous amount of energy that brought to our team. We ended up scoring on that and that kick-started us for the second half.
Q. On not allowing many explosive plays, especially in the run game…
A couple of times they broke contain on us and then a good chunk of those yards are on that last drive when we were playing some f the guys that we need to get better. We played a lot of reserves so certainly that first unit and the guys that are alternating with the first unit they really stepped up. Block construction is paying off. We’re striking blockers. We’re getting off blocks better. We’re making plays. They run the ball well. They really do. They have great running backs. They got two great offensive tackles. They really spread you out with those big splits and our guys just did a really good job controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides and at the end of the day it was the difference in the game.
Q. How do Brandon Dorlus and Kayvon Thibodeaux complement each other?
Brandon Dorlus is as explosive and effective as a defensive lineman you’ll find now. He’s big. He’s powerful, extremely smart, athletic as can be so he has first, second, third down value. He doesn’t have to come out of the game. And when he is playing at the high level like he has been playing lately it changes us. They can’t just focus on Kayvon all the time. Good to see a guy like Jayson Jones also get his first sack of the year. He’s been playing a lot better, developing more and more and more. But a lot of guys – Bradyn Swinson played well, I know Mase [Funa] played well – so a lot of guys stepping up and playing good football.
Q. Can you talk about the impact Verone McKinley III and Bryan Addison had at safety?
I’ll tell you when it was 7-0 and Verone gets that pick, that was another huge bolt of energy to our sideline. Our offensive guys fed off of that big time. That’s what Verone does, Veone is a game-changer for us, as well. He got that interception, tried to hit us on that deep corner ball, and he played it just perfectly. He almost came out of that too. They grabbed him by the jersey, be the face mask, so that actually tacked on some more yardage. Then BA getting his first interception. BA has been through a lot, done a lot and it is great to see him now – his role expanding and getting out there and making such an important play to seal a game like this one. I am really proud of him.
Q. What does it mean to you to be 9-1 with two regular season games left?
We are 1-0. The clock will strike midnight here in about 30 minutes or so. We gotta get back at it. We have to make sure the guys get a good night’s sleep, get some good food in them, some good rest. We are getting better and better as a program. Our run game continues to improve, the way we defend the run continues to improve, we defended the pass well for the most part tonight, albeit that last drive. A lot of parts are coming together. Our special teams units, our coverage units were way better tonight – drastic improvement. We worked on them, it showed up. I have got to mention Kris Hutson, because Kris Hutson’s tackle on the fumble, or what they called a fumble. I don’t have a good TV angle, maybe you guys saw it better than I did, but that thing was getting returned. Kris Hutson getting that defender on the ground, end up making them settle for three, when that really could have turned the game around the other way. That could have been a huge momentum swing. Credit to him for doing that. Things like that are things that stick out. Mykael’s kickoff return, Verone’s interception, the defensive stand after Kris Hutson’s tackle. All of those things are just the catalysts, those things are really are big time plays. Against an excellent – I want to give them a lot of credit – they are a really good football team. That is a team that is very hard to prepare for. They are very unique in what they do on both sides of the ball.
Q. On the crowd at Autzen Stadium…
Awesome, awesome. We needed that, needed to have it. Everyone had a great time, it sounded like everyone had a great time. I know our prospects and recruit’s families had an awesome time. Running out there to start the game and seeing that, and feeling that noise level. We knew it was going to be special. We felt it, it makes our players a couple inches taller and a few pounds heavier and stronger every time the Autzen crowd comes out like that. We really appreciate everyone there tonight. We have got to keep bringing it.
Q. What are your thoughts on the fumbles and the resulting momentum swings?
When they played Arizona State, they were up 34-0, and I believe they forced four turnovers inside of Arizona State’s 25-yard-line. We knew it, we prepped it all week. Our scout team guys were just knocking at the ball, again and again at every opportunity. It was one of the biggest focal points of the week. So, the fact that those things came out were disappointing. The fact that we stick with our guys and just keep coming back with them, and they came back and made plays is awesome, it is. It shows resiliency. A tremendous opportunity to improve in an area. Certainly, as you continue to go on in the season, your wiggle room for errors becomes smaller and smaller. So, we definitely have got to get back to work on that.
