A disappointing loss at Nebraska, questions about those two-point conversions and injuries to key players have the Oregon Ducks facing adversity with Pac-12 play at hand.
Oregon fell out of The Associated Press Top 25 following the 35-32 loss at Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Now 2-1, the Ducks host Colorado (2-1) in their Pac-12 opener this weekend.
The loss was costly. It was revealed Monday that receiver and Olympic hurdler Devon Allen had suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee.
The team also said that left tackle Tyrell Crosby is out for the season because of a broken foot that required surgery.
Then there’s running back and Heisman hopeful Royce Freeman, who left the game against the Huskers early after appearing to injure his shin. He was spotted outside of practice on Monday and Tuesday without any kind of brace or boot, so his status for the game against the Buffaloes was not known.
Coach Mark Helfrich said Tuesday that he asked Allen to stay connected with the team, and the junior receiver was at practice on Tuesday although he did not participate. Asked if Allen would play football again, Helfrich replied: “Don’t know, don’t know.”
With Allen’s injury, the Ducks lose tremendous speed at receiver. The junior won the NCAA championship in the 110-meter hurdles then earned a spot in the Rio Games at the Olympic Trials in Eugene this July. He finished fifth in Rio last month.
Allen had a 77-yard touchdown catch against Virginia.
Crosby is considered a potential early-round NFL draft pick. The loss impacts an offensive line that will likely now feature four redshirt freshmen.
As is inevitable after every loss, there has been a lot of analysis going on in the past several days. But no one is dissecting the result in Lincoln more than the Ducks.
One issue that is popping up a lot: Those two-point conversion attempts. The Ducks went for two points on each of their five touchdowns against Nebraska.
“We’ve done it for many years. A lot of teams do what we do in terms of trying to get an ideal look and if it’s there, run it and if it’s not, shift back in and kick it. We need to, I need to, coach that better and get a total understanding of what we want done and we will get that done,” Helfrich said.
For Oregon’s swinging gate formation, the holder, versatile and speedy receiver Charles Nelson, looks to see if the Ducks have the advantage. Helfrich on Tuesday stood by Nelson’s decisions, saying the looks were “perfect” for the first three attempts.
The Ducks were certainly not abandoning the strategy.
“We need to coach it better,” he said. “That would be like if we throw an incompletion that we’re not going to throw the ball again. That’s not how we’re going to operate. Are there things we can do fine-tuning and different? Sure.”
The Ducks have made four of the 11 two-point conversion attempts this season. Meanwhile, kicker Aiden Schneider made each of his 67 PAT attempts last season.
Oregon has also been stung by penalties through the first three games. The Ducks had 13 penalties for 126 yards against Nebraska. They have averaged 104.6 penalty yards a game to rank 126th in the nation.
“Hopefully, we will respond well,” Helfrich said of moving on. “We have responded well to this point. Our guys worked very, very hard yesterday and today. I liked their urgency, I liked their volume — lot of times after a loss it’s quiet when you get back out there. They have stuck together and competed really well.”
AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Nebraska contributed to this report.