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Entertaining Spring Game Bodes Well for Mighty Oregon

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Now, we wait...

NCAA Football: Oregon Spring Game Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

SPRING GAME


EUGENE, OREGON

MIGHTY OREGON 20 - FIGHTING DUCKS 13

Mighty Oregon defeated the Fighting Ducks, 20 to 13, in front of a crowd of 35,110 passionate fans.

Talented freshman like Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mykael Wright made their case for immediate playing time, Tyler Shough emerged as a confident backup to Herbert, and Oregon’s receiving problem may soon be cured with the arrival of Mycah Pittman and Juwan Johnson.

QUARTERBACK

Justin Herbert: 17/32 - 219 YDS - 2 TD

Tyler Shough: 18/31 - 178 YDS - 1 INT

The passing attack for the Oregon Ducks looks to be in good shape for the 2019 season. Justin Herbert threw two touchdowns: one to the grad-transfer Juwan Johnson and the other to top returning veteran Jaylon Redd. There were a handful of off-target shots downfield, as well as a couple of impressive plays by the first team defense, but overall Herbert looked calm and efficient in the pocket.

Perhaps the biggest story from the spring game is the play of Tyler Shough. Sure, he was going against the second string defense, but the redshirt freshman looked poised even when the pocket began to collapse. He didn’t record a touchdown, but he put his team in a position to win in the game’s final moments, though his last pass was intercepted. We appear to be in a better position than when Burmeister was our backup quarterback.

Of course, spring game success can be fool’s gold. With the lack of a real pass-rush, the constant shuffling of players, and limited practice time, a quarterback can appear better than they will be come game day. Still, Shough showed some intangibles that should bring comfort to Duck fans yearning for the days of Bryan Bennett.


RECEIVERS

Mycah Pittman, Juwan Johnson. Jaylon Redd, Johnny Johnson III, Brenden Schooler, Josh Delgado, Kyle Buckner,

This much maligned unit had a good showing in Autzen mainly due to an influx of new talent. Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson made his 6’4, 230 pound presence known by scoring the game’s first touchdown, a leaping fade route over Lenoir that gave Mighty Oregon a 7-3 lead.

Freshman Mycah Pittman also made a remarkable first impression, leading all receivers with his seven receptions for 48 yards. Shough and Pittman had clear chemistry, and Pittman displayed the surest hands of the evening. The Ducks may not have the luxury of keeping Pittman off the first team for much longer, because his ability to run crisp routes and hold on to the ball is too in demand.

Jaylon Redd picked up where he left off last year by blasting past a defender to put himself in position for a Herbert touchdown pass (as well as a pretty awesome victory dance). Johnson and Pittman seem to have the talent and drive to steal one or two starting spots, but Redd’s experience shouldn’t be sold short as he was Herbert’s second best weapon last season behind Dillon Mitchell.

Fellow returnees Johnny Johnson III and Brenden Schooler each made impressive plays that helped extend a drive for Mighty Oregon, hopefully signifying thatd the veterans aren’t ready to just role over for the incoming receivers.

True freshman Josh Delgado had some positive moments. and even Kyle Buckner made an impressive diving catch, though it should be noted that the game’s longest pass went to running back CJ Verdell who took a check down 64 yards and just shy of the end zone.


RUNNING BACKS

CJ Verdell, Cyrus Habibi-Likio. Travis Dye. Darrian Felix

Surprising no one, CJ Verdell and Travis Dye proved effective at moving the chains. Verdell’s explosive catch and run set up an easy score for Habibi-Likio on the Herbert led squad and Travis Dye played with the same speed and intensity that he became known for last season.

A truly surprising development has been the emergence of Cyrus Habibi-Likio. The sophomore short-yard specialist has taken full advantage of increased off-season playing time due to injury at running back. He led all rushers with 45 yards on 12 carries including a touchdown.

Darrian Felix seemed to be making some noise before an illness put him back on the sideline. Once again, Oregon seems to have a stable group of running backs, and with the inclusion of Sean Dollars we should see a lot of different styles and jerseys behind Justin Herbert.

NCAA Football: Oregon Spring Game Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

ALL-GANG GREEN TEAM

  • Kayvon Thibodeaux - Oregon’s highest rated recruit in school history lived in the backfield of the Fighting Ducks. Although he’s credited with just a single sack and a pass breakup, the true freshman would’ve racked up more if this was a full contact practice. He’s certainly got the talent to be a day-one starter, now it’s time for him to hit the books and gym.
  • Gus Cumberlander - The returning leader in sacks marked another notch to his tally by getting to Justin Herbert behind the first team offensive line. Senior Cumberlander will take on a leading role for this unit and looks to be ready.
  • Thomas Graham Jr. - The junior has progressed every year since his freshman debut and had a couple of impressive plays on Saturday. Juwan Johnson had the ball in his hands for what would have been his second touchdown of the evening until Graham Jr. ripped it from his clutches.
  • Mykael Wright - Down by seven with under two minutes remaining, Tyler Shough heaved a deep ball intended for JJ Tucker, but after it bounced off the hand of the receiver Wright was right there to reach back and snatch the one handed interception as he tumbled into the end zone. The game-clinching pick capped off an impressive debut from the freshman who was picked on at times by Shough but also swatted three passes. Wright’s spot behind Graham Jr. and Lenoir seems just about a sure thing.

KICKING GAME

Four field goals were made during the spring scrimmage: two by Zach Emerson and two by Camden Lewis. Lewis opened the scoring with a 32-yarder, then Emerson hit two in the second to give Might Oregon a 13-10 lead going into the half, 28 and 21 yards respectively. Lewis scored the only points of the fourth quarter, a 26-yard field goal.

Neither kicker looked all-star caliber, especially when Emerson needed the assistance of the goalpost to score, but Oregon at least appears to have options from short range.


RED CARPET REVIEW

Coach Mario Cristobal hasn’t quite proven himself as an elite coach on the field, but as a recruiter, leader, and showman it’s become clear that he is exactly what this Oregon program needed. Not only has he signed the highest rated recruit and class in his short time as HC, he also has turned events like this Spring Game into major celebrations.

Dennis Dixon, Gary Zimmerman, Marcus Mariota, Tyrell Crosby, Dan Fouts, Kenjon Barner, and Jeremiah Massoli were but a few big names in attendance. Furthermore, the PAC-12 Network did a surprisingly competent job with their mid-game interviews, which included chats with Sabrina Ionescu, Dan Fouts, Gary Zimmerman, Troy Dye and Justin Herbert, They even found the time to breakdown Cristobal’s pitching form at the Duck baseball game with Herbert.

So far, Cristobal’s influence on this program seems to be positive; fans are excited, players seem optimistic, and recruits are buying in. Auburn will be a huge test for these Ducks, but a welcome one that can’t get here soon enough!

GO DUCKS!