Fun Fact: Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium is the highest Division I FBS college football stadium in the nation (7,215 feet above sea level).
With Oregon’s Autzen Stadium sitting at an altitude of just 420 feet, no one would have been surprised if the Ducks struggled a bit against the Cowboys on their home turf on high. Fortunately for Oregon and its fans, the altitude didn’t end up being a problem after all.
As NFL Scouts piled into the press box, presumably to get a closer look at highly touted Wyoming QB, Josh Allen, it was Oregon offense, a la QB Justin Herbert and RB Royce Freeman, who stole the show in the 49-14 Oregon win.
Justin Herbert was commanding, accurate (62 CMP%), showed solid decision making, and proved he can make plays on his feet. It was Royce Freeman, though, that lit up the scoreboard as he rushed for three touchdowns, finally tying former Duck, LaMichael James’ Oregon career rushing touchdown record.
What Stood Out?
Next to the obvious offensive playmakers, there were several other takeaways. Some good. Some not so much.
Clearly, the Oregon defense showed signs of promise, holding Josh Allen and Co. to just 14 points, 10 of which came after Oregon turnovers that left Wyoming with a short field. When all was said and done, Oregon’s defense held Allen to just 9 of 24 passes or a mere 37%. The best part? It was a collective effort- something Oregon fans have been waiting to see for at least a couple of years now.
Another major improvement on display against Wyoming was Oregon’s small number of penalties. In each of Oregon’s first two games this season, they racked up 12 penalties, giving them one of the worst penalties received rankings in the FBS. Tonight, against the Cowboys, Oregon logged just 4, a huge improvement and good sign moving into Pac-12 play next week.
The concerning takeaway from the game that will surely leave a bad taste in fans’ mouths looking ahead is that for the second week in a row, Oregon’s offense struggled to play a full game.
After a dominating first half, the Ducks essentially fizzled out in the second half, something they did last week against Nebraska which nearly cost them the game. Against Wyoming, letting off the gas in the Ferrari didn’t matter much, but against many teams in the Pac-12, it very likely will. The Ducks will definitely have to find a way to put more points on the board after halftime.
There is a whole lot to be excited about looking ahead to the rest of the season. The team is energized and clearly finding their stride. Royce Freeman is having a successful audition in front of NFL scouts, the sky is the limit for still young Justin Herbert and it was great to see the defense finally have a great game.
For all the good that came out of the game tonight, though, it certainly didn’t come without a price. Senior WR, Charles Nelson, left the game in the first half with a leg injury only to return to the sideline wearing a boot and walking with crutches. The good news is he was seen smiling throughout the rest of the game. Let’s hope he is ok as it’s safe to say Oregon fans will be holding a collective breath until he returns. It was good to see the offense handle business without him but there is no replacing Nelson and he is by far, one of Oregon’s strongest and much-needed X-factors moving forward this season.
The Ducks head to the Desert next week to face Arizona State and will do so with their first 3-0 start since 2014. Sure looks like Coach Willie Taggart really is Doing Something.
Follow Nichole Brown on Twitter @UOgridirongirl