“We got off to a good start, obviously getting the pick six to start things off and the defense did a great job of creating possessions and turnovers and finishing them off with touchdowns,” commented Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich of the game.
This was a game though where the Ducks seemed to take some steps forward and some steps back.
Jeff Lockie made his first start as a Duck in place of the injured Vernon Adams and responded by throwing for 228 yards on 23-of-31 passing and two touchdowns. His longest throw was for was a 44-yard hook up with Charles Nelson. Lockie also rushed for two yards.
Not exactly Marcus Mariota or Vernon Adams numbers, but not bad though. Lockie made no huge mistakes that cost Oregon points or turned over the ball. Some of his passes were too long, some too short. Still though as the game progressed he found receivers and managed the Oregon offense on the way to racking up 530 yards of total offense.
“For the most part he did a good job; there were a couple of missed plays,” said Helfrich of Lockie’s play. “For a first start in that situation, with a lot of young guys playing, he ran the show well.”
Lockie found 11 receivers, hitting Dwayne Stanford and Johnny Mundt for touchdowns. Stanford was the leading receiver for the day with three catches for 44 yards. Charles Nelson also had 44 yards on two catches. Devon Allen surprised the home crowd with three receptions for 28 yards. Many wondered when Allen might be back after going down after the opening kickoff in last winter’s Rose Bowl.
Other names that caught passes: Jalen Brown (2/25) Bralon Addison (3/23), Tony Brooks-James (3/17), Evan Baylis (2/11) Byron Marshall (1/9), Kirk Merritt (1/5) and Royce Freeman (2/3).
It was a step in the right direction for Lockie.
Freeman played one half and rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown. The typical type performance one would expect from the All-American.
"We're just trying to find the identity of the offense and trying to click from all angles offensively and defensively and make sure things are running smoothly,” said Freeman. “ We're trying to work on coming out from the gate fast and hard."
Taj Griffin and James both had double digit carries. Griffin had 56 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, while James toted the ball 12 times for 50 yards.
The longest run of the day though was by third string quarterback Taylor Alie who did a Mariota impersonation by outrunning everyone for an 87-yard touchdown run.
“There is nothing different between doing that at Sheldon or doing that here,” admitted Alie. “It’s just a bigger stage, faster people, bigger people. It’s unbelievable. I can’t describe it, but I am so thankful that I got the opportunity, and like I said I am so happy for my other teammates and the guys that made that happen.”
The Ducks allowed GSU, 434 yards of total offense, 318 yards through the air but only 116 on the ground. The Ducks also recorded the first sack of the season then added two more on top of that.
“There were a ton of dropped passes and a couple of those balls were deflected and we had a couple uncontested drops,” observed Helfrich of the defensive effort. “We ran to the ball a little bit better. In the quick game, we did a better job of getting three or four guys on the ball.”
While seeming to right itself in the second quarter and holding GSU to seven points in the first half, Oregon came out expecting to have the ball at the start of the third quarter when special teams started making mistakes. First, Merritt brought in his first kickoff of his career, but ended up fumbling giving George State excellent field position in Oregon territory. Then the Duck defenders committed a personal foul (roughing the passer), pass interference, then put soft coverage on a one of GSUs bigger receivers for a touchdown.
That’s a step back.
Still though, Oregon had two interceptions, both by Tyree Robinson one for a pick-6 return.
“I was seeing the outside receiver, and I was trying to be physical and trying to get the receiver to go backwards instead of forward,” said Robinson describing the play.
Tyson Coleman (1), DeForest Buckner (1.5) Christian French (1) and Terrodney Prevot (.5) all recorded sacks and Joe Walker, for the second time in his career, scooped up a fumble and ran it back for a score.
That’s a double-step forward.
It should be noted that 25 Ducks recorded tackles. That means a lot of players who haven’t seen the field yet this year got in the game.
That’s another step forward.
One huge step forward was the field goal kicking by Aidan Schneider, who hit all four of his field goal attempts (26, 40, 40, 40) and all the point after attempts.
“They did a great job, our whole field goal and PAT team rallied for this game,” assessed Helfrich. “It was a little bit different, but they did a great job.”
Special teams though had the one fumble by Merritt and a near disaster when James started to take the ball out of the endzone on a kick off, hesitated, and nearly took a knee after he carried the ball out of the endzone. It was a good thing his knee didn’t touch the turf because it would have been inside the goal line and that would a have resulted in a safety.
Maybe that was more of a side-step than a step back.
This week as the Oregon coaches prepared for Georgia State and licked their wounds from the Michigan State loss, they talked about good, spirited practices, which is a step in the right direction and perhaps that’s why overall there were way more steps forward than back in this game.
The Ducks got the win and that’s a step forward as well.
Next week conference play starts with Utah coming to Autzen Stadium.