UO ranks 74th in the FBS entering Saturday's nonconference tuneup vs. Montana
No. 15 Oregon tied the Autzen Stadium single-game record for points (77) and set the program’s modern single-game record for players with a touchdown (11) during the home opener.
While the offensive linemen enjoyed all of the end zone celebrations, especially when backup guard turned tight end Brady Aiello caught has first career touchdown, reviewing the game film wasn’t much fun.
The Ducks (1-1), despite featuring five different backs during the 77-6 razing of Nevada, are ranked 74th in the FBS in rushing, averaging 155.5 yards per game.
“There's some good takeaways from that game. I think our passing game was really great,” left guard Shane Lemieux said. “But we didn't run the ball very well, the ones didn't run the ball very well. And obviously that score kind of hides that.
“We need to be more productive in the rushing game, especially with the O-line that we have and where we want to go.”
Lemieux and his veteran crew have set a goal of winning the Joe Moore Award this year, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding offensive line.
Oregon will try to establish a dominant running game in the nonconference finale against Montana on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (7:45 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
“We know that from a technical, a fundamental, from a relentless pursuit of being a great running team standpoint, we’ve still got to keep pushing,” coach Mario Cristobal said.
It has been a quiet start for the two running backs listed as co-starters on the depth chart. CJ Verdell leads the team with 136 yards and two touchdowns, and Travis Dye has 51 yards on only 12 carries.
During the 2018 campaign, Verdell rushed for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns with Dye adding 739 yards and four touchdowns.
“We've got a pretty good stable of backs. I think those guys rotate pretty well,” offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “Obviously CJ can do a lot of things. We’re making sure we’re managing his reps, making sure we’re pushing him to the point where we can kind of continue to grow that, stride into things. He’s done a really nice job. We’ll give him a little bit more of a load and feel it out as we go forward.”
Darrian Felix, who redshirted last season due to injury, has been instant offense off the bench. The speedy sophomore ran for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter against Auburn and put an exclamation point on the Nevada game with a 62-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring with 2:02 remaining.
Through two games, Felix is averaging 8.7 yards on 10 carries.
“He's really fast, he’s really elusive,” Lemieux said of Felix. “He's good at the jet (sweep) game and he's really good at running outside of tackles. He can cut it up inside, too.
“All of our backs have a little different stuff. Travis is so elusive. CJ is elusive, but he has more of the power. They each have their own little thing.”
Cyrus Habibi-Likio ran for an 11-yard touchdown, and true freshman Sean Dollars finished with 12 yards on the first four carries of his career.
Oregon rolled up 221 yards on the ground against Nevada’s 3-3-5 defense after being held to 90 net yards by Auburn.
“We’ve still got to get better,” Cristobal said. “We had some explosive plays and we had some positive plays. When you play a defense like (Nevada’s), at times it’s going to be feast or famine due to pressures.
“They brought fire corner and will, putting you a man short. Sometimes the (run-pass option) dictated the ball be spit out there and negates some rushing yards.”
Justin Herbert has been choosing the pass option more times than not early in the season. The senior quarterback is completing 74.6 percent of his attempts and averaging 276 yards passing per game with six touchdowns and no interceptions.
Montana ranks 41st in the FCS in total defense (376.5 ypg), but the Grizzlies (2-0) only allowed an average of 81 rushing yards in wins over South Dakota (31-17) and Northern Alabama (61-17).
“We obviously kind of played down to our competition against Nevada, and I feel like that can’t happen, especially if we want to win the Joe Moore and we want to be a really great offense,” Lemieux said. “We’ve got to come out and play fast no matter who we’re playing. And obviously the score hides that. People are going to say, ‘The O-line did great, they scored 70-whatever points.’
“We’re up in the film room, and it wasn’t that great of a game on our part.”
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