All three goals were accomplished and a nice sunny day in Eugene didn’t hurt anything either.
Oregon played its annual Spring Game inside the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium and new head coach Mario Cristobal got a good idea of what to expect when the fall rolls around.
The official stat sheet says the Thunder (offense) defeated the Lightning (defense) 41-7, but Cristobal saw an aggressive offense, but perhaps an even more aggressive defensive unit that is sure to play huge dividends in 2018.
One of the things the Ducks were looking forward to is who was going to step up and attempt to fill in the huge cleats left by Royce Freeman. Fortunately for Oregon, they may have a whole host of running backs who want to be the No. 1 running back.
The first running back who raised his hand today was redshirt freshman CJ Verdell. The 5-9, 202-pounder from Mater Dei led the backs with 44 yards and two touchdowns. He also showed the ability to run in between the tackles, something the Ducks got away from in recent years. It also allowed Oregon to show off a much bigger offensive line.
Another high-profile position the Ducks are looking for is the back-up quarterback behind incumbent Justin Herbert. Sophomore Braxton Burmeister and true freshman Tyler Shough (pronounced “shock”) will battle it out all summer and fall camp because to their credit, both played well enough to stay in contention for the job.
Burmeister, who was forced into action as a true freshman last season, was 7-of-12 passing for 64 yards and a touchdown. Shough, a true freshman himself and an early enrollee, was 5-of-8 passing for 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Shough’s first pass as a Duck was a 36-yard touchdown strike to Daewood Davis, another redshirt freshman who is looking to make an impact in 2018. The 6-1, 183-pounder from Hollywood, Flor. led Oregon with 3 catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Davis was just one of 15 players to catch a pass, perhaps a glimpse of what’s to come as Oregon may not have one to-go guy, but a lot of contributors in the passing game.
The defense saw a lot of good plays also. It wasn’t the Oregon offense going up and down the field all afternoon long.
Kaulana Apelu led Jim Leavitt’s unit with nine tackles and an interception that went for a touchdown. If it was a real game, Apelu’s Pick-6 went for 105 yards and would have been an Oregon record. Linebacker Keith Simms managed eight tackles and Fotu Leiato II led Oregon with three sacks.
With spring practices over, it’s now up to the players to improve over the summer as much as they can before fall camp and the 2018 season begins. Oregon will open the campaign Sept. 1 against Bowling Green.
~ Don Smalley