Players and fans had been waiting since the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State in December. Oregon football is finally back, and the Ducks gave their fans 58 reasons to cheer.
Despite a few mishaps scattered throughout the game, Justin Herbert and Oregon’s offense unleashed on the Bowling Green defense, putting up 49 points in the 58-24 win over the Falcons.
“Our first couple of series, we stumbled a little bit,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “As the game went on in the second and third quarter, I felt that we really started coming on and playing Oregon football.“
Herbert’s big day set a new Oregon record. His five passing touchdowns are now the most for a season opener in Oregon history. The junior completed 10 of his 21 passes for 281 yards. He also added another 41 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“Justin is a master of this offense,” Cristobal said. “He knows it extremely well. He was able to deliver it on the second and third read on a number of occasions. … Overall I’m just very pleased with his performance.”
It seemed like Herbert’s night was done in the third quarter when Braxton Burmeister took the field with five minutes left in the third, but after a Bowling Green touchdown, Herbert returned to the playing field.
“We thought it was a good idea to get Braxton in when the game was still a game,” Cristobal said. “When we didn’t move the ball and they scored, it just triggered, ‘Hey we need to get back on track.’ and that’s why we put the ones back in.”
The Ducks came inches away from a touchdown twice on the opening drive with deep balls to both Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd clanking off their hands, and were ultimately forced to punt.
“I think the best part of our players and coaches is we’re not always going to have the perfect play, we’re not going to always have the perfect execution, but there’s got to be a trust and belief in one another,” Cristobal said. “So we dialed it up again, and the second time around Jaylon and Justin connected and it just started a frenzy on the sideline.”
Oregon was in need of a big play, trailing 10-0 early.
Three plays after a Herbert 37-yard run, the Ducks found the end zone for the first time on a 33-yard, fourth down conversion touchdown pass from Herbert to Redd.
“That was a big play for sure, but I knew I had a guy like Jaylon Redd out there,” Herbert said. “He’s a great receiver and he ran a good route. He’s a guy that you trust and on fourth down you go to. I’m glad he made the play.”
From that point on, it was all Oregon. The Ducks outscored Bowling Green 51-14 to close out the game, getting touchdowns from Ugochukwu Amadi (38-yard interception touchdown), Dillon Mitchell (nine-yard touchdown reception), Taj Griffin (83-yard touchdown reception), Cyrus Habibi-Likio (five-yard touchdown run), Johnson III (40-yard touchdown reception), Herbert (two-yard touchdown run) and Redd (48-yard touchdown reception).
The game was not perfect with some turnovers, including two Herbert interceptions, and what Cristobal called a possibly “significant” leg injury to starting tight end Cam McCormick, but the 58-24 score gives some time to celebrate before returning to practice.
“I think the best part about a win like this is there’s so many things you can correct and get better at,” Cristobal said. “I think our guys are really enthused in the locker room about getting after it and getting right back to work and we’ll see how far we can go.”
Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack