BY JEREMY HOECK
EUGENE, Ore. – I overheard someone in Eugene say on Thursday, “We could probably score 100 (points) if we wanted to.”
The idea, obviously, is that the University of Oregon could do just about anything it wanted to against the University of South Dakota for Saturday night’s season-opening college football game.
The question is: Will the Ducks do that? Will they need to?
Let’s be honest, the game is going to get out of hand, and quickly. Oregon is simply too fast, too talented, too deep, too experienced, too everything. They’re among the elites of college football. They’re expected to pound FCS opponents – that’s the whole reason they schedule these games.
One website I came across has the Ducks favored by 51 points, and that’s probably giving USD a little credit.
The truth is, Oregon will have a hard time NOT scoring. Their offense – if you’ve watched any of the Ducks’ games in recent seasons – is based on the idea that you never stop. In last season’s 66-3 win over FCS Nicholls State, Oregon had scoring drives that averaged six plays and 67 yards. And in all, the Ducks rolled up 772 yards of total offense (and QB Marcus Mariota sat out the entire fourth quarter when the lead was 45-3).
And it’ll be much the same case Saturday.
Now, you could make an argument that USD’s offense will eventually muster more than a field goal, especially late when Oregon’s second and third-team guys take the field. By that by point, the game will be all but decided.
There was a great line I heard this week from USD offensive lineman Sam McLeran, who takes over the center position this season. He said something like (and I’m paraphrasing), “We’re not sitting here thinking if we do this right, or if we do that right, we’ll have a chance.” That’s the realistic way to look at things, right?
Every coach of every team in any sport uses the ‘We expect to win’ line with their team, and I understand it. But at the same time, there’s the realistic part of you that thinks, ‘Oh, well, let’s just go out there and represent our program well.’ This isn’t Minnesota. This isn’t Iowa State. This is Oregon; the highest of high level college football.
You take the field, you find a way to keep from losing guys to injury, you accept the paycheck and you fly home. That’s the way it is in this kind of a situation.
Anything positive you can take away from a game like Saturday, you jump at it. If there’s one positive USD can leave Eugene with, it’s this: No other team this season will be as fast or as talented. And so, there are no surprises. You’ve seen the best.
BY JEREMY HOECK
EUGENE, Ore. – With still nearly 48 hours before the University of South Dakota football team takes the field against the vaunted Oregon Ducks, I’ve had some time to play tourist in Eugene.
My impression after spending one full day in “Track Town USA”? This place loves their Ducks.
Literally everywhere you go in this town (particularly in the area where I’ve explored) there is some reference to the Oregon ‘O’ or the Ducks or something with a yellow/green flavor. Keep in mind, Eugene is a little smaller than Sioux Falls, but this city is a Division I haven.
From the basketball arena (which is directly across the street from our hotel) to the new buildings on campus and even through parts of the city I’ve seen, Eugene supports its Ducks with incredible fervor.
My wife and I made the trip – actually more of a ‘working vacation’ – to Eugene for two key reasons: Saturday night’s football game between USD and Oregon, of course, but also to take care of her storage unit from her graduate school days in Eugene.
We got here early enough to clean out her storage space (surprisingly only took two hours) and then have some free time to explore Eugene. Most of Thursday afternoon we spent walking around the U of Oregon campus, where we walked through the massive library, saw the famed Hayward Field and even got invited to a brief bible study with some students.
This is no exaggeration: You can’t walk 50 feet without seeing some reference to the Ducks: Whether it’s messages written on the sidewalks, to signs posted on bulletin boards, to campus buildings, to the vehicles plastered with the ‘O’ or students wearing Ducks shirts, this is Ducks country.
It’s not something we see much of in our area, unless you routinely attend Husker games in Lincoln, Nebraska. We don’t have anything else to this scale in our immediate area.
Looking around Eugene, this to me, is exactly how a community should embrace its athletic teams. I’m not talking to the level of a Pac-12 school like Oregon, or even what I saw last year at Kansas, but something to where the support is obvious – where it’s in your face. This is something Vermillion has been working on, I can tell you that.
