The annual Spring Game marks the end of spring workouts.

EUGENE, ORE. – The Oregon annual Spring game was played on Saturday morning inside Autzen Stadium with a crowd of over 36,821 fans in attendance. While team Free dressed in white won the scrimmage, 34-11, there were good plays – and bad, by both squads. Last year’s starting quarterback Justin Herbert threw three touchdowns to his top receiver Darren Carrington.

The game celebrated the U.S. Armed Forces and was highlighted with representatives of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard in attendance and a flyover by two Air Force F-15s. A ceremonial playing of Taps was performed at halftime, with the folding of the Flag. The flag was presented to Head Coach Willie Taggart.

The game enthusiastic and the fans responded accordingly.

Offensively, the Ducks (let’s face it, this is after all a scrimmage) have weapons, in Herbert, Carrington, running backs Tony Brooks-James, Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit. That’s not really a surprise but we saw more depth on the offensive line than there was last year and on defense, which is a work in progress, there was improvement, but that is relative to progress the Duck defense has made from last year’s squad which downright awful.

The Oregon offensive line particularly the returning starters made few mistakes in terms of false starts. Initially, the snaps from center were shaky as both centers had trouble delivering clean snaps, and that was true from the green and white squads. However, as the scrimmage progressed, the shotgun exchanged improved.

The Ducks showed some new formations, running out of the Pistol formation on several lays, as well as the veer back formation, the Ducks have been known for over the last few years.

Herbert was more decisive this season in determining when to hand off and when to tuck the ball in to look for a pass. Once he spotted the receiver he liked, his passes were delivered quicker, with greater accuracy than last year.

The defense of the green gave up a long touchdown run by Benoit covering 95 yards. Up until then, there hadn’t been any explosion running plays, but of course in the regular season, it will only take one missed tackle for some Pac-12 caliber running back to go the distance. So that was a huge mistake that the Duck coaching staff will have to work on and a point for the entire Duck defensive corps to focus on during the off season – not making critical mistakes.

Otherwise, there were some positives that Jim Leavitt, the defensive coordinator can pat the Duck D on the back. Oregon defense swarmed to the ball and closed better than what we saw in the 2016. There were several sacks, even if the rules of the contest considered a sack, when the defender touched the quarterback in the backfield. Generally, fundament tackling was improved, though there is still plenty to work on.

Fatigue did not seem to be much of a factor so the team, both on offense and defense looked in better physical condition.

The first half of the game was played utilizing a game-clock; the second half was two quarters of a 15-minute running back. The white led 14-3 at the end of the first half in what was a decently competitive contest.

The second half was out of hand for the defense, especially for the green squad that gave up three touchdowns.

For the day, there were seven scores. In the first quarter Herbert hit Carrington on a 13-yard pass culminating a 10 play, 75-yard drive lasting 2:55, following the point after, the Free (gray) led 7-0. Later in the quarter Zach Emerson kicked a 36-yard field goal and the score was cut to 7-3.

In the second quarter Carrington and Herbert again hooked on a 30-yard passing play for a score and it was 14-3 following the PAT.

The shortened third quarter had two scores, first a 2-yard run by Freeman then the 95-yard run by Benoit. The green Brave team finally scored in the fourth quarter when Brooks-James went in from 1-yard out and that score was followed up with a 2-point conversion when Braxton Burmeister hit Charles Nelson in the back of the endzone.

The final score of the day was the third touchdown connection of Herbert-to-Carrington, this time covering 25 yards, just as the game clock expired.

Overall the Free had 466 yards of total offense including 139 yards rushing and 327 yards passing. The Brave (green team) had 277 yards of total offense, 128 yards of rushing and 149 yards passing.

Herbert of course accounted for all 327 yards of passing for the Free, while Carrington had 116 yards of receiving on four catches. Benoit had 109 yards of rushing on five carries, which means the second straight spring game in which he had more than 100 yards rushing. Freeman had 43 yards of rushing on 12 carries.

Travis Jonsen and Burmeister split time at quarterback for the Brave. Jonsen had 86 yards of passing while Burmeister had 63 yards. The best pass of the day was likely the toss Jonsen had to Dillon Mitchell covering 44 yards. Mitchell finished with a total of three catches for 75 yards.

Defensively, there were a total of nine sacks (due to the touching rule) with five by Free and four by the Brave. In all there were 11 tackles for loss. There were two interceptions, both by the Free with Aarion Springs pick off one and true freshman Billy Gibson snagging the other.

The final analysis of the spring game will take place during the off-season as the team and coaches can use this contest to build upon.

Now is the off-season, full of conditioning to get stronger and building a cohesive team structure to carrying the Oregon Ducks into the 2017 season.


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