CB Daewood Davis, TE Spencer Webb will try to help injury-depleted WR position
Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman and Brenden Schooler made the trip to Arlington, Texas, but only needed to pack street clothes.
The wide receiver trio, each in the mix for starting spots before getting injured ahead of the opener, could only watch helplessly from the sideline as No. 11 Oregon lost 27-21 to No. 16 Auburn on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Coach Mario Cristobal said during his Monday news conference that Johnson remains “day to day” with a leg injury that prevented the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Penn State transfer from making his debut with the Ducks.
Pittman (shoulder) and Schooler (foot) are still weeks away from returning to the lineup. Cristobal announced freshman receiver JR Waters’ injury is season ending.
Daewood Davis, who switched from receiver to cornerback, will be returning to offense due to the lack of depth.
“Daewood has been a very unselfish player,” Cristobal said of the speedy 6-2 sophomore. “He will spend his time right now solely on wide receiver given the amount of guys we have out. Because JR is done for the year, Mycah won’t be back until whenever they deem him ready to play again, same with Schooler.
“We have a good amount of injuries.”
The receiving corps set the tone for the roller coaster ride inside “Jerry World.”
Johnny Johnson shook off his sophomore slump and finished with seven receptions for 98 yards, and Jaylon Redd added a team-high nine receptions for 64 yards.
Redshirt freshman Bryan Addison dropped a touchdown in the back of the end zone that would have given the Ducks an early 14-0 lead. Then Camden Lewis compounded the miscue by shanking a 20-yard field goal wide right.
Oregon squandered another scoring chance in the red zone when quarterback Justin Herbert fumbled after colliding with running back CJ Verdell in the backfield.
“When both teams play that hard, you have to give credit to the other team. I think it’s an insult to football when you just say you kind of gave something away,” Cristobal said. “We played hard, and for a good chunk of that game we had our opportunities to close it out. But when you don’t, you just look yourself in the mirror and you take it as a team, as coaches and as players.
“That’s what our team has done. There is no finger pointing.”
Cam McCormick is not ready to return to practice, but Cristobal has not ruled the junior tight end out for the home opener against Nevada on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (4:45 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Spencer Webb, the versatile 6-6, 246-pound redshirt freshman who caught Herbert’s only touchdown pass against Auburn, will play receiver and tight end for the depleted Ducks.
Cristobal said Patrick Herbert, the 6-5, 245-pound true freshman tight end from Sheldon High, will also have an expanded role as the coaches look for more play-makers in the passing game.
“These are two big bodies, they’re very athletic, natural route runners, catch the ball really well,” Cristobal said. “So both those guys will continue to grow in these particular situations and positions to see if they can help us out more.”
Oregon’s defense only had 10 players on the field for Box Nix’s 11-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Eli Stove, which started Auburn’s second-half comeback from a 21-6 deficit.
Overall, Cristobal was still pleased with how Andy Avalos’ unit communicated and played in the former Boise State defensive coordinator’s first game with the Ducks.
Nix was held to 13-for-21 passing for 177 yards with two touchdowns, including the 26-yard game-winner to Seth Williams with nine seconds left, and two interceptions.
JaTarvious Whitlow ran for 116 yards as the Tigers out-gained the Ducks 206-90 on the ground.
“Those guys played well. They were very organized, very detailed,” Cristobal said of his defense. “They caught us in tempo one time, and that’ll get you. If you’re trying to substitute, especially when you’re so far away from your bench and you’re trying to get that thing communicated and guys are coming in, guys are coming out.
“Credit to them, they caught us in tempo there.”
Oregon’s defense appears to have come out of the physical game relatively unscathed, but Cristobal announced the foot injury sophomore outside linebacker Adrian Jackson suffered last week in practice is season ending.
Mase Funa, one of eight true freshmen to play in the opener, replaces Jackson as the primary backup to La’Mar Winston at the “Sam” position.
Funa had one tackle for loss against the Tigers. His touted classmate, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, also had one tackle.
“They all did a really good job,” Cristobal said of the 2019 recruits who made their collegiate debut. “Mase Funa, Kayvon, saw a lot of impressive play. I could go on and on about those guys. But I think we’ll play even more, a couple of more guys deserve to play. A lot of guys played on special teams as well. Certainly, happy with their progress.”
After Chip Kelly’s team lost a marquee opener to an SEC program in 2011 at AT&T Stadium (40-27 to then-No. 4 LSU), the Ducks started a nine-game winning streak with a 69-20 romp over Nevada en route to the Rose Bowl.
Oregon will try to see if history can repeat itself when the Wolf Pack, coming off a dramatic 34-31 stunner over Purdue, visits Autzen again.
“They’re very organized, they’re well coached,” Cristobal said. “Real good football team.”