The Oregon Ducks held their second day of practice on Friday, two days after the team arrived in Phoenix for the 42nd Annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
In a rare practice session that was open to the media, ( the first 20 minutes ), the Ducks began day two of their practice session with a brief warm-up before transitioning into position drills.
During the allowed access, Oregon nose tackle ( redshirt junior ) Wade Keliikipi was seen participating in drills with what looked to be a light wrap on his left ankle.
Keliikipi sustained a lower leg injury in Los Angeles during the November 3rd USC game and hasn’t played since. Because full practice sessions remained closed, it’s unclear if Keliikipi has participated in full contact drills and if he’ll actually be ready to play next week when the Ducks take the field against Kansas State.
Needless to say, if Keliikipi suits up and does play January 3rd, it will be the first time defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will be able to put his original defensive line on the field since early in the season – that being Dion Jordan, Ricky Heimuli, Isaac Remington and Keliikipi.
In other surprising post practice news, Duck senior linebacker Kiko Alonso was made available to reporters at their Scottsdale team hotel.
Alonso hasn’t spoken to a formal group of reporters since last January’s Rose Bowl post-game press conference.
Alonso seemed pleased to see Keliikipi on the mend and back on the field for the Ducks defense.
“Wade’s a great player,” said Alonso after practice. “He’s going to clog some stuff up for us. Makes life better for me and Michael Clay and the other backers.”
Much of Friday’s discussions between reporters and Duck players revolved around maintaining the same practice routine and enjoying the bowl experience.
“I had a good first two days of preparation,… getting back into the swing of things,” explained senior offensive guard Kyle Long.
“I’m really enjoying it here in Arizona. All the guys are loving the sunshine and enjoying the festivities here. Everybody has done a great job of hosting us. We’re excited to get after it in a week.”
The same held true for redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“Just to get out there again, I can’t wait,” said Mariota after Friday’s practice. “You don’t really shy away from the routine because for us the routine has been working.”
And although Mariota admits he’s excited to finally get out there and play, he also says he has to temper that excitement.
“For me this is my first time playing in it,” the young quarterback said.
“I’m just really excited. I really can’t wait. But I can’t get over anxious because I’ll play outside of my game.”
The Ducks continue their Fiesta Bowl preparations on Saturday from 10:35 am to 12:15 pm local time.
KANSAS STATE ARRIVES TO THE DESERT
Two days after the Oregon Ducks arrived into Phoenix, the Kansas State Wildcats touched down at Sky Harbor International Airport on Friday.
The Wildcats arrived via their American Airlines charter at 12 noon greeted by Fiesta Bowl staffers and a large contingent of supporters.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder held a brief press conference after the team arrived and spoke highly of the Oregon football program and being back in Phoenix for another run at the Fiesta Bowl trophy.
When asked how difficult it’s been to simulate Oregon’s speed and pace, Snyder told reporters it’s extremely difficult. “I don’t know that anybody really can” explained Snyder.
“Not in the way that you’re thinking. There’s certainly some things that you do that would attempt to replicate the kind of speed and the tempo of the game that you see. They are going to snap the ball every 16 or 17 seconds, sometimes faster than that. Just to be able to get lined back up on defense is not an easy task.”
Snyder was also asked if facing Baylor earlier in the season helped prepare for the up-tempo spread attack of Oregon. “You can’t stand around against a team that moves awful fast. We did that. That was a ball game that we learned a lot” said Snyder.
“There is a great deal of similarity between the two teams. They are two offensive football teams and not to be denied is the fact that they are very good on defense. Baylor was against us, they were against UCLA and Oregon has been good on defense on all year round. Their defense goes somewhat unnoticed because of the tremendous scoring power of their offense.