When the Ducks hosted Utah on Oct. 25 at Autzen Stadium, Oregon’s offense pulled out a trick play. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister pitched the ball to senior wide receiver Charles Nelson, and after nearly going down, found Jacob Breeland in the end zone for one of Oregon’s two passing touchdowns.
That was Oregon’s best highlight for the wide receivers throughout all of October and most of November.
Oregon’s wide receivers went on a drought during Burmeister’s time as the starting quarterback. With Herbert’s return against Arizona, they had significant action and should see plenty more in the future.
Against the Wildcats, the Ducks performed another trick play — a reverse flea flicker. But this time, Nelson gave the ball back to the quarterback. Herbert fired the ball downfield, finding Johnny Johnson III a yard shy of the end zone.
“When you can only run the ball, obviously we know that was all we were going to do — everyone else knew that was what we were going to do,” center Jake Hanson said. “So having Justin back obviously took some pressure off of Royce and our other running backs and it just opened things up that we can do offensively so that was great.”
In the five games Burmeister played, he threw the ball more than 15 times just once (27 against Washington State). Against Arizona, Oregon’s wide receivers were thrown to 21 times by Herbert.
“Justin’s an irreplaceable guy, so to have him back is great,” Nelson said. “Got a bunch of passes thrown to us.”
With Oregon’s quarterback and wide receivers and back in action, opposing defenses have to adjust to knowing that the Ducks will not simply rely on the run game as they have done this season.
This gave the Ducks the advantage of forcing the Wildcats’ defense to prepare for any possible play.
“It was fantastic knowing that Justin was out there,” wide receiver Dillon Mitchell said. “Knowing that he’s a threat to throw the ball deep. It’s been tough weeks that we’ve been playing not to have a ball thrown. Just sticking to it and knowing the game plan is key.”
Oregon became bowl eligible with the win against Arizona, and with just the Civil War against Oregon State remaining, many are wondering what could have been.
“It’s a big win,” Nelson said after Arizona. “It sets us up, shows us what we can do when everyone is on the field. I feel like we did a great job today. Shows what they’re gonna do next year.”
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow