Running is Oregon’s only option
SEATTLE — Oregon’s offense has no surprises without Justin Herbert.
For the fourth week in a row, the Ducks threw for less than 75 yards and ran on nearly three-fourths of their plays during a 38-3 loss to Washington on Saturday night at Husky Stadium.
“Obviously, every team knows we are going to run the ball,” Oregon center Jake Hanson said. “That doesn’t matter because we’ve shown we can run the football and still win games.”
That was the case last week when Oregon ran for 347 yards in a 41-20 win over Utah, but that is the only win in five games since freshman Braxton Burmeister replaced the injured Herbert at quarterback.
Oregon had 247 of its 278 yards against the Huskies on the ground while running on 55 of 68 offensive plays.
“Even if they know it is coming, we still have to be able to run it,” Oregon running back Royce Freeman said. “We want the identity of this offense to be the offensive line being stout because we have some dudes up there. They know the defense is keying on the run, but they are still going out there and doing their job.”
Freeman ran 24 times for 122 yards, his fourth straight game with at least 120 yards on the ground.
“Royce is a monster,” UO tight end Jacob Breeland said. “He’s always amazing everyone. He’s an animal running people over and doing all he can. He keeps killing it.”
Burmeister has thrown for a total of 207 yards during the past four weeks.
“We can run the ball better if we can throw it better,” Oregon coach Willie Taggart said. “It was good to see our guys can run the football when everyone knows we are going to run it.”
Oregon’s longest play from scrimmage was a 19-yard run by Freeman. The longest pass was a nine-yard completion to Breeland.
“Last week, what allowed us to score points was explosive plays,” Hanson said. “This week, we did not get many explosive plays in the running game. We were able to run the ball effectively for the most part, but when you are so one-dimensional running the ball, you have to get big plays to spark touchdowns, and we were not able to do that.”
Oregon opened the game with a 15-play drive that went 62 yards and used up more than half of the first quarter before Aidan Schneider kicked a field goal that turned out to be the only points for the Ducks. The second drive went 54 yards to the Washington 19-yard line before Kani Benoit fumbled and Washington recovered.
“That was a momentum change when we fumbled the ball on that second drive,” Taggart said. “That was huge.”
Oregon did not have another drive that covered more than 20 yards until the fourth quarter.
“What we were doing early wasn’t working in the second and third quarters,” Hanson said. “We have got to find a way to take those rushing yards and translate them into points. You can run the ball all day, but if you can’t put points on the board, it is all for nothing.”
Burmeister completed all four of his passes for 23 yards in the first quarter before going 3-for-9 for eight yards in the final three quarters.
“We run the ball, we are gashing them so we keep running it, and then when we do pass the ball, we have to execute better,” Breeland said.
Herbert was in uniform for the second week in a row, but Taggart said he did not consider playing him five weeks after he fractured his collarbone. The coach said he is hopeful the sophomore may be back against Arizona on Nov. 18 following a bye.