The I-5: Oregon's got a running back, Oregon State needs a quarterback and we may have been wrong about UCLA
The five things you need to know from this weekend in the Northwest.
EUGENE — The Bucky Irving add back in May was a bit overlooked, wasn’t it?
The Oregon Ducks had already welcomed in one transfer running back in Noah Whittington by then and Dan Lanning had successfully re-recruited a backfield that included returning scholarship runners Byron Cardwell Jr., Sean Dollars and Seven McGee.
The numbers from Irving’s freshman year at Minnesota popped — 699 yards on 133 carries — but still, that’s in the Big Ten, not the juggernaut of the Pac-12. Irving would add depth, most figured, to a position that didn’t really need it.
So it was a bit surprising to see him out there, one, against Georgia in Week 1. And it’s been further surprising to see the 5-foot-10, 194-pound back from Illinois become the most explosive player in Oregon’s backfield through the season’s first five weeks.
Irving rushed for 97 yards on 10 carries in Saturday’s win against Stanford, numbers that would seem extraordinary if he hadn’t already averaged 7.4 yards per carry against Washington State, 6.9 YPC against BYU and 9.3 YPC against Eastern Washington. He has 48 carries this season and 15 of them have gone for 10 or more yards. He’s fifth in the Pac-12 in rushing yards despite having 14 less carries than anyone else in the top five.
Oregon’s leading the Pac-12 in rushing for the first time since 2015. Quarterback Bo Nix is 12th in the Pac-12 with 261 yards, Whittington is 13th with 244 yards and the Ducks still have the ability to use Dollars and Cardwell in spells. But it’s becoming pretty clear that Irving is the most dynamic. In Saturday’s win, Irving showed off his incredible patience and change of speed, often pausing and crouching along as Oregon’s offensive line created holes.
“The guy works really hard, runs really hard, does a good job and I’m consistently proud of his performance in games,” Lanning said. “It’s the same thing that shows up in his work ethic and everything else that he does.”
The sophomore is the first player from his family to play college football and actually quite enjoyed his time at Minnesota. He and the Gophers were in-stride early throughout the former four-star’s recruitment. After a year, he just thought that Oregon offered something better in the end.
“Everybody over there was great. It’s a great program,” he said. “It was just being able to showcase the different things I can do in a different offense.”
Quarterback conundrum deepens for Jonathan Smith, Beavers
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