It was Mario Cristobal’s first win as the Duck head coach.
Justin Herbert ended his first game of his junior season going 10-of-21 for 281 yards with five touchdowns through the air and 41 yards with a score on the ground. Herbert’s five touchdown passes were an Oregon record for a season opener and he could very well have had two more touchdown throws that were dropped early in the game where the rust was very evident.
Oregon outgained Bowling Green 504-389 in total offense and the Ducks seemingly have solved its previous penalty problem. They were one of the most penalized teams in the country last season, but were flagged just three times for 35 yards.
The first 30 minutes were definitely a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Fortunately the ups weighed the downs by a lot, but that doesn’t mean Cristobal didn’t have plenty to talk about at halftime. At game’s end, Oregon claimed a 34-point win, but the coach will have a lot to work on for this coming week’s practices.
Bowling Green, a team that finished 2-10 last season, was anything but intimidated as the game started. A couple of key drops by Duck receivers that killed scoring drives didn’t hurt the Falcon’s cause.
The team from the Mid-American Conference took a 10-0 lead over a sleeping Duck squad and the crowd of 50,112 let Oregon know they were none too pleased.
Cristobal’s squad answered in the only way they know how, by scoring touchdown after touchdown. Thirty-seven points later, the Ducks had a commanding 27-point lead and never looked back.
Sophomore Jaylon Redd caught what Oregon hopes is the first of many touchdowns and the first of two on the night for the 5-foot-8 receiver. His 33-yard touchdown put the Ducks on the board for the first time in the 2018 season with 3:18 remaining in the first quarter.
Not only was the offense rusty in the early going, the Duck defense seemingly forgot how to tackle, whiffing on more than several ball carriers for first downs to extend Falcon drives. Once defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt’s crew cleaned those tackling issues up, it was tough sledding for Bowling Green.
Oregon took the lead for good when the Ducks completed a nine-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Mitchell.
Up 14-10 with still 12:13 left until halftime, Oregon struck again thanks to a fumble that set up a short 21-yard touchdown drive in five plays. Herbert took matters into his own hands with a two-yard scamper to make it 21-10. Oregon probably doesn’t want to see its star quarterback make a lot of short runs like that because he broke his collarbone on a similar play last season which cost Herbert the majority of the year.
Johnny Johnson III managed to get himself in the scoring column with a nice 40-yard touchdown reception where he carried two Falcon defenders for the last 10 yards along with him into the end zone. Herbert completed just 10 passes for the entire game, so no one receiver had stat lines to light up the page. Mitchell led the team with three catches and Taj Griffin’s 83 yards came on one play.
With a safety and a 5-yard Cyrus Habibi-Likio touchdown rush later, the Ducks ended their massive 37-point scoring run.
Habibi-Likio was one of many running backs to receive carries on this night. Oregon used a running back-by-committee method, a system that might be used for much of the season. CJ Verdell, Travis Dye and Darrian Felix all played well enough to get even more carries nest week against Portland State.
One would think the visitors from the MAC would be
deflated after a 37-0 run, but the Falcons responded with a late touchdown to make it 37-17 halftime score. That last Bowling Green score was set up by a fumble by the Duck special teams where a punt touched an Oregon player and recovered by the Falcons.
And while that one play had no impact on the final score, it gave Cristobal another talking point during the break.
Whatever the first-year head coach said it obviously worked as Oregon dominated in the third quarter.
Ugo Amadi scored Oregon’s first defensive touchdown of the 2018 campaign with a 33-yard Pick-6 to make it 44-17. After a quick 3-and-out, Herbert threw his last of four touchdowns. It was a short throw, but it allowed Herbert to watch Taj Griffin use his speed to run 83 yards to pay dirt to make it 51-17.
Again, Bowling Green could have folded the tent and went gone home, but a 63-yard pass-and-catch for a touchdown made it 51-24 with 2:53 left in the third quarter.
Falcon quarterback Jarret Doege went 23-of-38 for 258 yards, three touchdowns, but two interceptions. He was sacked three times and was hurried on countless other throws that affected his stats as well. Doege’s primary target was Scott Miller, who ended the game with 13 catches, 166 yards and two touchdowns.
That score forced Oregon to put Herbert back in the game and the Falcons paid for it. Herbert found Redd streaking into the end zone on a 44-yard strike to make it 58-24 with 7:32 left in the game.
Oregon will get back at it next Saturday when they host Portland State for a breakfast time start of 11 am. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.
~ Don Smalley