1. Two weeks, two easy wins
Oregon (2-1) heads into Pac-12 play next week against Stanford with back-to-back wins over Nevada and Montana by a combined scored of 112-9, and a last-second touchdown by Auburn away from being undefeated.
Despite the obvious talent gap between the Ducks and their last two opponents, Oregon should feel good about how it’s playing on both sides of the ball as it heads to the Bay Area.
Against the FCS Grizzlies on Saturday, the Justin Herbert-led offense scored five touchdowns and totaled 560 yards. The defense didn’t allow a touchdown for the second straight game and held Montana to 242 yards on 64 plays.
2. Depleted defense still plenty good
The defense performance was even more impressive considering Oregon was missing a couple of starters at the beginning of the game and lost a third to injury in the first half.
Defensive tackle Austin Faoliu and linebacker Bryson Young were held out of the game so the Ducks started Drayton Carlberg on the line and true freshman Mase Funa at the “stud” linebacker position and were as disruptive as ever as both players finished with three tackles and a sack.
Late in the second quarter, starting cornerback Thomas Graham suffered a lower right leg injury that knocked him out of the game. Freshman Mykael Wright replaced Graham in the second half and had an interception on Montana’s first drive of the third quarter for the only turnover in the game.
3. Where’s the running game?
Despite that veteran offensive line and two returning starters at running back, the Ducks still struggled to run the ball in the first half.
They finished with 247 yards on 38 carries and got some nice runs in the third quarter from Travis Dye (17 rushes for 101 yards), a well as 63-yarder by Sean Dollars in the fourth quarter, but it was a struggle early in the game.
In the first two quarter, Oregon ran 23 times for 88 yards and a 3.8-yard per carry average. That number was bolstered by Herbert’s 18 yards on two scrambles, including one for 11 yards — the longest run of the first half.
4. Still no FGs from kicking staff
Freshman kicker Camden Lewis will go into Pac-12 play having attempted just one field goal in three games, and that was a miss in the first quarter against Auburn in the season-opener.
So it was an interesting choice for the Ducks when they went for it on fourth-and-four from the Montana 25 while holding a 28-0 lead in the third quarter. Instead of giving Lewis a shot at a 42-yard field goal, Herbert’s pass to tight end Hunter Kampmoyer was dropped and the Ducks turned the ball over on downs.
Lewis did make all five of his point-after kicks, and is 12 for 12 on PATs this season.
5. Herbert has found some favorite targets
The quarterback has had three weeks now to work through his thin collection of pass catchers and find some reliable targets. He appears to have meshed with a pair in receiver Johnny Johnson III and tight end Jacob Breeland.
Those two combined to catch 13 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns each against Montana. Johnson had a career-high eight catches for 76 yards and Breeland had a career-high five catches for 49 yards.
The touchdowns were Johnson’s first of the season, though he is the team leader with 19 catches and 223 yards. Breeland has a team-high three touchdowns and is second to Johnson with 13 receptions and 187 yards.
Herbert leaned on both players Saturday to help get out of trouble.
At the end of the first half, Herbert shook off a potential sack, rolled to his right and fired an 18-yard pass to Johnson who dove for the touchdown grab.
In the third quarter, Herbert again scrambled away from pressure and connected with Breeland for 8 yards and a first down at the Montana 6-yard line. Two plays later the Ducks scored to make it 28-0.