Ducks are mum on Freeman
LAS VEGAS — What happens here is supposed to stay here.
Maybe that’s why new Oregon coach Mario Cristobal still isn’t saying whether or not Royce Freeman will play against No. 25 Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC).
“No update yet,” Cristobal said during a joint press junket with Boise State counterpart Bryan Harsin on Tuesday night.
Freeman, Oregon’s all-time leading rusher, practiced with the Ducks on Tuesday at Bishop Gorman High. The senior will begin focusing on the NFL draft as soon as his collegiate career is complete.
Cristobal said backup running backs Tony Brooks-James and Kani Benoit are completely healthy after suffering injuries late in the regular season.
“It doesn’t change what we’re going to do, it just changes that you’re going to face a player like that,” Harsin said. “Our guys are preparing for it. They know Freeman, they know who he is. He’s one of the best in the country. Anybody that plays college football knows who he is.”
Harsin said he was hoping members of the media could tell him if Freeman was playing or not after Cristobal’s turn in front of the cameras.
Freeman rushed for 1,475 yards, which ranked ninth in the FBS, with 16 touchdowns this season.
“The plan is to go out there and prepare for the best, expect to see it,” Harsin said. “Either way, whether he’s playing or not, we’re going to see the best Oregon offense, in my opinion.”
Two QB system
Harsin is expecting Oregon’s best offense because quarterback Justin Herbert is healthy. The Ducks are 6-1 when the sophomore starts and averaging 52.1 points per game.
When true freshman Braxton Burmeister had to fill in while Herbert recovered from a fractured collarbone, Oregon was 1-4 and averaged 15 points per game.
“We looked at all the games, but obviously when Justin’s in there he’s a difference maker,” Harsin said. “He’s a very good player, a very good quarterback. He has a lot of talent, can throw, run and do everything. We looked at his production, he obviously makes a big difference.”
Boise State also used two quarterbacks this season, but by design.
Returning starter Brett Rypien passed for 2,515 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos also utilize the dual-threat skills of Kansas graduate transfer Montell Cozart, who passed for 747 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception and rushed for 361 yards and four touchdowns this season.
“This guy just wants to be a part of a winning program,” Harsin said of Cozart, who helped Boise State win the Mountain West. “Brett and Montell worked this whole two-quarterback deal perfectly.
“And we get a chance to play in a championship game and Montell gets a chance to contribute and be a part of that, which is exactly what he wanted.”
Oregon wide receiver Casey Eugenio sustained an injury during Tuesday’s practice, which will prevent the senior walk-on from playing on Saturday. … Rece Davis (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analyst) and Molly McGrath (reporter) will call the Las Vegas Bowl on ABC. … The Ducks are 13-17 all-time in bowl games (1-1 in the Las Vegas Bowl).
“I like Boise,” Ducks defensive end Jalen Jelks said. “They offered me (a scholarship) when I was in high school during the recruiting process and everything. I completely respect them. They’re a great program. I was thinking about going there, so I totally respect them.
“Overall, we’ve just got to fight for our team and hopefully come out with a win.”