THE SPECTACLE OF SPRING – Oregon Showcases Its Talented Youth and Savvy Veterans in the Annual Spring Football Game

It was the spectacle we all knew it would be.

The rain stayed away and 35,000 plus fans filled the Autzen Stadium grand stands.

The annual Spring football game,…or better known as Practice #15,… is designed for the Oregon football program to show off its assets to the fans and to a bevy of talented recruits.

Right now, the Ducks may have the largest assemblage of riches they’ve ever had in regards to talent, and all of it was on full display Saturday afternoon inside the house Rich Brooks built.

In front of over 35,000 excited fans, the Ducks played as close to a real football game as possible and what they showed was that 2019 could be a fun season in Eugene.

Officially, Mighty Oregon ( Green squad ) defeated the yellow Fighting Ducks 20-13.

Mighty Oregon consisted of the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense, while the Fighting Ducks were led by the No. 2 offense and the No. 1 defense.  So the ones were battling the ones and the twos were facing off against the twos.

What transpired was a very competitive game.

As expected, the ones outplayed the twos, but what was not expected was the difference that separated each of the units.

Oregon is a deep and talented football team.

When you add the two most recent highly regarded recruiting classes with the current group of talented veterans, what you have is a team that’s going to pay significant dividends in the win column this fall.

Oregon QB Justin Herbert greets a member of the military after Saturday's spring football game. ( Photo by Tom Corno )

Oregon QB Justin Herbert greets a member of the military after Saturday’s spring football game. ( Photo by Tom Corno )

Quarterback Justin Herbert started his senior campaign with another solid performance.

The potential Heisman Trophy candidate was 17-of-32 for 219 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Sheldon graduate may have also found a new favorite target.

Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell may have left for the NFL, but senior grad transfer Juwan Johnson, via Penn State, showed he can come into the Duck program and make an immediate impact.

At 6-4, Johnson can make every type of catch, including the hard to cover jump balls in the end zone, which he converted into a touchdown in the exhibition.

For the day, Johnson caught three passes for 32 yards and a single score.

Running backs Travis Dye and CJ Verdell showed their both worthy of making the starting backfield come this fall, but most likely both will share equal time making them extremely dangerous for opposing defenses.

In the ledger on Saturday, Dye tallied the most carries with 10, and accumulated 44 yards in the process.

In receiving, Verdell actually led the his team with 72 yards, but 64 of those yards were on a single play.   Herbert certainly didn’t play favorites like he did last season when he mostly targeted Dillon Mitchell.    On Saturday Herbert connected with eight different receivers.

The No. 2 offense consisted of younger players, but they could also make a significant impact on this team when the Ducks open the 2019 season at AT&T Stadium in Dallas Aug. 31 vs. Auburn.

Back-up quarterback Tyler Shough proved he is more than capable to step in for Herbert if disaster were to strike and he was forced to the sideline with injury.    The redshirt freshman was 18-of-31 passing for 178 yards and one interception, which happened to be the last play of the game.

His favorite target of the afternoon was true freshman Mycah Pittman, who arrived in Eugene just a few weeks ago.

Pittman looked every bit of his 4-star status when he was recruited to the Ducks.   Pittman led the Fighting Ducks with seven receptions for 48 yards.

Fighting Ducks RB Cyrus Habibi-Likio rushes against the Mighty Oregon squad Saturday during the annual spring game. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

Fighting Ducks RB Cyrus Habibi-Likio rushes against the Mighty Oregon squad Saturday during the annual spring game. ( Photo courtesy of Tom Corno )

On the ground, Cyrus Hibibi-Likio led the Fighting Ducks with 12 carries for 45 yards and the team’s lone touchdown.

The 12 carries almost matched the number of carries Habibi-Likio has for the entire 2018 season (18), but the then-freshman found the end zone seven times.   This fall the Ducks are hoping he finds the end zone a lot more as one of their every down running backs.

Both defenses shined and Oregon showed that facing a Duck defense isn’t going to be any fun for opponents this season.

Sixteen different players for Mighty Oregon managed tackles with safety Steve Stephens leading with seven tackles, five solo.

Sixteen more Ducks made tackles for the Fighting Ducks squad with Isaac Slade-Matautia with six total tackles and four solo.

Oregon’s defense will enter this season with a brand new coordinator in Andy Avalos, who came to Eugene from Boise State.

When this team gathers again in the fall, Avalos is going to have a lot of toys to play with, including veterans like linebacker Troy Dye and heralded 5 star ( freshmen ) defensive lineman Kayvon Thibodeaux.

In a little over four months, Oregon will take the field for real against a familiar SEC powerhouse in Auburn.

At that time it’ll become apparent what kind of team this Oregon squad really is and if they’ll be a serious threat for a conference championship.

But for now, it was simply fun to have football back in Eugene and to see the possibilities of the future.

~ Don Smalley

MARIO CRISTOBAL POST GAME PRESS CONFERENCE

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