Oregon’s offense explodes in record 77-21 win over Southern Utah

Head coach Willie Taggart could not have asked for a better start from his offense in his first career game at Oregon.

The Ducks scored the most points in a game in 101 years, breaking the Autzen Stadium record, which stood at 72.

On a hot and smoky Saturday in Eugene, Oregon’s offense scored 21 points in each of the first three quarters, generated 703 yards of total offense and defeated Southern Utah 77-21 to open the 2017 season at Autzen Stadium. The rush game totaled 348 yards while sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert went 17-for-21 for 281 yards and one touchdown.

“I thought our guys were ready to play,” Taggart said. “I felt that way all week. Our guys went out and performed the way they should have. It wasn’t as pretty as we would like for it to be, but there was a lot of things we can correct. But I thought our guys really took care of business.”

Tony Brooks-James erupted for a 100-yard kick return to start the game, and the Ducks didn’t step off the gas pedal.

After Southern Utah tied the game on a nine play, 70-yard drive, the Ducks went on a 35-point streak, which included two touchdowns each from running backs Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit. Freeman finished with four touchdowns and 150 yards while Benoit had 107 yards in seven carries.

“It was just getting them the ball and letting them do what they do best,” Taggart said.

Oregon’s run game was always going to be important, and it was stressed throughout fall camp. The Ducks scored nine rushing touchdowns, the most in a single game in the program’s history.

Oregon running back Royce Freeman (21) tumbles into the endzone during the third quarter. The Oregon Ducks start their season playing against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore. on September 2, 2017. (Theo Mechain/Emerald)

The offensive line, which returns a plethora of players with experience under their belts, was able to get the job done.

“I thought they did what they were supposed to,” Taggart said. “Overall, it starts there and those guys open those doors for Royce and Kani and Tony. They did a good job of protecting Justin. I thought they did well enough.”

Even as the game became unreachable for the Thunderbirds, the Ducks did not stop.

Herbert got comfortable in the pocket, finding Charles Nelson, Jacob Breeland and even freshman Johnny Johnson III for a 37-yard catch. A 50-yard find of Nelson set the Ducks up inside the five.

“They’ve done a really great job,” Herbert said. “Guys like Johnny Johnson and Dillon Mitchell stepped up big time. Johnny had a heck of a catch and I trust those guys completely.”

Herbert was able to rely heavily on his running backs, but when he decided to launch some throws downfield, he was quite accurate.

“I told him after the game I was proud of him,” Taggart said. “We have a football team that’s willing to play for him and I think whenever you get that as a quarterback there’s a lot of good things that can happen.”

Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow

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Shawn Medow

Shawn Medow

Shawn is an associate sports editor and reporter for the Emerald covering football, men's basketball, women's basketball, acrobatics and tumbling, track and field/cross-country and softball. He also hosts several podcasts, including a soccer podcast, on the Emerald Podcast Network. You can contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShawnMedow.