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Ducks open season against team that knows Dakota Prukop as 'coach on the field'

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Mark Helfrich: Prukop has been better with the ball (0:22)

Early on in fall camp Oregon coach Mark Helfrich thought QB Dakota Prukop was being a bit careless with the ball, turning it over too much. But, in the last three weeks, that has improved as Prukop has settled in more. (0:22)

EUGENE, Ore. -- Two years ago, UC Davis and Montana State faced off in California. It was a homecoming game with about 7,000 in attendance. Montana State walked away with a 77-37 win after the Aggies kept it close in the first quarter.

Most UC Davis players have likely tried to forget that game and move on with their careers, but there was one thing that stood out to UC Davis defensive lineman Inoke Raikadroka that he hasn’t forgotten -- how Montana State quarterback Dakota Prukop had absolute command of the Bobcats’ offense.

“That doesn’t happen at all at the collegiate level,” Raikadroka said of Prukop’s play. “Dakota, he was just another coach on the field.”

The bad news for Raikadroka and the Aggies is that they have to face Prukop, the newly named Oregon starting quarterback, again this weekend when UC Davis travels to Eugene for its season opener against the Ducks.

The worse news? Prukop thinks he has even better command of the Ducks’ offense than he did the Bobcats’ offense.

“I definitely feel way more in control,” Prukop said.

Prukop said much of that confidence has come from a greater understanding of the offensive line’s protections at Oregon and the fact that his job almost feels more structured with the Ducks.

“It’s like a checklist,” Prukop said. “The first thing is look at protections -- make sure I see what the offensive line has called, I see what my running back is going to pick up. If something isn’t matching up, I’ll check that, then I’ll hop to coverages.”

From the early practices of Oregon’s fall camp, it seemed pretty evident that Prukop was racing ahead in the quarterback battle.

He said that he started feeling that newfound, relaxed confidence once he stopped thinking about the quarterback race and just playing each play. Prukop said he began making a list following each practice about the mistakes he had made that day and told himself he wouldn’t make those mistakes again the next day or the day after that.

That checklist, along with the one he goes through every snap, has put him in a position where he could have yet another big performance against the Aggies. In 2014, when playing for Montana State, he completed 17-of-22 passes for 361 yards and four touchdowns while adding 148 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns.

“He would get those guys into a better play if he saw something he didn’t like,” UC Davis coach Ron Gould said. “He’s another coach on the field. He was a tough opponent back when we played him at Montana State, and he’s going to be a handful on Saturday.”

“He was just another coach out there on the field,” Raikadroka added. “When you can have a quarterback that can really take control of the offense, it’s a bonus. ... That’s an advantage for the Ducks.”

And so, while the Aggies prep for a quarterback-with-coach-like-tendencies that they’ve seen before, Prukop is getting ready to play against a team which he has already had great success.

But when he looks back at that game, he doesn’t think about the six touchdowns or the 500-plus yards of offense. He has one overarching memory (that as long as the Ducks get off to a good start, coaches are hoping the same will be true in 2016): “I remember getting pulled out pretty early,” Prukop said, “and not wanting to come out.”