Vernon Adams

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Ducks down to Utes, but Lockie breathes life into limp offense

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For the first 24 minutes or so of the first half, and with its offense flailing, it looked as if Oregon was headed toward a second defeat in four tries this season.  While that still may be the case, “The Switch” hasn’t certainly breathed some life into the Ducks.

Sensing the need to shake things up, Mark Helfrich swapped out starting quarterback Vernon Adams, playing with a broken index finger on his throwing hand, in favor of Jeff Lockie. Trailing Utah 20-6 in Eugene, Lockie keyed a seven-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that cut the lead to seven at 20-13.  Lockie went 4-5 passing for 50 yards and a touchdown pass on the drive, adding one carry for 20 yards for good measure.

That spark, though, was, at least temporarily, snuffed out on the Utes’ ensuing drive, and in emphatic fashion.

On a third-and-one from their own 34-yard line, Utah quarterback Travis Wilson raced 60 yards — and by raced I mean lumbered, seemingly in slow motion — down to the Oregon six-yard line.  A penalty set the Utes back five yards, but Wilson eventually hit Caleb Repp from nine yards out to push the lead back out to 27-13, where it remained heading into halftime.

Prior to Lockie’s insertion into the lineup, the Utes’ were absolutely suffocating the Ducks’ powerful offense.  With Adams in charge, UO ran 16 plays and managed just 44 yards in five possessions, punting the ball an unimaginable three times.  Lockie’s first drive netted 24 more yards on nine fewer plays, although his second drive, late in the half, netted a three-and-out and a punt as the Utes’ defense once again stiffened.

Wilson, who had been considered a game-time decision because of an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, accounted for all three of the Utes’ touchdowns, with all three coming on scoring passes.

Broken finger to sideline Oregon QB Vernon Adams vs. Georgia State

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Earlier this week, Vernon Adams confirmed that he has been playing with a broken index finger on his right (throwing) hand and that he will be a game-time decision.  With game-time an hour or so away, it appears a decision has been made.

247Sports.com was the first to report Saturday that Adams will be sidelined for this afternoon’s non-conference game against Georgia State.  Adams originally suffered the injury in the opener against Eastern Washington, then aggravated it in the Week 2 loss to Michigan State.

The fact that UO opens Pac-12 play next weekend against Utah may have played a role in the decision to sit Adams.  Additionally, this week’s opponent allows all parties to err on the side of caution as GSU is just 2-24 since moving up to the FBS level in 2013.

With Adams sidelined, Jeff Lockie will make his first career start for the Ducks.

Lockie, a junior, spent the 2014 season as Marcus Mariota‘s primary backup, completing 75 percent of his 28 passes for 207 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.  It was his second straight year as Mariota’s primary backup.

UPDATED 1:26 p.m. ET: Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich confirmed that Lockie will indeed get the start at quarterback today for the Ducks.  Helfrich added that Adams would be available in an emergency-type situation.

Vernon Adams confirms broken finger, labels himself ‘game-time decision’

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As previously reported, Vernon Adams is indeed playing injured.  Whether he continues playing as previously reported remains to be seen.

Wednesday, Oregon’s starting quarterback confirmed that he has a broken index finger on his right (throwing) hand.  Adams sustained the injury in the season-opening win over his old team, Eastern Washington, and played through it in the Week 2 road loss to Michigan State.

When it comes to this weekend’s game against Georgia State, the player himself is uncertain if he’ll see the field, even as he sounds optimistic he will.

“I don’t know, we’ll see,” the senior signal-caller said. “It’s a game-time decision. It’s feeling good. I feel like I’m going to play.”

Whether or not the fact that UO opens Pac-12 play against Utah the following weekend will play into any decision made by the player or the team is unknown, although this week’s opponent allows all parties to err on the side of caution as GSU is just 2-24 since moving up to the FBS level in 2013.

If Adams is sidelined, Jeff Lockie would get the call under center. Lockie, a junior, spent the 2014 season as Marcus Mariota‘s primary backup, completing 75 percent of his 28 passes for 207 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

Prior to Adams’ arrival as a graduate transfer, Lockie had widely been expected to take over for Mariota.

Oregon QB Vernon Adams will keep playing with a broken finger

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Not too long before Oregon faced off with Michigan State in East Lansing last week a report came out saying quarterback Vernon Adams had an index finger injury. It turns out it is broken, although he may not miss any playing time because of it. That should be a nice relief for Ducks fans.

According to a report this morning from Aaron Fentress of Comcast SportsNet Northwest, the injury was suffered in Oregon’s season opener against Eastern Washington (Adams’ previous school) and it made gripping the football more difficult against the Spartans last week. For now it appears Adams will continue playing through the injury, even if it means losing a bit of touch on the football until the injury heals in the coming weeks.

Against Michigan State, Adams completed 22 of 39 pass attempts for 309 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice. While the injury likely affected his game, nobody at Oregon is using the injury as an excuse. Unless the pain becomes insufferable for Adams or the lack of ball control becomes a significant concern for Oregon’s offense against teams not as defensively strong as Michigan State, there may be no reason to take Adams out of the offense. However, offensive coordinator Scott Frost will have Jeff Lockie prepared to step in should it come to that.

Sparty clips Ducks, shows it’s firmly entrenched in playoff discussion

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If this game was a litmus test for Michigan State’s national stage worthiness, Sparty passed — by the skin of its teeth, some would say.  And notwithstanding some quizzical late-game playcalling, others would add.

Last year in Eugene, Oregon took a six-point halftime deficit and turned it into a 19-point runaway win.  A dozen months later, the Spartans took a seven-point halftime lead in East Lansing and turned it into a proclamation of sorts, with their 31-28 win vividly announcing that MSU will be in the College Football Playoff talk for the duration.

Sure, there are potential potholes along the way — like at Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State in the coming weeks and months — but Sparty showed Saturday night that it can stand toe-to-toe with one of the best college football has to offer and not blink (much).  In fact, it can throw some knockout haymakers of its own — especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Leading 14-7 at the half, MSU pushed the lead out to 10 points twice in the second half, the second coming with 10:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Ducks then pulled to within three at 31-28 with 3:25 remaining on a 15-yards touchdown pass from FCS transfer Vernon Adams to Byron Marshall.  Then came the quizzical, and on both sides.

On the first play of the ensuing possession and starting at their own 22-yard line, a five-yard loss was followed by two inexplicable Connor Cook pass attempts and two incompletions that stopped the clock.  The Spartans were only able to run a little over a minute off the clock, giving the ball back to the Ducks with just over two minutes remaining and just shy of midfield.  After getting the ball down to the MSU 33 and into field-goal range, and facing a third-and-six, Adams did something you simply can’t do in that situation, even in the face of the blitz: he took a sack.  Adams’ pass on fourth-and-16 fell incomplete, essentially icing the game for the Spartans.

Regardless of how it ended, it was a huge win for Mark Dantonio and his football program, one that should resonate with voters — and, more importantly, the playoff committee — when it comes to both squads.  Sparty in particular, though, showed the kind of resilience and resolve and talent that will serve them well as they face some stiff road trips on down the road.

All is not lost for the Ducks, mind you.  Should UO run the table and claim the Pac-12 title, they would certainly be deep in the discussion for a playoff spot — especially if MSU were to be able to run the table as well.