Q. Was the game plan for Anthony to run this much?
What they were doing calls for him to use legs tonight and he did it and you look at him, 17 for 22 throwing the ball and then rushing 17 for 128, I mean what they did defensively if you know – we give a lot of pride as coaches in making adjustments and looking for areas to attack, plans of attack. We felt that these things would work and they work only if they are executed at a high level by the players so all the credit goes to the players that executed at a really high level and Anthony used every bit of everything he has to make it a reality.
Q. On Anthony’s fumble at the goal line…
You know obviously you don’t want it to happen because you can go up by 17 and really get close to closing out the game but it also is an opportunity to test the resilience of your team. It really is, and the past a test like that, I mean you’d like to hold them to zero but to hold them to three points, you still have a seven-point game and then take the ball and go right down and score – I mean that’s strong, that’s strong because this team that we played has had a lot of success holding people in the 20′s – 21, 24, 17 range – and we coughed up a couple where we could of really put up some points. So to be able to really bounce back and complete drives, the resiliency and the effort to take down a guy on a fumble because that guy is one block away from making a three-point game, look at the effort when you get a chance, look at the effort of our players trying to get that guy on the ground. I mean that’s really good team football. We’re growing, we’re getting better, 1-0 is sinking in and I think we’re just scratching the surface. I think this team is just getting better and better every single week in a lot of different areas, a lot of different phases. The sky is the limit.
Q. What did you learn from your coaches from how they conducted themselves at this time of year?
Sure, I mean coach Johnson was something else now, he was awesome, great teacher and a mentor. I think it’s different because we’re in a conference. It’s almost like our talent disparity on the teams I was fortunate to play on, really, really talented – those are all Hall of Famers – I’m not but they were, my teammates were, and man I just – the games weren’t paired up with conference games where you had these challenges week in and week out but it was really focusing the team on that one game. I think every coach that I’ve played for or worked for has always emphasized the same stuff and a lot of it we get from that. Just being 1-0. That’s the way to handle it is to just be real man, there’s no other – there’s no head faking. There’s no-nonsense, it’s being very real and truthful and honest with your team, working hard with them and putting in more time than they (are) so that they know that they know you are putting in that time so that they value you as much as you value them and love them up when they need to be loved up and bring it as hard as you can when you know that they need to be forced to be a little bit tougher and little bit stronger and a little bit more callus. As an organization we have that relationship and I think that’s what coach Johnson had with us as players and he could push us, he could push us to the limit and all we could do is come back and ask for more because we knew it was the right way – and we knew it was the way to a 1-0.
Q. How important is it to have strong kick coverage?
Undoubtedly, and it starts with the ball placement, right? Great job by Cam tonight, both on his field goal, extra points, but also on his kickoffs. You saw him get whacked that one time after the field goal and he just got up and he looked like he was upset wanted to kick it even deeper, so credit to him. But the ball placement, the way that we took the line, the speed, our first level avoids. So technique and fundamentals, and then the physicality in that combat zone, in that 15-20 yard area where those guys are fitting you up with their second level blockers, our guys were much better getting hands on blockers, two-gapping, shedding, accelerating through the ball carrier, wrapping up, getting him on the ground. We were much more, we were much better tacklers tonight in a lot of different areas minus the second quarter. But our special teams, certainly we were a much better tacking unit tonight.
Q. How do you feel like your team handled adversity after Travis Dye fumbled?
Well, it was no different than when we started. We all felt that we were gonna have to earn this thing one play at a time. It was gonna have to be that type of fourth quarter urgency and that 1-0 mentality for every single play. That was not gonna change; it couldn’t change. When you’re playing really good teams at this time of year that have the same at stake as you have, you’re gonna get their very best. All focus, all energy poured into making sure that every single rep that we took tonight, that it was gonna be 1-0 rep. It was gonna be a fourth quarter type rep, and same focus on that proved to be the difference.
Q. Are there any updates on Johnny Johnson III’s injury?
No update yet. We’ll evaluate him tonight, tomorrow morning and get that to you as soon as we can.