Gus Cumberlander was smiling when he walked out of Oregon practice Tuesday as if he was still replaying the best game of his college career in his mind.
However, those around the Ducks will tell you that the junior has carried that same demeanor since he arrived as a three-star prospect from Ellenwood, Ga. The 6-foot-7 defensive end played sparingly in 13 games during his first two years before before playing in every game this season, including a two-sack performance in Saturday’s 31-29 win over Arizona State that he sealed with a fumble recovery.
“I was glad the opportunity came up and I was ready to go any time my number was called,” Cumberlander said.
ASU faced third-and-nine at its own 47-yard line, needing a first down and maybe 20 additional yards to get in position for a potential game-winning field goal. La’Mar Winston sacked Manny Wilkins and stripped the ball into the hands of Cumberlander to end ASU’s final drive with 3:02 left in the game.
“That was crazy because it all happened so fast,” Cumberlander said. “All I saw was the ball in the air and my instinct was go go after it. It is funny because of how they were playing, I kind of thought something like that might happen.”
Cumberlander got more time on the field when Jalen Jelks left early due to injury, and he had two sacks in the final 17 minutes. Both came on third-and-long, forcing the Sun Devils to punt both times.
“That felt amazing, so much hard work with the guys in preparation and watching film every day, trying to find the smallest things to get better at,” he said.
With Jelks sitting out practice Tuesday, Cumberlander could be in line for more playing time when Oregon (7-4, 4-4) visits Oregon State (2-9, 1-7) at 1 p.m. Friday. Cumberlander said he expects Jelks to play and even if he does, Cumberlander may have earned more snaps after getting a career-high four tackles against the Sun Devils. Cumberlander’s two sacks matched the total from his first 22 games with the Ducks.
“Being behind Jalen and the guys, we have a lot of people like Drayton Carlberg and Gary Baker, we are all in the same class,” Cumberlander said. “We have so many guys at the position that we can rotate and the trust we built with one another helps. The biggest key is everybody playing fast.”
Cumberlander had three tackles as a freshman and none in five games last year. Four of Cumberlander’s 10 tackles this season have been sacks for a combined loss of 23 yards.
“I think Gus is a great example of the three-year-down-the-road guy, who you saw the long body type, you saw the athleticism, new at the sport, played multiple sports,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “And so recognition and reaction was probably something he was getting used to, but as time goes on he continues to work the same techniques and fundamentals that come with that position.
"The mother of all learning, the repetition, just again and again and again, like peanut butter and jelly, all of a sudden it becomes second nature. Those hips roll, those feet are on the ground, those hips unlock, you get full extension. Now you start using the gifts that you have, your ability. He’s really shown it and he’s another one that is just now scratching the surface to what he’s going to continue to develop into.”