Ducks roll a pair of sevens to crush Nevada
EUGENE — Early in the first quarter Saturday against Nevada, Justin Herbert threw five incompletions, including one under pressure and four with errant throws to open receivers, including one on fourth down.
"I never try to throw an incomplete pass," the Oregon senior quarterback said. "Not like I did it on purpose."
Undeterred, obviously, Herbert went about the rest of his game and led Oregon to a commanding 77-6 win against Nevada at Autzen Stadium, a week after the Ducks lost in the final seconds against Auburn. Herbert missed on only two passes the rest of the way in going 19 of 26 for 310 yards with five touchdowns as the Ducks (1-1) destroyed the Wolf Pack (1-1) of the Mountain West Conference. The 77 points tied the Ducks' Autzen Stadium record for points in a game (77 against Southern Utah in 2017).
Nevada had edged Purdue, 34-31, of the Big Ten last week, but the Ducks proved to be on another level.
After Oregon failed to score on its first two possessions, partly because of Herbert's incompletions, and following a punt return mistake that led to a turnover, the Ducks scored touchdowns on 11 of their next 12 possessions. In fact, 11 different players scored touchdowns, including defensive back Brady Breeze on a fumble return, receiver and former defensive back Daewood Davis on a pass reception and offensive lineman Brady Aiello on a pass reception while wearing No. 82 and playing tight end.
The other touchdown makers: Jacob Breeland, CJ Verdell, Ryan Bay, Bryan Addison, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, Jaylon Redd, Hunter Kampmoyer and Darrian Felix.
Nevada led 3-0 after a Wolf Pack punt hit a UO player, causing a turnover. But, Herbert found Breeland for a 66-yard TD reception over the middle. Brandon Talton kicked a second field goal for Nevada, but Verdell scored on a 2-yard TD run to end a 75-yard drive.
Touchdowns seemingly fell from the sky, and Felix's 62-yard TD run finished the onslaught with 2:02 left. The Ducks finished with 623 yards offense to go with 77 total points in 26:25 possession time.
After the disappointing loss to Auburn, "we were just glad to be back out there," Herbert said.
"We were able to spread the ball around pretty well, it was good to see guys step up," he added. The Ducks also played without three starting-level receivers in Juwan Johnson, Brenden Schooler and Mycah Pittman and tight end Cam McCormick, all injured.
Oh, and coordinator Andy Avalos' defense, a week after opening eyes with solid play against Auburn, excelled again. The Ducks gave up only 192 yards to the Wolf Pack, forced four fumbles (recovering two) and two interceptions, allowed only 3 of 17 third-down conversions, made 13 tackles-for-loss and registered five sacks. The Wolf Pack had 83 yards rushing on 40 carries (2.1 yards per carry), and quarterback Carson Strong, who went 30 of 51 for 295 yards and three TDs against Purdue, went just 13 of 25 for 89 yards with two interceptions against Oregon.
"I definitely do think we have something special," Breeze, from Central Catholic, said. "Guys are just clicking, able to make checks and calls and just have fun."
Breeze said the players felt they were back on track after the Auburn loss.
"We're hoping," he said. "We can't look too far ahead. We gotta focus on Montana. I think we do have something special. Can't worry about the (Pac-12) championship or Rose Bowl. We gotta worry about the next game."
Competition doesn't get tougher in the next game as Oregon plays FCS/Big Sky Conference team Montana at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at Autzen. It should be, ostensibly, a tuneup for the Pac-12 opener Sept. 21 at Stanford.
The Nevada game sure went well for the Ducks. Coach Mario Cristobal said, after the first-quarter punt return mistake, "we played with execution all around. ... Guys came out and played a complete game."
Oregon averaged 5.7 yards in gaining 221 yards on the ground, led by Felix (80 yards, eight carries) and Verdell (60 yards, 11 carries). Fourteen players caught passes, led by Breeland (four receptions, 112 yards ) and Johnny Johnson III and Davis with four receptions each.
After a second third-quarter TD made it 49-6, backup quarterback Tyler Shough saw his first significant action and threw his first collegiate passes; he played in three games last year, but didn't throw a pass, taking eight snaps while preserving his redshirt status under the NCAA's flexible redshirt rules.
Shough went 8 of 9 for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
"He deserves to play," Cristobal said. "He needs to be in there for meaningful play." (It's likely Shough will get time against Montana, too).
The 6-7, 310-pound Aiello, a senior who had been competing to start on the offensive line, had been taking reps at tight end in practice. He's a good athlete, Cristobal said, and with injuries the Ducks had been looking for other options for guys catching the ball; Davis, a former receiver who had switched to defensive back only to switch back, also looked good catching the ball.
But, Aiello clearly was the talk of smiling players after the game. He was the third option on the play, Herbert said, and the QB found the big man on a 1-yard TD throw.
"It's like a thank you to him," Herbert said. "He's worked so hard the past couple years. I wish all the offensive linemen could catch touchdowns. No better guy to catch a touchdown. ... I think the tight ends were kind of jealous."
So was Cristobal, sort of. The former offensive line great at the University of Miami and respected O-line coach quipped, "I went my entire life without that opportunity."
He added: "He doesn't look like an NFL tight end, but he's good enough. ... Brady is a really good player. We have to play him."
Breeze, a junior, got into the end zone after a Nevada fumble and his 11-yard return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
"It was pretty cool," he said. "I've been praying about something like that to happen my whole life."
Cristobal said he expected the Ducks to play a really good football team.
"I'm not sure anything affects the locker room," he said, referring to bouncing back from the Auburn loss. "Guys were eager to get back on the football field ... and play our best football.
"We expected to play our best," he said. "It was the Oregon football we're trying to establish."
NEVADA 3 3 0 0 — 6
OREGON 7 28 28 14 — 77
NEVADA — Brandon Talton 24 FG, 6:13
OREGON — Jacob Breeland 66 pass from Justin Herbert (Camden Lewis kick), 3:56
NEVADA — Talton 45 FG, 10:38
OREGON — CJ Verdell 2 run (Lewis kick), 8:28
OREGON — Ryan Bay 16 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 7:13
OREGON — Brady Aiello 1 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 3:26
OREGON — Bryan Addison 24 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 0:12
OREGON — Daewood Davis 16 pass from Herbert (Adam Stack kick), 10:12
OREGON — Cyrus Habibi-Likio 11 run (Stack kick), 8:14
OREGON — Jaylon Redd 7 pass from Tyler Shough (Stack kick), 7:16
OREGON — Brady Breeze 11 fumble return (Stack kick), 2:02
OREGON — Hunter Kampmoyer 21 pass from Shough (Stack kick), 6:58
OREGON — Darrian Felix 62 run (Stack kick), 2:02
Att. — 50,920
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)