Oregon Ducks Happy for the Return of ‘Rolls Royce’
Welcome back Royce Freeman.
After a mostly disappointing and at times dismal season, the Ducks junior running back seemed to find his old self in the 30-28 win of the 12th ranked Utah Utes.
Up until the Utah game Royce Freeman had been anything but what Duck fans had expected to see. In the 5 games leading up to last Saturdays victory Freeman had been almost entirely ineffective. Running for just 246 yards total in that span. The prevailing schools of thought were that Freeman was still battling the lingering effects of the injury he sustained in week 3 at Nebraska and/or that he was mentally checked out, his eyes set on the future and a career in the NFL. Whatever it was that slowed him down it was enough to, at times, see him relegated to the bench and in one instance even lose his starting job to sophomore running back Tony Brooks-James.
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But whatever maladies or malaise was afflicting Freeman, he appeared to have finally shaken it off this last Saturday. And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Ducks.
To say the Ducks limped into Saturday’s game against Utah would be an understatement. Beset by seemingly impossible number of injuries, playing without key offensive weapons (injury or discipline?) and having not shown any sign of life of desire to win since the start of the season, most if not all gave the Ducks no chance of surviving the always hostile confines of Rice-Eccles Stadium.
But if the Ducks needed some sort of spark to even hope to compete (they did) they got it from Royce Freeman.
Against a formidable Utah defense Freeman ran with power and authority, racking up 129 yards on 20 carries. Averaging 6.5 yards a carry. It was just Freeman’s stat line that looked better though. Where Freeman had looked timid and slow in games past, against the Utes Freeman found his old step. Powering through the line, running down defenders and finding a much needed burst of speed and energy. In short, Freeman looked like the running back Duck fans have always known was one of the best in the country.
It’s no wonder that this was the first complete game the Ducks have played all season. It’s no wonder that they seemed to finally play with passion and hunger. Taking their cue from Freeman the Ducks were able to play like a team that cared. The running game helped keep the offense on the field, which helped keep the defense rested and keyed in and though in the end it wasn’t the heroics of Royce Freeman that won the game, his performance was certainly the injection of much needed leadership that let the team find their competitive edge and a hard fought victory.
Of the big questions after this week, one will be about Freeman. Will he return to Oregon in 2017?
The Oregon Ducks wrap-up the Regular Season on Saturday against Oregon State in the 120th Civil War in Corvallis. (1pm PT, Pac-12 Network)