EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Quarterback Justin Herbert appears poised to return from a broken collarbone but so far there’s no definitive word from Oregon.
The Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) host the Arizona Wildcats and their star QB Khalil Tate on Saturday with Herbert’s status in the air. Will he start? Will he be available? The Ducks aren’t saying on the record.
Herbert, who fractured his collarbone against California on Sept. 30, has been practicing and some say he appears ready to come back. There was a report he will start Saturday, and coach Willie Taggart teased earlier this week that ”there is a good chance” Herbert can play.
Of course it might be gamesmanship. The fact is that the Ducks are one win away from bowl eligibility in Taggart’s first year as head coach and Herbert gives them the best chance to win.
Since he was injured, Oregon has lost four of its last five games. Freshman Braxton Burmeister, who replaced Herbert , was thrown into a difficult situation, no fault of his own.
Oregon is coming off a bye after a 38-3 loss at Washington. Following Saturday’s game at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks will host Oregon State in the annual Civil War on Thanksgiving weekend.
”They may get Justin (Herbert) back, which would be a big boost to them. They were scoring a whole bunch of points and he’s got more experience, but I think Braxton’s played really well for them. For us it’s no surprise, we know he’s an outstanding player, that’s why we recruited him,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. The Wildcats (7-3, 5-2) are already bowl eligible.
Other things to watch:
ON THE OTHER SIDE: There’s no question about Arizona’s starter. Tate’s fantastic season is earning him Heisman buzz. He leads the nation with five 70-plus yard runs, four of them for touchdowns, the longest run for a quarterback (82 yards) and his 327 yards rushing against Colorado set a single-game NCAA record for a QB.
He’s also run for a touchdown in each of the last six games and a team-high 11 rushing TDs this season. He also has four of the five longest touchdown runs for Arizona this season.
Taggart was asked what the Ducks have to do to stop Tate .
”Pray,” he said. ”No one has stopped him yet this year. He’s a heck of a talent. Big time football player and is really good with the ball in his hand.”
HIGH-SCORING WILDCATS: Arizona has been a prolific scoring team since Rodriguez took over in the desert, but the Wildcats have picked it up even more this season. Arizona has scored at least 35 points in six straight games for the first time in school history and is third nationally in scoring with 44.4 points per game. Ten different players have a rushing touchdown this season, a new school record.
TAYLOR RUNS: Keep an eye on Arizona RB J.J. Taylor. The sophomore got off to a slow start this season in his return from a broken ankle suffered last season, but is rounding back into form. Taylor has 333 yards on 36 carries the past three games after putting up 366 yards on 78 carries the first seven games.
DYE UPDATE: Linebacker Troy Dye, who leads the Ducks in tackles, injured his Achilles on Nov. 4 against Washington but will return against the Wildcats.
”He’s ready to go,” Taggart said. ”Troy is just of kid that loves to play football, he loves competing. He loves being around his teammates and it’s just fun to watch, fun to have him around. He don’t take practice off, he don’t take games off. When it’s time to compete he’s ready to go every single time.”
SPRINKLERS?: It appears that a rainy weather system moving into the Pacific Northwest will hold out until Sunday. No word on whether the Wildcats hauled out the sprinklers this week.
”A few years ago getting ready for a Utah game, we turned on the sprinklers in the stadium. We turned them on halfway through practice just for the offensive side and most of the guys including myself say it’s the wettest we’ve ever been in our entire lives. We were drenched,” Rodriguez said.
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