It’s hard for Oregon to be upset with a 45-3 win in front of over 50,000 fans at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon’s offense finally clicked and most importantly the running game looked explosive for the first time in awhile. On the other side, defensive coordinator Andy Avalos defense continued their historic run as they’ve now held five consecutive opponents to 10 points or fewer for the first time since 1958.
Unfortunately for head coach Mario Cristobal and his surging Ducks squad, the win comes at a price. Oregon finished the game with three of the team’s top playmakers suffering injuries.
In the midst of what would eventually be a game-deciding second quarter swing, tight end Jacob Breeland — who was off to a hot start with three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown — Jevon Holland and Troy Dye all exited the game.
While backup tight end Hunter Kampmoyer didn’t record a catch — failing to haul in a potential touchdown pass — the defensive backups didn’t miss a beat.
“This time of year it’s going to be tough without [depth],” Cristobal said. “It all goes with the way you practice… Now it’s live action, now it’s for real and there’s production.”
Both Dye and Holland would not return, giving backups Haki Woods Jr. and MJ Cunningham chances to finally display their talents.
On his first snap, Woods Jr. quickly diagnosed a run, meeting the running back in the hole as he delivered a powerful hit for one of his career-high six tackles in the game. Just a few plays later, his tip in the endzone — one of two deflections, both of which resulted in interceptions — led to the game’s first turnover.
“That was incredible,” senior safety Brady Breeze said. “I was so excited for Haki. He hasn’t really been able to get a chance because Jevon’s just been ballin.”
Cunningham, who’s rarely seen the field due to a glut of impact players at linebacker, saw extended time as well.
The redshirt freshman, who had previously recorded only one career tackle, had four tackles. Additionally, he played a part in terrorizing quarterback Steven Montez — who played the worst game of his college career with a career-high four interceptions — delivering two quarterback hurries.
“MJ, I thought he did amazing today,” Breeze said. “He came in and filled in for Troy Dye like nothing happened… He’s been working his butt off. He watches a ton of film and you can tell he knows what he’s doing in practice. It was cool. I’m excited to see younger guys get an opportunity and make some plays.”
Luckily for the Ducks, Dye and Holland’s injuries seem to be minor as both coaches and players heavily downplayed their respective issues.
Unfortunately Breeland may not be so lucky. He was notably frustrated on the sideline, sitting out the entire second half on crutches — a big blow for the Ducks despite the emergence of receivers Juwan Johnson and Mycah Pittman, who both turned in solid games. But just as they handled the defensive situation, the approach won’t differ.
“Next man up,” offensive tackle Penei Sewell said. “We’re going to need the whole team for the whole season to reach our goal.”
For Sewell, and many of his teammates, the goal is a Pac-12 championship. But as this defense continues to prove themselves week after week, the sky's the limit.
“We’re trying to be Gang Green 2.0,” Breeze said.
It’s one week at a time for Oregon, and next week’s a big one as the Ducks now turn their attention to their bitter rival: Washington.