Royce rolls into Oregon’s record books
PASADENA, Calif. — Willie Taggart paused during his postgame press conference when asked about any positives he took away from Oregon’s 31-14 loss to UCLA.
“Royce Freeman,” finally popped into the first-year coach’s mind.
Freeman made history on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, rushing for a season-high 160 yards to pass LaMichael James as Oregon’s career rushing leader.
The 6-foot senior from Imperial, Calif., now has 5,103 yards. James ran for 5,082 in Chip Kelly’s offense from 2009-11.
“It’s very special,” said Freeman, who is the 22nd player in FBS history to rush for over 5,000 yards. “It’s really a blessing.”
Freeman could have left for the NFL but decided to finish his eligibility and play his final season for Taggart.
Both are hoping that includes a bowl game, which means the Ducks (4-4, 1-4) have to find two more wins on the regular-season schedule after suffering their third consecutive loss without quarterback Justin Herbert.
“Everybody wants to win,” Freeman said. “I have to better myself as a player, give more. Everybody on the team has to give more. Coach Taggart stressed that. Just give more, give more and when you don’t think you have it anymore, give more.”
Freeman also set the record for all-purpose yards with 5,897, passing James (5,869) and Kenjon Barner (5,848, 2009-12). He owns the school record for 100-yard games with 27.
Herbert, who suffered a fractured collarbone on Sept. 30, made the trip with the team but has still not been cleared to play.
“He’s got to heal,” Taggart said when asked if he had a timetable for getting his starting quarterback behind center again. “We would all love for him to be back, I think that would give us a spark, but we can’t rely on that now.
“We’ve just got to let him heal and not rush back. We don’t want him to rush back and get re-injured or anything.”
Oregon entered the game ranked last nationally (129th) in penalties, averaging 10.1 per game for 94.7 yards.
The Ducks were only flagged three times for 15 yards. UCLA had seven penalties for 67 yards, including five that gave Oregon first downs.
“I’m just proud of our guys for playing a cleaner ballgame and not having all the penalties that we’ve had,” Taggart said. “We’ve been working really hard to get that corrected and that part we did.”
Oregon left tackle Tyrell Crosby made the trip but the two other offensive players who suffered concussions at Stanford, right guard Jake Pisarcik and running back Tony Brooks-James, were left back in Eugene.
The Ducks only had three inside linebackers available — starters Troy Dye and Jimmie Swain and backup Isaac Slade-Matautia.
Slade-Matautia did not play, which means he can still redshirt.
True freshman Sampson Niu and walk-on Blake Rugraff, who have also helped fill in with A.J. Hotchkins and Kaulana Apelu going down with injuries, did not travel.
Defensive lineman Scott Pagano and outside linebacker Jonah Moi were also unavailable.