This season’s Oregon (2-0) non-conference games make me wish we had simulation modes like the Madden football video games. And I feel that I’m not alone. Autzen Stadium’s stands looked rather empty today as Oregon battled Portland State (0-2). Fans were either leaving early to drink more or just decided to get drunk and not pay the hefty ticket price for a one-sided game.
The Oregon Ducks’ season has been underway with no real challenge as of yet — although the first quarter of season opener with Bowling Green did bring out some boos from the audience when Oregon was down 10-0. These games are providing Oregon with a chance to find themselves and warm up.
The non-conference schedule hasn’t answered Coach Mario Cristobal Oregon existential question of who Oregon is as a team.
“We feel like we know who we are, but we haven’t been tested,” Cristobal said during the post-game press conference. “Let’s go find out.”
Now, the whole team doesn’t have time to pull an Eat, Pray, Love to find themselves — or go on a “service trip” to Uganda like Oregon’s Eugene-based quarterback Justin Herbert did (who seems to really be doubling down on an attempt to grow a mustache). There’s only one more game left until Oregon clashes with No. 10 Stanford.
But one thing that seems certain in the current team’s DNA is that Herbert won’t have one major passing target.
The good news is that will help the team avoid injury or fatigue. During the press conference, Cristobal and the team kept referencing the need to play with a game plan that’ll keep them fresh throughout the season.
Oregon is still getting used to losing tight end Cam McCormick to an injury in last week’s game against Bowling Green. But Herbert says he feels confident with tight end Kano Dillon, who scored his first touchdown for Oregon today.
So maybe it’s good the team isn’t grooming one player to be a major target for Herbert, who said the team has a strong line up of talented receivers.
However, the downside is that the wide receivers needed some time to warm up today — an issue that won’t be as forgiving when Oregon plays against Pac-12 teams.
Herbert did show off his growing football intelligence today. In one play when the offensive line collapsed, leaving Herbert vulnerable, he tossed the ball to an open Tony Brooks-James during the second quarter, gaining a first down and keeping their drive alive.
Oregon’s performance against Portland State was a better performance for Herbert than against Bowling Green, but there’s still more room for improvement.
As a team, Oregon did show some discipline in the game with only five penalties for 55 yards. It’s remarkable considering it’s the same team that had 122 penalties last season, resulting in 1,148 yards.
But it’s not good enough for Cristobal, who said the team is going to be paying for those penalty yards.
“We had a substitution [penalty], which as a staff we’ll have to run an extra lap because that’s on us,” he said.
Going into the next squash match against San Jose State, it’ll be worth seeing whether Oregon’s wide receivers can quickly get on the same wavelength as Herbert and if the team can play without wasting a drive to warm up.
As Oregon burns through these easy opponents, using them as a sharpening post, the time it takes to find themselves could backfire. Lack of actual competition could result in a soft Oregon — or over-confident — when they play against teams like UCLA (which played No. 6 Oklahoma today) or No. 10 Stanford (which played No. 7 USC today).
- Justin Herbert (QB) had four passing touchdowns, 250 passing yards with an 80 percent passing accuracy
- Tony Brook-Jones (RB) rushed for 106 yards, one touchdown
- CJ Verdell (RB) rushed for 106 yards, one touchdown
- Oregon’s defense had four sacks on Portland State for a 27-yard total loss