Eugene, OR- With one of most impressive games of the season, regardless of Herbert’s absence, the Ducks showed out with a 41-20 victory over the Utes.
The Oregon Ducks (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12), the underdog of the afternoon, took the field desperate to squash their consecutive 3-game losing streak and keep their hopes for bowl game eligibility alive.
Favored by a field goal, the Utah Utes arrived at Autzen with an overall record of 4-3 and 1-3 in the Pac-12 was determined to silence the 56,154 fans in attendance. Despite the numerous Oregon injuries that have plagued the team’s season, Whittingham’s Utah Utes and ex-Oregon wide receiver Darren Carrington were no match for the Mighty Ducks.
One of the most notable moments of the game occurred in the third quarter when quarterback Braxton Burmeister connected to wide receiver Charles Nelson who bear crawled out of a tackle and completed a once-in-a-lifetime pass to tight end Jacob Breeland in the end zone for a touchdown. Nelson, eager for a touchdown throw all season, stated the play was practiced only once all week.
Taggart, Oregon’s head coach, called the play but a false start penalty brought the line back and when Taggart called the play a second time, Nelson joked that “I might have been smiling to the guy who was guarding me”. The touchdown made it a 14-point game and Utah failed to score until the fourth.
Late in the second quarter, Cornerback Ugochukwu Amadi put Carrington and the Utah sideline to sleep when he recovered his ex-teammate’s fumble for a 47-yard carry to the end zone. The Ducks never let up their lead and Amadi’s touchdown put Oregon up, 17-3.
Breaking La Michael James’ record last weekend vs. UCLA, running back Royce Freeman became the second all-time for rushing yards in the Pac-12 Conference with 5,103 yards.
After tonight’s win, Freeman joins James as one of the only Ducks with three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Freeman attributes his success as running back to his strong and powerful offensive line.
“In order to run the ball successfully, that is all praise to the offensive line and I am very grateful to have them up front”, says Freeman.
When asked how it felt to be playing in the presence of 2014 Heisman winner and Oregon football legend, Marcus Mariota, Freeman expressed that “seeing alumni, like Marcus, who have been so successful at the University around motivates you, there are no better guys to see”.
Although Taggart continues to withhold details regarding Herbert’s medical status, a confident Burmeister controlled the ball on offense more so than previous weeks.
Burmeister finished with a lack luster 47 passing yards compared to Utah’s quarterback Tyler Huntley’s 293 passing yards. According to Taggart, he was proud of the improvements his freshman quarterback made this week.
“I thought Braxton did a good job, it was great for him to be at home and get his first victory as a starting quarterback”, says Taggart. When asked if Herbert has been medically cleared yet, Taggart responds with a laugh, “he’s throwing the football… and drinking his milk”.
Utah failed to make it happen this afternoon on offense, only scoring two touchdowns. Utah’s Kicker Matt Gay, the nation’s field goal leader, picked up the slack but missed one field goal late in the third quarter. The Duck’s dominated the rushing game with 347 yards to Utah’s 91.
The Ducks sent the Utes’ home discouraged and with their fourth loss on the season, making them the worst team in the Pac-12 South.
With their new found confidence, Oregon travels to Seattle next week on Saturday November 4th to face the No. 12 Washington Huskies, who remain undefeated at home.