For now, though, it’s already been an amazing experience to see high-level support up close.
The University of South Dakota football program picked up a pair of verbal commitments on Thursday, and it came in the form of teammates at Omaha North.
Running back Calvin Strong and tight end DeValon Whitcomb announced their commitments, just ahead of their senior seasons in Omaha — after leading North to a state title a year ago.
Strong, a 5-9, 185 pound back, was the first player in Nebraska prep history to run for 3,000 yards last season. Whitcomb is a 6-3 tight end seen as a rising prospect.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Aaron Ramsey is trying to follow in the footsteps of a number of Coyote quarterbacks to find success at another position.
That recent list includes Tyler Wilhelm, who caught 22 passes last season as a tight end, as well as receivers Nick Meyer and Josh Vander Maten. Last season, Meyer caught 23 passes with one touchdown, while Vander Maten hauled in 19 passes with two scores.
Now comes Ramsey at the tight end position.
The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman from Stillwell, Kansas, did not play last season, but put on 15 pounds in the off-season to make the move to tight end where he figures to see action this fall.
“Getting on the field is what I wanted. I wanted to play quarterback; that’s why I came out here, but now they’re giving me a chance to play quarterback,” Ramsey said after Wednesday’s practice.
“Whatever I have to do to help the team.”
Ramsey, now listed at 231 pounds, is the second tight end behind junior starter Kayl Barkley, but head coach Joe Glenn said Ramsey is “certainly a guy that can stretch the field down the middle.”
Even with the extra weight, Ramsey said he is confident he can maintain the speed that made him a Division I quarterback recruit.
“I was pretty light before, so I had the legs, but the weights definitely changed it a little bit,” he said. “I have to make sure to keep that speed up.”
There could very well be times this season that USD has three current or former quarterbacks on the field at the same time, with Earl, Vander Maten/Meyer and Ramsey. That would give those two pass catchers an advantage against a defense, Ramsey said.
“That’s an extra element we have, we know the basics of being a quarterback,” he said. “We know what Kevin (Earl) is thinking, where he’ll be looking and some of the things we can do to make his job easier.”
Almost like a sixth sense, right?
“You definitely have a feel for what they’re thinking,” Ramsey said with a smile.
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at http://www.yankton.net.
BY JEREMY HOECK
On first glance, there were no real surprises in the Sports Network preseason FCS top-25 poll that was released Friday. (Spoiler alert: I’m a voter).
Perennial title contender Eastern Washington was selected No. 1 (where I tabbed the Eagles), followed by three-time defending national champion North Dakota State. Southeastern Louisiana, New Hampshire and Montana rounded out the top 10.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference also had three other teams crack the top 25: Northern Iowa (9), South Dakota State (10) and Youngstown State (24). In all, the league had nine of its 10 teams receiving a vote in the preseason poll.
The lone exception?
The University of South Dakota.
Yes, the Coyotes — coming off a 4-8 campaign — did not an earn a vote from the national panel. USD was picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley preseason poll, ahead of Western Illinois and Indiana State.
Yet, in the Sports Network poll, Western Illinois garnered five votes, Missouri State five votes and Indiana State one vote (really curious who that was. The Sycamores were 1-11 a year ago).
It’s really hard to take issue with a preseason poll, because as a voter, trust me, you’re basing most of your selections on what happened last year. You know the teams in the league you cover, and likely a little about some of the other top-25 staples. But beyond that, any research done — and yes, I do occasional research! — is rudimentary at best.
At least, though, when you look at the two major preseason FCS polls (the coaches poll and Sports Network), there isn’t too much in the way of noticeable differences.
The top five teams in both polls are the same, with NDSU the No. 1 team in the eyes of coaches. South Dakota State, for example, is No. 10 in both, while Youngstown State was No. 21 in the coaches poll Northern Iowa was slated No. 15 in the coaches poll.
Here comes the part where you say preseason polls don’t matter. Teams left out, like USD, will understandably use these polls, though, as bulletin board material. Expect the Coyotes to keep this in mind.