No. 23 Oregon looks to keep rolling hosting Portland State
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — For his first outing of the season, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert had six touchdowns — five via pass and one on the ground. There’s a possibility that against Portland State on Saturday he won’t be in the game long enough to get as many.
Or maybe not.
Herbert drove the offense in No. 23 Oregon’s 58-24 victory over Bowling Green last week, passing for 281 yards and running for 41. He left the game for a time in the third quarter after connecting with Taj Griffin on an 83-yard scoring pass that gave the Ducks a 51-17 lead.
Backup Braxton Burmeister saw some field time, but the offense stalled and Bowling Green scored so Herbert came back.
“When we didn’t move the ball and they scored we thought we wanted to get back on track,” coach Mario Cristobal said.
Portland State fell 72-19 to Nevada in their opener, allowing 636 yards of total offense. The Vikings had trouble containing Wolf Pack quarterback Ty Gangi, who threw for 342 yards and three scores.
No matter how long he stays in the game at Autzen Stadium, Herbert — who has earned early mentions as a Heisman candidate — will likely have the opportunity to pad his stats a bit.
His five touchdown passes against Bowling Green were a record for an Oregon opener, and his 28.1-yard completion average in the game led the nation.
The Ducks average 42.3 points per game when the Oregon native starts.
“Probably the most significant improvement in him is his role as a leader, where he’s more vocal, his presence is stronger,” Cristobal said. “He has such as strong grasp of the offense, every aspect of it.”
Cristobal added: “He wants more, that’s the best part about it. He’s hungrier for it and we’re giving it to him. So we expect him to take even another step here in the next couple of weeks.”
Some things to know as Oregon hosts Portland State:
HISTORY: Oregon leads the series against the fellow Oregon team 4-0. The Ducks blanked the Vikings 69-0 the last time the two teams met in 2010.
MONEY GAMES: The Vikings are opening the season with two FBS-level teams. Portland State is 4-37 against the top division, with two of those wins coming in 2015 against Washington State and North Texas under current coach Bruce Barnum.
“We’ve already won if you look at it, this game we’re going to make over $500,000. That’s part of college football. But our kids love competing as well,” Barnum said.
BIG PLAY CHARLIE: Portland State tight End Charlie Taumoepeau scored in the opener on a pair of catches, one for 48 yards and the other for 75. He finished with 130 receiving yards for his second career game over the 100-yard mark.
“Charlie’s fun to watch,” Barnum said. “Charlie’s one of our guys that you get him the football and he’s going to get yards after the catch. He’s going to make things happen, and we know that.”
LOSS: Oregon tight end Cam McCormick broke a bone in his left leg during the opener and will be out for the season, Cristobal announced this week. The sophomore had won a starting job following fall camp.
“Losing Cam sucks but we’ve got guys behind him and they’ll step up to play,” Herbert said.
STARTING SLOW: One area of emphasis this week for the Ducks? Faster starts. The Ducks fell behind 10-0 to Bowling Green in the early going.
“The messaging is really the truth of the matter,” Cristobal said when asked what he’s telling his team. “We had some really great play in the opener, and we had some really not-great play that we can improve upon.”
STREAKS: Portland State has lost 14 consecutive games dating to 2016, including seven straight on the road. The Vikings went 0-11 last season in Barnum’s third year as head coach.
Oregon, meanwhile, has won 21 straight nonconference games.