The Oregon Ducks went into Saturday’s game against the BYU Cougars expecting a physical affair that would be won with grit and tenacity. While there would be explosive plays on the fringes that could affect the outcome, most of the competition would be played out inside the trenches.
So it was encouraging when running back Bucky Irving slipped through a couple of tackles on the second play of Oregon’s opening drive and bounced him 5 yards out. On the very next snap, he broke the line, dropped his shoulder on one defender, made a jump cut on another and picked up 36 more yards, giving the Ducks a first chance and a scoring chance.
The two runs did a great job of showing exactly what Irving, a Minnesota transfer, brings to the table for the Ducks.
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak with Irving after Oregon’s practice. I asked him if he could describe his running style in a few words.
“Incredible,” he said quickly. “Physically.”
In response to a similar question Monday, head coach Dan Lanning had a different word to describe Irving’s mentality.
“I saw Bucky violently run away,” Lanning said.
“I just have this ‘don’t let the first guy bring me down’ mentality,” Irving said.
There weren’t many people who could trip Irving Saturday as he ran 14 times for 97 yards, the most of any Oregon player this year. There have been numerous instances where Irving has shown physicality or elusiveness in his game, but no game embodies all three traits better than this 11-yard run to open the second half.
While Irving gets the credit for the numbers on the stat sheet, as any good running back always will, he made it a point to identify the guys who will help him achieve the success he’s had so far this season.
“I feel like our offensive line doesn’t get the credit for the great work they do every week,” Irving said. “I always want to compliment them or give them a great job on what they do to open great holes for all of our running backs.”
The Ducks’ veteran front line is one of four teams in the nation not to give up a sack this season, and they are responsible for opening holes big enough for Oregon to hit 176 yards per game, which is ranked 52 of the ranking is nation.
There are many defenders capable of succeeding on Oregon’s depth chart, but the most exciting part of the first three games was the Minnesota transfer. Maybe it’s because he’s new and we’re hardwired to be drawn to the newest and greatest. However, there’s something else about Irving that caught my eye in 12 quarters this season. He is multiple and can do many things.
He is physical. He’s elusive. He runs with violence.