Mario Cristobal doesn’t have to adhere to a no re-entry policy at Autzen Stadium.
The Ducks’ first-year head coach pulled Justin Herbert from the game in the third quarter with a 34-point lead, only to put the junior back on the field after a long touchdown pass by the visiting quarterback.
Herbert threw his first interception of the season moments later. And another interception on a tipped pass in the fourth quarter.
Despite the sloppy finish and a slow start, No. 24 Oregon waltzed past Bowling Green 58-24 on Saturday in front of a crowd of 50,112 at Autzen Stadium.
Herbert finished 10-for-21 passing for 281 yards with five touchdowns. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound junior also rushed for 37 yards and another score.
"Unfortunately we came back and made some mistakes, but we came through it," said Herbert, whose five touchdown passes set an Oregon record for a season opener. "I had to go back in there and just try to move the ball as best as I can."
After senior safety Ugo Amadi returned an interception for a 38-yard touchdown, and Herbert connected with Taj Griffin for an 83-yard touchdown pass, the Ducks had a 51-17 lead with 9:36 remaining in the third quarter.
Braxton Burmeister, who struggled in relief of an injured Herbert last season, was yanked after a three-and-out. Then a 63-yard touchdown strike from Jarret Doege to Scott Miller cut Bowling Green’s deficit to 27 points.
"It just triggered, hey, we need to get back on track," Cristobal said of playing musical quarterbacks in the second half. "And that’s why we put the ones back in. I did not want the game to go the other way, regardless if it was a comfortable lead or not."
Junior linebacker Troy Dye erased Herbert's second pick by intercepting Doege. Oregon’s Heisman Trophy hopeful promptly threw a 48-yard touchdown to Jaylen Redd to make the score 58-24.
Burmeister mopped up over the final five minutes. The sophomore was 1-for-5 passing for 11 yards.
"We have to get all our guys, especially our twos, playing well," Cristobal said.
The Ducks weren’t expecting to face much adversity early in the season but found themselves trailing by double digits and facing a fourth-and-14 in the first quarter.
That’s when Herbert calmly threaded a 33-yard touchdown pass to Redd to cut Oregon’s deficit to 10-7.
"That was a big play for sure," Herbert said. "I knew I had a guy like Jaylen Redd out there, and he’s a great receiver. He ran a good route. He’s a guy you trust and on fourth down you go to. I’m glad he made the play."
On a fourth-and-2 at Oregon’s 32-yard line, running back Andrew Clair was smothered behind the line of scrimmage by nose guard Jordon Scott.
Herbert missed a likely touchdown throw to a wide open Jacob Breeland and tripped CJ Verdell in the backfield on the ensuing drive before redeeming himself with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Mitchell to give the Ducks a 14-10 lead.
Justin Hollins forced Doege to fumble on a sack, which was recovered by Jalen Jelks at the Bowling Green 21. Moments later, Herbert forced his way through the pile for a 2-yard touchdown run.
A 12-yard punt by Grant Tinnerman into the swirling wind led to a 40-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Johnny Johnson, who willed his way across to goal line to make the score 28-10.
Tinnerman had the snap sail over his head for a safety, and redshirt freshman Cyrus Habibi-Likio ran for a 5-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 37-10 with 3:47 remaining in the second quarter.
"In college football momentum is the biggest monster," Cristobal said. "and we’ve got to create our own momentum."
Jim Leavitt’s defense had trouble substituting and tackling throughout the first quarter, but rallied to force three turnovers that led to 21 points.
"We came out a little lackadaisical and weren't ready to fight," Hollins said. "We came back swinging and played like we play after that."
Johnson and Redd both dropped deep passes on Oregon's first drive. Bowling Green led 10-0 after a pair of 10-play scoring drives before Herbert and his skill players found their rhythm behind a powerful offensive line.
Oregon finished with 504 yards of total offense with eight different players catching at least one pass and six different running backs getting at least one carry.
"For a short moment there we were playing really good football," Herbert said. "If we can kind of stretch that out for a complete game, I think we can be a really good team."