EUGENE, Oregon - The No. 24 Oregon Ducks certainly are not wasting any time tonight, as they lead the Virginia Cavaliers 30-6 at halftime from Autzen Stadium. The offense, namely quarterback Dakota Prukop, led the way with 203 passing yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
On Virginia’s second drive, a fake field goal attempt was sniffed out by the Oregon special teams unit, as the offense fortunately regained possession. Plays later, Pharaoh Brown rumbled 21 yards to the Cavaliers 2-yard line, setting up Heisman hopeful Royce Freeman’s touchdown score, his third of the young season. Oregon took the early 6-0 lead following an unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt.
The incredible Freeman rushed 17 times for 110 yards in half No. 1, so the training wheels are certainly off for the 2016 season. It was his 18th career 100-yard rushing game. With his first half performance, the Duck workhorse passed Derek Loville for No. 3 on the Oregon all-time rushing ranks.
Following a mysteriously quick possession call by the referees on a catch by Olamide Zaccheaus for 24 yards that was dropped as the player headed out of bounds; Virginia running back Albert Reid rushed into the end zone from seven yards out to knot the game up, 6-6. The Cavaliers missed their extra point attempt.
Special teams’ superstar Charles Nelson returned the kick-off 43 yards following the Cavaliers first score, placing the Ducks on their own 44-yard line to begin their next scoring drive.
The play of the night, so far, came three plays later when quarterback Dakota Prukop somehow evaded oncoming defenders with his Russell Wilson-echelon escape move to complete a 22-yard pass down field to Darren Carrington. Back-up running back Tony Brooks-James then scampered to the house for his second touchdown of the year, as Oregon went back on top, 13-6, with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
As we spoke of last week, the Ducks main vulnerability this season is their “iffy” at best run defense. UC Davis gashed Oregon last Saturday and tonight has been no different. Reid looked like an All-American candidate or even the former Cavalier legend Tiki Barber with 92 yards on 12 carries, alongside his score in the half. The senior impressively rushed seven times in the first quarter for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Washington, D.C. native also returns kicks, eclipsing 42 yards on a return.
On the Ducks fourth drive, Prukop faked a handoff to Freeman in the Virginia end zone that was met by a collective groan from the Duck faithful as they believed he was tackled in the end zone for a Cavalier safety. Instead, Prukop had the rock running up field when he decided to lateral to Carrington at the 10-yard line for some additional yardage on the impressively drawn-up play.
Later, on that possession Prukop hooked up with Rio ‘16 Olympian Devon Allen for 55 yards on third down and 16 yards to go. Prukop completed the drive with a rocket two-yard pass to Dwayne Stanford in the back of the end zone for a 20-6 Oregon lead midway through the second quarter. It was Stanford’s first score of the 2016 campaign.
The monster tight end, Brown, caught his first touchdown since 2014 when Prukop found him from 11 yards out, boosting the Duck lead to 27-6. Their fifth drive of the evening lasted 12 plays, traveling 80 yards as they accumulated 3:15 off the clock.
After not playing all of the 2015 season, Brown received an incredibly warm welcome back to the fray tonight from the Oregon faithful. He will be invaluable to the Duck offense, should he stay healthy. Not to mention, he is this writer’s pick for Duck x-factor for the 2016 season.