Jim Mora needed depth badly on Saturday.
Along the defensive line, redshirt sophomore Rick Wade didn’t play Saturday, senior Jacob Tuioti-Mariner went to the hospital during halftime and senior Matt Dickerson suffered a collarbone injury on the first snap of the second half.
In came defensive tackle Greg Rogers, who was originally scheduled to redshirt his freshman year.
“Had to pull his redshirt off – had to do it,” coach Mora said of Rogers. “Had to have guys to play, (and he) comes out in fourth-and-1 and makes a huge play.”
Similar to Rogers, freshman Moses Robinson-Carr also tossed his redshirt earlier this season to provide necessary depth at tight end and on special teams following redshirt sophomore Caleb Wilson’s season-ending Lisfranc fracture.
Redshirt junior Austin Roberts suffered an apparent ankle injury on UCLA’s second drive of the day, leaving redshirt freshman Jordan Wilson and Robinson-Carr as the only tight ends with game experience.
Robinson-Carr and Rogers weren’t the only underclassmen players who made an impact Saturday.
Redshirt freshmen Osa Odighizuwa and Marcus Moore, freshmen Jaelan Phillips and Martin Andrus, plus redshirt sophomore Chigozie Nnoruka, combined for 20 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble versus the Ducks.
“Any time you can get young guys time and they can learn and you can get a win, that’s a great thing,” Mora said. “If they’re having to play and they’re struggling and you lose, there’s still learning but you’re taking your lumps along the way, so that’s a positive.”
Odighizuwa, Moore and Nnoruka – a junior college transfer – all set season-highs in total tackles Saturday. Odighizuwa was a menace in Oregon’s backfield, recording three tackles for loss and also forcing a fumble by Oregon quarterback Braxton Burmeister on a fourth-and-1 play early in the fourth quarter.
Moore saw more playing time at the defensive end and was aggressive getting upfield against his blockers. He finished second on the team to Odighizuwa with two tackles for loss and registered his first career sack in the final minute of the game.
“(Moore) and (Rogers), that’s their first time of any duration at all,” said defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. “I know the one short-yardage play, (Roger is) in there, he knocked it right back. He’s a strong guy and can do some things. (Moore), I thought he played very well on the perimeter.”
Another factor along the defensive line’s perimeter was Phillips, who played his first game in over a month after suffering a high ankle sprain against Memphis.
The defensive end rushed unblocked for a bone-crunching blindside sack on Burmeister – extending his streak of at least one tackle for loss in every game he’s played.
“I just came off the edge and nobody was there,” Phillips said. “I was like, ‘Alright, bet.’ So I ran and I got him.”
Surgery scheduled for Dickerson
Mora provided an update on the trio of injured defensive linemen as well as several other players Monday.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Breland Brandt is still in concussion protocol and doesn’t have a timetable to return. Mora also confirmed that Dickerson will have a plate surgically inserted in his collarbone Tuesday but left the door open for a possible return later this season.
Wade, Tuioti-Mariner, Roberts, sophomore running back Jalen Starks and junior linebacker Josh Wood are considered day-to-day for Saturday’s game against Washington.
“(Dickerson’s) the only one that really doesn’t have a chance right now,” Mora said. “Everyone else has a chance to come back.”