PORTLAND — Justin Herbert and the Ducks took the show on the road.
Oregon’s starting quarterback dominated Saturday’s 88-play scrimmage in front of an appreciative crowd at Franklin High.
Herbert completed 11-of-16 passes for 213 yards and three touchdown passes during the situational practice.
“Today we’re trying to find out who can play football,” coach Mario Cristobal said before the scrimmage kicked off. “We’re not trying to trick each other, and it’s not a big scheme adjustment or try to out-scheme the other side.
“We want to see who can throw and catch, block and tackle, run the football, get guys on the ground.”
Herbert continued to showcase his accurate and powerful arm. The 6-foot-6, 231-pound junior connected with wide receiver Brenden Schooler three times for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s one of the most difficult tasks you can imagine. It’s not like he balances it, he excels at both. He just blows it out of the water,” Cristobal said of Herbert’s ability to be honored as a first-team academic all-American on Friday before putting on a throwing clinic 24 hours later. “It’s like the old (Vince) Lombardi saying about chasing perfection to catch excellence. I think he caught both in what he has accomplished here. The best part about it is he’s still young, he’s just scratching the surface of everything he’s going after and doing and chasing.
“You can see why our players gravitate to him and his leadership. He’s one of a kind.”
Sophomore Braxton Burmeister was intercepted by safety Brady Breeze, and true freshman Tyler Shough was sacked twice on his first series.
“They’re not getting no first downs, no touchdowns, no big plays,” sophomore nose guard Jordon Scott said.
Oregon’s No. 1 defense had its way with the No. 2 offense when Burmeister and Shough were taking snaps.
But near the end of the scrimmage, Herbert and Co. went head-to-head with Jim Leavitt’s top unit. The former Sheldon High standout threw a touchdown to Jaylon Redd on a fourth-and-goal and laced a perfect pass through the biting wind and rain for a 35-yard touchdown to Schooler to end the scrimmage.
Keith Simms, who is emerging as a force at outside linebacker this spring now that he’s healthy, was credited with a sack to negate a long touchdown pass from Herbert to Schooler.
The quarterbacks wore red jerseys signaling that they were off limits to tackle.
“I want to hit Herbert the most, but I can’t do that,” junior linebacker Troy Dye said. “We’ll have to wait on that one to happen, hopefully, later down the road in my life.”
Sophomore wide receiver Johnny Johnson finished with three catches for 95 yards.
Dye’s younger brother, true freshman running back Travis Dye, got some carries with the first-team offense after Tony Brooks-James. True freshman Jamal Elliot and redshirt freshmen CJ Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio received limited carries.
“I would definitely think they’re all ahead of the curve knowing their assignments and job,” Brooks-James said of the young group behind him on the depth chart.
“Personally, when I came in as a freshman I didn’t know as much as they did.”
The two hardest hits were made by Miami transfer D.J. Johnson, who hammered Brooks-James behind the line of scrimmage, and defensive end turned tight end Hunter Kampmoyer, who plowed over a would-be tackler.
“I see a big change,” Troy Dye said. “We’re a lot more physical, we’re a lot more demanding of being physical, and we keep each other up, keep each other healthy.”
Sophomore placekicker Adam Stack made a 47-yard field goal. The first kickoff was handled by Zach Emerson, and Blake Maimone had the first punt. Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell was the primary punt returner, and Brooks-James returned the first kickoff.
For Cristobal, the most important aspect of the program’s eighth spring practice was that it was away from Oregon’s friendly confines in Eugene.
“One of the biggest points, and we all know it, last year we were pretty good at home and on the road we were not,” Cristobal said. The Ducks were 1-4 on the road in 2017. “And not by a little, by a lot. So that’s something that we are working hard to completely change.
“A lot of it is mindset. (In a) different environment, change of scenery, the focus can’t change. It’s got to get even stronger. So that’s been part of our entire regimen, our structure, we want to create.”