Oregon Football’s season opener is finally in the books and let’s just say, the analysis is a mixed bag. After all, what would the first game of the season be if it didn’t give us non-uniform-wearing folk something to talk about?
Let the fun begin.
In the end, the Ducks covered the spread, winning 58-24 against the Bowling Green while giving Mario Cristobal his first win as Oregon’s Head Coach.
Heading into the matchup, the Ducks looked to answer several question marks across most position groups. After the Ducks’ first four quarters of the season, there are plenty of positive takeaways but many question marks remain.
“I think the best part about a win like this is there are so many things you can correct and get better at,” Head Coach, Mario Cristobal, said.
“Overall, there are some significantly positive things in the direction that we want to be better at and then of course some other things we want to clean up.”
It’s easy to be critical with so much excitement leading up to the season. Even I found myself getting pretty nervous during that ugly first quarter. Realistically though, game one is always a little bit sloppy and if there’s one thing to be confident about, this coaching staff is legit and they’ve got a ton of talent to work with. And, after taking a much-needed Sunday break, they’ll have a ton of live game film to dissect tomorrow.
As the team looks forward to game two, here are some takeaways for the rest of us to debate, analyze and chat about for (at least) the next few days.
1. The Ducks can bounce back.
In recent seasons, Oregon has really struggled to play from behind. Though it wasn’t against the toughest of opponents, the Ducks were able to rally after Bowling Green scored the first 10 points of the game during the first quarter, eventually limiting the Falcons to 24 total points. This may not seem like a big deal but fans should definitely be encouraged. This likely won’t be the first time the Ducks play from behind this season and their ability to bounce back tells us a little something about their mentality in the midst of adversity.
2. Penalties much-improved.
Perhaps one of the most encouraging takeaways from the game was the fact the Ducks nearly escaped with just one penalty for 5 yards before snagging two more towards the end of the game. Say what?
Last season, the Ducks were the most penalized team in the country and a lot of effort was put into correcting this. Head Coach, Cristobal, added officials to the practice field during Fall camp and also had officials in film review sessions to help correct things. Clearly this has made a world of difference.
3. Lots of CONFIDENT running backs.
With the departure of Oregon star running back, Royce Freeman, to the NFL, all eyes were on the backfield in this season’s opener.
Everyone knows the Ducks have a solid back in veteran, Tony Brooks-James, but Oregon really needed another back to emerge. Fortunately, several got playing time and many shined, including linebacker, Troy Dye’s younger brother, Travis Dye, a true freshman.
Against Bowling Green, in his Autzen Debut, Dye was one of the top rushers of the night and also contributed on special teams.
“I thought I brought everything I could,” Dye said. “It was a great experience just being out there in Autzen Stadium.”
What also stood out about the running back crew was how confident they are.
“We’re all talented and we all know we can do the job,” Dye said.
That confidence was echoed by Sophomore, Darrian Felix.
“We’re all capable of doing what starting backs are capable of doing,” said Felix. “ I mean it is what it is. Let’s roll. “
The running back group is young (3 of the top 4 rushers against Bowling Green are either freshman or sophomores) but look for the backfield to dominate this season.
4. Freshman offensive left tackle, Penei Sewell filling Crosby’s shoes.
Whenever a team loses a star player to the NFL, there are sure to be some growing pains. Fortunately, the Ducks may have lucked out in filling offensive left tackle and now Detroit Lion, Tyrell Crosby’s, shoes.
As a true freshman, Penei Sewell won the starting nod against Bowling Green and did not disappoint.
“He’s a really smart guy,” quarterback, Justin Herbert, said.
“He was able to pick it up really quickly that couldn’t even tell the difference. Definitely some big shoes to fill but he’s well on his way and it’s a pleasure to play next to him.
1.Back-up QB situation
By far, one of the biggest Oregon storylines headed into this season is the back-up quarterback position. Coaches have given both Braxton Burmeister and Tyler Shough good praise during Fall camp but it wasn’t clear if either had separated themselves.
Against Bowling Green, Burmeister was given the nod but took limited snaps after a failed first drive. Despite having a solid lead, Cristobal opted to send Herbert back in, raising a whole lot of eyebrows. Following the game, Cristobal was asked about his quarterback rotation decisions during the game.
“We thought it was a good idea to get Braxton in when the game still was a game. . .,” Cristobal said.
“When we didn’t move the ball and they (Bowling Green) scored, it just triggered ‘well we need to get back on track.’”
For Cristobal, the point spread didn’t play into his decision.
“Regardless of whether it was a comfortable lead or not, the comfort part has nothing to do with it, either does the score,” said Cristobal.
“We want to play good football. We want to play Oregon Football.”
2. Receivers and tight ends
There’s no question Oregon has one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Eugene Native, Justin Herbert. With so much potential in his future, Herbert desperately needs help from his receivers and tight ends.
Against Bowling Green, it was hard to identify a go-to receiver or tight end (or two or three). There are some glimmers of hope, especially with the two-touchdown performance by Jaylon Redd, but there are many questions still to be answered in the trenches.
Despite the struggles, Justin Herbert did his best to compliment his receiving corps after the game.
“They’ve worked really hard and I don’t think they get the credit they deserve, Herbert said. “They’re a great group of guys and off the field, they’re an even better group.”
In the end, a win is a win and 1-0 is nothing to complain about and with Portland State around the corner, the Ducks are sure to be 2-0 one week from now.
That said, the Ducks have plenty to work on and as Cristobal put it, the team was pleased but not “satisfied” after the victory.
Perhaps that’s not a bad place to be.
Follow Nichole Brown on Twitter @UOgridirongirl
Also check out this video of our newest Oregon gridirongirl, Jessie Price, in the first “Tailgate Trivia” of the season! Look for her at every home game for your chance to be (almost) famous and to win some fun prizes!!!