*LIVE FROM THE STUDENT SECTION
EUGENE, Oregon - The Ducks enter halftime leading Arizona State, 30-14, from Autzen Stadium on homecoming. Justin Herbert and Pharaoh Brown led the Oregon offense with a total of five touchdowns in the first half.
Near midfield and dressed in all black, the students are in a frenzy. I can barely hear myself think. Writing this on my phone is no easy feat at the present moment. This is the belly of the beast.
If you were an outsider at this game, you would never imagine the Ducks’ possessing just two wins this season. The fans are absolutely wonderful. The stands are filling quite quickly. Late tailgaters continue to stumble into Autzen Stadium, even after kick-off.
This was my first time entering Autzen Stadium as a fan. I felt truly welcomed by the entire personable game day staff.
Wading between student sections with waves of green and yellow. For any ASU fans, this is the last place you want to find yourself. The energy is palpable right now. You would think Oregon is ranked No. 8 in the country and unbeaten amidst the hoards of Duck support.
I have to admit, this is beyond one of the best atmospheres I have witnessed. Yet, I didn’t know what to expect after the Ducks started the season 2-5. This illustrates the loyalty of Oregon fans.
On the Ducks’ third play from scrimmage, quarterback Justin Herbert connected with his athletic tight end Pharaoh Brown for a 72-yard score. The opening-drive score was rewarded by the Oregon faithful. Brown was on the receiving end of his third score of 2016.
The 7-0 lead would last just a matter of moments, however.
Making his first collegiate start, true freshman quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole has a veteran presence about him. He illustrated this on the Sun Devil first scoring drive.
ASU running back Kalen Ballage plunged into the end zone from eight yards out, tying the game 7-7. The Sun Devils concluded their drive after six plays, and 75 yards that consumed 2:22 off the clock.
There is one thing I have been dying to explore more since I relocated to the PNW. I wanted to better understand the rivalry between the state neighbors. One student named Brett tried to explain the difference between Washington and Oregon fans for me.
“We have been a Top 10 program the last decade, and more. The Huskies are ranked for the first time in forever and act like they are the best already. It is pretty infuriating. Act like you’ve been there before.”
The next Duck score had Brett screaming at the top of his lungs and shaking me uncontrollably. I loved hanging with him, but need to move onto another part of Autzen before he shook all sense from me.
Following a 31-yard Charles Nelson touchdown reception, Autzen Stadium erupted in a way I have yet to hear this season. Maybe it’s because I am trapped in the press box on most game days, but this place is rocking right now.
Off to the season ticket holder section for some serious opinion. I ran into Gary who was headed to his seat of 20 years at Autzen Stadium. With a tray full of nachos, he graciously took a moment to express his Duck optimism.
“Marcus (Mariota) did so much for this program. When he left, we had nobody to take over right away. Vernon (Adams) was the best transfer I’ve seen at quarterback here. I think they (coaching staff) was trying to catch lightning in a bottle with Prukop. Herbert looks good, we’ll see. He is young. But, Marcus was young once too.”
Gary fully encompasses what a Duck fan is all about. No matter the highs or lows of the program, Oregon fans will always love their Ducks, plain and simple. The rest of the Pac-12 needs to respect the team that made them all better.
Following an Adam Schneider field goal that gave Oregon their biggest lead, 17-7, ASU responded once again.
The ASU freshman QB scored from a yard out, placing his team within three points, 17-14. Sterling-Cole led ASU 70 yards on eight plays in 2:42 off the clock.
Schneider chipped in his third field goal of the half before halftime, 23-14. The Duck freshman continues to drive the team down the field. Head coach Mark Helfrich is not taking many chances today. Instead, he is electing to grab the easy points. Smart.
Herbert has completed an incredible 20-of-24 passes for 320 yards in the first half. He has thrown for three touchdowns and no interceptions. The freshman has also run seven times for 15 total yards.
Brown leads all receivers in the game, amassing seven catches for 129 yards and his two score’s.
Forget your iPhone. The Oregon band is all the music I need on a Saturday afternoon in the fall. Sun-soaked Autzen Stadium is the perfect setting for a college football game. After halftime, I will be sliding over to the general pubic seating for the final two quarters.
The Duck faithful is working themselves into a lather after an Oregon defensive turnover. Kaulana Apelu’s first career interception led to the next Duck score.
Four plays later, Herbert connected with Brown a second time with just :09 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The Ducks enter halftime leading ASU, 30-14.
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