Cristobal reflects on UCLA win, seeks to change road game results

Oregon’s 42-21 victory over the UCLA Bruins on Saturday not only spoiled Chip Kelly’s return to Autzen Stadium, but made the team bowl-eligible for the 13th time in the past 14 seasons.

However, the Ducks still carry a two-game losing streak on the road.

Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal spoke with the media on Monday to address his takeaways from Saturday’s victory and preview Oregon’s next opponent: the Utah Utes.

“Most importantly for us is to play on the road the same way we play at Autzen,” Cristobal said. “That’ll be the biggest point of emphasis for us. We were never out of focus, but we’re refocused and recommitted to playing a certain way. We got to make sure we’re dialed into that and carry it through the moment we leave home and get on the airplane and fly over there and carry it over to the moment the ball is tee’d off and until the clock says zero.”

Despite being in concussion protocol earlier in the week, Oregon’s offense had strong performances, led by wide receiver Dillon Mitchell.

Mitchell recorded eight receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns, including tying his career-high with a 67-yard reception touchdown. He became the first player in program history with six or more receptions in six consecutive games.

Oregon’s special teams were also dominant on the field, highlighted by a successful fake-field goal by junior punter Blake Maimone, whose complete pass to tight end Jacob Breeland made way to Oregon’s second touchdown of the game.

“We got back to some of our identity that we wanted to establish,” Cristobal said. “I felt like we re-established some of that, at the same time I felt there was room for improvements. … But overall more positive than anything.”

The Utah Utes are 6-3 overall and lead the Pac-12 South.

In the run game, the Utes are led by junior Zack Moss, who recorded his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season in Saturday’s loss to Arizona State. Moss is fourth Ute in program history to achieve two 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

“Zack’s a big-time guy. He’s an NFL guy,” Cristobal said of Moss, who is from Hialeah Gardens, Fla., just north of Cristobal’s hometown of Maimi. “I watched him play high school football and he has developed tremendously. … He’s a combination that’s probably the most difficult to defend because he’ll run through you and he’ll run around you.”

With ugly loses in their previous two road games, the Ducks will need to bring the same energy from Saturday’s win into the game at Salt Lake City.

“I just feel there is a hunger to take that next step,” Cristobal said. “Probably the most important thing to realize is that [in] this Pac-12 conference, everybody wants to be the best and we have to recognize as coaches and as players that everybody has some great players. And God help you if you walk into an arena on game day not at your best because it’s not going to be good enough. It doesn’t matter who you are or who think you are.”

Update on athlete status:

After suffering a small lower leg fracture on Saturday, senior inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu will be out the remainder of the regular season. Cristobal said he expects Apelu to be back for Oregon’s bowl game.

Cristobal said junior offensive lineman Dallas Warmack is okay and redshirt freshman inside linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia might not be back until the end of the season.

Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni

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