*LIVE FROM THE STUDENT SECTION
EUGENE, Oregon - The Ducks erupted on homecoming against Arizona State, 54-35. Oregon’s offensive barrage was led by Justin Herbert. His 489 passing yards and four touchdown passes tied an Oregon single-game record. In a battle of true freshman quarterbacks, Herbert shined the brightest from Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
When Herbert was asked about tying Bill Musgrave’s single-game passing record, his response drew a chorus of laughter from the large media contingent.
FINALLY! Please, feel free to exhale. The 5-game losing streak has been snapped.
“We took a lot of the momentum from Cal,” stated the quarterback. “Did our best opening up against Arizona State. It worked out well.”
The Oregon offense accounted for 734 total yards against ASU. Following their five-game losing skid, there is no better way to end a streak. With the massive victory, Oregon moves their record to 3-5 on the season. This was Oregon’s first Pac-12 win of 2016. It also keeps the Ducks’ bowl hopes alive.
“I think the best part was the win,” said Herbert in reference to his historical game.
The Oregon true freshman completed an incredible 31-of-42 passes tying a school record with 489 passing yards on Saturday. Following a record-tying six-TD game vs Cal last week, it was another record day for the local boy.
“Our coaches made a great plan for us coming into this game,” Herbert said. “Our linemen executed it really well and so did the running backs. That made my job a lot easier.”
The Sheldon high school alum tossed four touchdowns and no interceptions, as well. The freshman also ran 11 times for 23 total yards.
“As the half went on, he just made play after play after play,” said Mark Helfrich. “And some guys made some big plays for him."
Oregon quarterback coach David Yost is encouraged by Herbert’s progression.
Herbert’s historic day tied Bill Musgrave’s record for the most passing yards in a game by a Duck quarterback. Musgrave accumulated his 489 yards in 1989 against BYU.
“I think it was good,” Yost stated. “The next step in the process.”
On the Ducks’ third play from scrimmage, quarterback Herbert connected with his athletic tight end Pharaoh Brown for a 72-yard score. The opening score was rewarded by the Oregon faithful with thunderous applause. The Ducks and Herbert were just getting started this afternoon.
“Pharaoh (Brown) made a great play that gets everything started,” said Yost. “Once we get ourselves going, we can be explosive."
Brown led all receivers in the game, amassing seven catches for 129 yards and his two touchdown’s.
“We have been talking about starting fast all year,” Yost stated calmly. “That helps the defense out. We wanted to go out and execute on the first drive.”
Making his first collegiate start, true freshman quarterback Dillon Sterling-Cole exhibited a veteran presence for the Sun Devils. He illustrated this throughout the game.
ASU running back Kalen Ballage plunged into the end zone to tie the game, 7-7. The Sun Devils concluded their drive after six plays, and 75 yards that consumed 2:22 from the clock.
Following a 31-yard Charles Nelson touchdown reception, Autzen Stadium erupted once again. The Ducks reclaimed their lead, 14-7.
Aidan Schneider knocked down all three of his field goals in the first half. However, he missed his first attempt of the season in the third quarter. After securing just three field goals over the first seven games, Schneider had four total on Saturday.
Helfrich was impressed by his team’s effort, but felt the Ducks left points on the field.
“We had some great rhythm going, particulary in the passing game,” Helfrich said. “We would have liked to finish those drives with touchdowns. Instead of field goals during a stretch there.”
Kaulana Apelu’s first career interception led to a Duck score prior to the halftime whistle. Herbert found Brown a second time with just :09 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Oregon entered halftime leading ASU, 30-14.
Khalil Oliver galloped 16 yards on the successful Oregon fake punt on their initial second half possession. However, the drive ended with no points, as Schneider concluded it with his first miss of 2016.
“I’m just glad that we got the win,” Herbert stated. “It meant a lot to our team, and a lot to the coaches.”
Ballage notched his second TD of the game in the third quarter. The 15-yard scamper set-up Ballage’s successful two-point conversion the following play. The ASU tally placed them within eight points of the Ducks, 30-22, after trailing by 16 at halftime.
Following the ASU score, Herbert calmed his team, coaches and fans alike when he hooked up with Jalen Brown for 49 yards. Schneider concluded the drive with his fourth field goal of the day, 33-22.
N’Keal Harry brilliantly high-pointed a Sterling-Cole pass with 12:52 left in the fourth quarter. With the points, ASU cut their deficit to 33-28. Arizona State failed their two-point conversion attempt.
A 53-yard strike from Herbert to Johnny Mundt handed Oregon another two-score lead, 40-28. The Ducks lead ballooned following Mundt’s second TD in as many weeks
“I have a lot of confidence in them,” said Herbert in reference to his tight ends. “I know they’re going to go up and make a play. It makes my job a lot easier throwing to them."
With the win at their fingertips, Duck running back Kani Benoit carelessly fumbled the ball away while trying to milk the clock. ASU’s Carlos Mendoza returned it 45 yards to set-up the Sun Devil score. Devilish trickery led to their running back Ballage tossing a touchdown pass to Kody Kohl. The 3-yard score placed ASU within five points of Oregon.
Nevertheless, Oregon refused to give away the game. The next Duck possession, Tony Brooks-James vaulted 58 yards to the house. Oregon led by 12 once again, 47-35, as the clock dwindled just under seven minutes.
“Taking that next step,” said Helfrich. “It got a little tight at the end.”
Tyree Robinson clinched the win for the Ducks with his turnover. The 84-yard interception return with 3:52 remaining in the game placed Oregon 10 yards from surpassing 50 points. It was the second of three Oregon interception’s.
“Made a couple big plays on defense and swung the momentum,” Helfrich said. “Hope this comes up starting a (win) streak the other way.”
Royce Freeman walked in from 10 yards for his first touchdown of the day. Oregon expanded their insurmountable lead to 54-35 with 2:36 left in the game.
On a side note, Darren Carrington made the 100th catch of his Duck career.
Jalen Brown was second on the Ducks in receiving Saturday. He caught five passes for 97 yards (19.4 YPC).
Brenden Schooler also intercepted a pass late in the game for Oregon. It was his second of the 2016 season.
The Ducks have now scored 40 points or more against ASU in seven straight contests.
Sterling-Cole threw for 302 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. The freshman also rushed for 23 yards and a score.
Ballage carried the ball 18 times for 62 yards and two TD’s on the ground. The talented back led all ASU receivers with six grabs for 105 yards. Ballage also completed both passing attempts for 27 yards and a touchdown. He is quite the talent.
The Ducks (3-5) now head to California once again. This time, Oregon will face a stiffer test than Cal in the form of Southern California (5-3) on Saturday, November 5. The Trojans have won four straight games.
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