Oregon got good news on the injury report when it returned to practice Tuesday for the first time during its bye week.
Tight end Jacob Breeland and running back Tony Brooks-James were both “full-go,” according to coach Mario Cristobal, who added that defensive lineman Austin Faoliu should be back to full speed later in the week. All three could resume their regular roles along with backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister when the 18th-ranked Ducks (4-1, 1-1) return to Autzen Stadium to face No. 10 Washington (4-1, 2-0) on Oct. 13.
Breeland and Faoliu each missed Oregon’s 42-24 win over California on Saturday with injuries. Brooks-James returned two kickoffs for 47 yards, but did not play on offense because of ankle injury.
“We thought at running back, that might be too much for his ankle to handle,” Cristobal said during a Tuesday conference call.
Cristobal said that freshman running back C.J. Verdell got an injury “scare” when he took a hard hit against the Bears, but should be fine. Sophomore running back Darrian Felix has missed three straight games with a foot injury, but is expected to return to practice this week.
Burmeister has missed the past three games with a knee injury, but could return late next week.
Many of Oregon’s assistant coaches stayed a couple of extra days in California for recruiting purposes while others headed across the country. The players had Sunday and Monday off before practicing Tuesday after most of the coaches returned to town.
Oregon usually has its most physical practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, but those have been pushed back a day to Wednesday and Thursday this week.
“Focus on fundamentals and technique in every phase of the game,” Cristobal said.
Two coaches will leave to go recruiting Wednesday while the rest will head out Thursday to visit high schools and junior colleges during the weekend. The players will lift weights Friday and take Saturday off before beginning game-week preparations for the Huskies during practice Sunday.
Penalties a problem at Cal
When UO cornerback Haki Woods was called for unsportsmanlike conduct to extend a Cal drive in the second quarter, he was immediately taken out of the game.
“We teach and educate in all we do, but at the same time, we make sure they understand that will not be tolerated,” Cristobal said.
Cal faced third-and-seven at its own 13-yard line when quarterback Brandon McIlwain threw an incomplete pass that was defended by Woods, who turned around to wave his arms at intended receiver Vic Wharton III.
Given a first down at the 28-yard line following the penalty, the Bears drove for a touchdown to take a 10-7 lead.
“With something like that, everyone pays for it,” Cristobal said. “We would have received the ball at midfield as opposed to what ended up being a touchdown. We are not going to have it.”
Oregon linebacker Keith Simms was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after La’Mar Winston returned a fumble 61 yard for a touchdown just before halftime.
Oregon had a season-high seven penalties for 72 yards, including two delay of game calls taken to give punters Tom Snee and Blake Maimone more room to work.
The Ducks are averaging five penalties per game, which if the fewest in the Pac-12.
“I’d say a goal is to be the least-penalized team in the conference,” Cristobal said. “We have made a bunch of progress. You take out the two we took purposely to punt the ball and then two that were absolutely senseless, and that would have kept us on pace for what we are looking at.”
Freshmen are coming on
Some of Oregon’s true freshmen have played in all five games, meaning that they cannot redshirt this season. Cristobal noted some players in that group who have contributed right away and others who could develop as the season goes on.
Penei Sewell is Oregon’s starting left tackle while Travis Dye ranks second on the team with 253 rushing yards. Jevon Holland had two interceptions at Cal to tie for the team lead with three.
“Jevon has really played some good football for us and Penei has been outstanding for us as a starter,” Cristobal said. “Travis continues to get better. … He has provided some explosive plays.”
Linebacker Adrian Jackson has two tackles and cornerback Kahlef Hailassie has one.
“Adrian got some significant snaps on defense early in the season and is more in a special-teams role now,” Cristobal said. “We will work him into the rotation. Pleased with how he is coming along and what he is learning to do. Kahlef is mostly on special teams, but he continues to develop and work on his craft to become a full-time, every-down football player.”
Quarterback Tyler Shough has played in two games along with the sophomore Burmeister, who has not used a redshirt season. Cristobal said he has not determined if either quarterback will be kept at four games or less to preserve a season.
“We are going to let it play out and see where we are at once everyone is healthy,” Cristobal said. “It is hard to predict. You want to save a guy a year if you can, but the way football goes nowadays, a lot of guys are gone in three or four years so that fifth year is never used up.”