STANFORD, Calif. — Sound the alarms: Oregon’s offense is in its worst-case scenario.
Many fans and media members speculated that a Justin Herbert injury this season would be the worst-case scenario for Oregon, and now their fears have come true as the offense is ineffective with both Braxton Burmeister and Taylor Alie at quarterback. That was clear in its 49-7 loss at No. 23 Stanford (5-2, 4-1) Saturday night.
In the spring, Oregon (4-3, 1-3) possessed quarterback depth. Herbert was returning and backups Travis Jonsen and Terry Wilson Jr. were competing to overthrow him. Burmeister was the fourth string. Alie was a wide receiver. Nobody knows if Wilson or Jonsen would’ve been better, but more options could only help.
But then Jonsen and Wilson Jr. transferred, so Alie returned to quarterback and battled Burmeister behind Herbert. Alie was a senior and former walk-on who had never seen consistent playing time, and Burmeister was a freshman who didn’t look ready — even during the spring game.
Burmeister started on Saturday. It went poorly as he threw two interceptions early, and Oregon moved basically run-only offense from there.
“If I saw that in practice, he wouldn’t be in the game playing,” head coach Willie Taggart said.
At one point, the Ducks went 25 consecutive plays without a pass.
For most of the game, Burmeister had more passes completed to Stanford players than he did to Oregon players via the two interceptions. Oregon completed a pass at the 14-minute mark of the second quarter, but didn’t complete one again until the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter; that was with Alie at quarterback, who was not good either.
Taggart needed to do something, so he put Alie in during the third quarter.
“Well I just thought we’ll put Taylor in and that would give us a spark, and it didn’t,” Taggart said.
Alie’s first pass attempt hit the ground roughly 5-yards short of an open Jacob Breeland, who was visibly frustrated after the pass.
“There were guys open, and we didn’t get it to them,” Taggart said. “And then when they’re not open we’ve got to know where to go with the ball. Check it down or throw it away.”
The Ducks only threw the ball 13 times compared to the 43 rushing plays. In those plays, Alie and Burmeister combined to go 5-of-13 for 33 yards.
A non-existent passing game makes it almost impossible to win. Taggart stated that it will be hard for Oregon’s offense to play from behind this season, putting extra pressure on the defense.
“It’s tough when you’re on the field a lot as a defense,” safety Tyree Robinson said. “For me, it’s nothing new. Been playing over 100 snaps my last three years here.”
How do they prevent Burmeister’s confidence from being shattered going forward? He’s thrown four interceptions in two games, and the Ducks go on the road next week against UCLA, so it’s a steep learning curve.
“The toughest times you go through make you who you are, and we have a lot of football left to play,” running back Royce Freeman said. “So I just keep reminding him, ‘You don’t have to be a hero. You don’t have to do anything out of your element, and we’re here for him.’”
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917