Upon first glance, there was nothing spectacular about Oregon’s 35-3 win over the Montana Grizzlies in college football’s week 3. College football AP Top 25 poll voters recognized such, dropping the Ducks one spot in the latest rankings. Yet the Ducks did what they were expected to do to a team much their inferior. They opened with touchdowns on two of their first three drives and stifled Montana’s offense throughout. For the 2019 Oregon Ducks, Week 4 begins with reflection and the looming gauntlet of Pac-12 play.
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Looking Back on Montana
If you look only at the final stats from Oregon’s matchup with Nevada in Autzen Stadium on September 14, 2019, the Ducks looked impressive. Senior quarterback Justin Herbert completed 30-of-42 passes for 316 yards and 5 touchdowns, an effort that made him the first Oregon quarterback to have back-to-back games with 5 TDs through the air. Running back Travis Dye, meanwhile, finished the game with 17 carries for 101 yards and the rest of the backs helped Oregon to a final stat line of 38 carries for 247 yards. Not a bad showing, right?
Yet stats can be deceptive. They paint just a small picture of the overall game, and in the case of Montana vs. Oregon 2019, that is made clear.
Opening the game with touchdowns on two of their first three drives, the 49,098 who made the trek to watch the Ducks under Autzen Stadium’s lights though they may be in for a repeat of Oregon’s 77-6 lashing of Nevada. And with Oregon favored by 37, it wasn’t wrong for them to think such.
But after scoring twice in the opening quarter, the Ducks managed just seven more in the first half. It was a case of Oregon stopping itself more than getting stopped by the Grizzlies.
On their first drive of the second quarter, Oregon methodically marched down the field to the Montana 44 before a critical offensive pass interference moved the ball back. They would be forced to punt, as Herbert missed Johnny Johnson III on a 3rd-and-9.
After a quick 3-and-out by the Montana offense, Oregon’s offense was back on the field. Allowing Travis Dye to chip away on the first set of downs, the Ducks looked to the air. Missing Johnson III on his first throw, Herbert connected with receiver Daewood Davis for 9 yards to give the Ducks an easy 3rd-and-1. Running back Darrian Felix, however, was stuffed. Rather than punt the ball away, Oregon went for it on 4th-and-1 and failed to convert, Herbert missing tight end Ryan Bay.
Two drives, zero points, and one turnover-on-downs. This wasn’t the Oregon Ducks many expected to see.
Fortunately, Oregon recovered. In a statement drive at the end of the half, Oregon flashed its potential. With less than a minute, Herbert led the Ducks on a 67-yard touchdown drive that took just 44 seconds and saw the Heisman contender complete three-of-four pass attempts. None were more impressive than his connection with Johnson III for a touchdown, however, as Herbert escaped a sack, rolled to the right and fired a dart that Johnson III hauled in while sliding towards the ground. It was an impressive play by the quarterback and receiver and gave the Oregon faithful an injection of energy.
Forwarding the momentum of their final drive in the first half, Oregon opened the third quarter of play with an interception and a touchdown drive that saw the running game finally find some holes. Still, this wasn’t the explosive Oregon team many thought they would be. Oregon’s backs managed small chunks of yards, not the big bursts of years past.
With their rushing attack failing to hit the holes opened by the offensive line, Oregon looked to the air to extend its lead.
After another turnover-on-downs on their second drive of the second half, Herbert started the fourth with an 8 play, 85 yard touchdown drive where he completed six-of-seven passes and capped it with a 10 yard strike to Jaylon Redd. It was another example of just how potent the Ducks can be when firing on all cylinders.
Unfortunately, Oregon was inconsistent throughout their game against the Grizzlies. Maybe it was a case of the Ducks holding back before their Pac-12 North matchup against Stanford in week 4. They don’t want to show all their cards just yet, right?
Whatever the case, when the final whistle blew and Oregon emerged victorious, fans were left puzzled. On the one hand, a win is a win. The offense flashed potential and Herbert had an impressive stat line. He did, however, play in all drives but one. For a game where many expected the backups to play a significant role, this was concerning.
What wasn’t concerning, however, was Oregon’s defense. For the second week, the Ducks held their opponent without a touchdown. Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has built a fierce unit and Oregon’s defense may be as exciting to watch as their offense. When’s the last time you could say that?
2019 Oregon Ducks Week 4 – Pac-12 Play Begins
With Montana dispatched the Oregon football program enters college football week 4 knowing the rest of their games are all about the Pac-12. Their first test? Stanford.
For whatever reason Stanford has been a thorn in Oregon’s side throughout the past decade. Much of this is due to the rise of the Cardinal in college football. Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw built a successful template that had not been exposed until this year. In fact, since 2010 Stanford has downed the Ducks five times, including the last three matchups. They are still a physical team who will pound the ball on the ground and look to neutralize Oregon by keeping the ball out of their hands.
Fortunately, Stanford 2019 is not the Stanford of years past. They are missing their big left tackle, their secondary is porous and quarterback K.J. Costello hasn’t looked the outstanding QB he’s supposed to be.
Still, this is Stanford and Oregon would be wise not to think this game won’t be tough. After two easy non-conference games against mediocre opponents, the Ducks will need to be prepared for a dog fight on Saturday. If Oregon goes into this game too confident, it is one of those that is ripe for an upset. But with how the last few meetings went between these two Pac-12 heavyweights, don’t think the Ducks won’t be prepared.