Mario Cristobal has built a bully.
At least when it comes to protecting the home turf.
No. 15 Oregon improved to 8-1 at Autzen Stadium under Cristobal’s direction with a 35-3 smothering of Montana in front of a late-night crowd of 49,098 on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
The Ducks (2-1), coming off a 77-6 drubbing of Nevada, have outscored the opposition 401-184 over those nine home games.
Now it’s time for Cristobal and his staff to avenge the agonizing 38-31 overtime defeat to Stanford last September, in which Oregon inexplicably coughed up a 24-7 lead with a series of gaffes, by taking the show on the road.
If Cristobal, armed with a potential NFL franchise quarterback and an aggressive, opportunistic defense under new coordinator Andy Avalos, is serious about winning the Pac-12, then it’s time to kick David Shaw’s team while it's down.
The Cardinal (1-2, 0-1) limps into the conference opener after following up its 45-20 loss at USC with a 45-27 loss at No. 17 Central Florida.
Justin Herbert, who passed for 346 yards passing with a touchdown and the game-ending interception against Stanford last September, tuned up for the rematch by completing 30 of 42 attempts for 316 yards and five touchdowns.
In the last two home games, the 6-foot-6, 237-pound senior was a surgical 49-for-68 (72.1 percent) passing for 626 yards with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.
And that was without frontline targets Juwan Johnson, Mycah Pittman, Brenden Schooler and Cam McCormick.
“We’re doing some things; we’re evolving a little bit of an offense," Cristobal said. "He’s taken complete ownership of it, been extremely accurate."
There aren’t anymore Group of Five or FCS punching bags to beat up on now.
Oregon, which let a resume-building win over Auburn slip away in Arlington, Texas, will have to travel better with a Rose Bowl roadmap that includes stops in Seattle, Los Angeles and Tempe, Ariz.
The Ducks finished with 560 yards of total offense against the Grizzlies’ hibernating defense.
Avalos’ unit was even more impressive during the homestand, allowing three field goals while scoring a touchdown on a Brady Breeze fumble return versus the Wolf Pack.
Freshman cornerback Mykael Wright, filling in for Thomas Graham after the starting cornerback’s leg was rolled up in the second quarter, made his first career interception in the third quarter.
The turnover led to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Johnny Johnson to make the score 28-0."
I feel our defense and the way it’s being coached, the way those guys have taken it in, they’re hungry," Cristobal said. "They’re hungry for more, and we’re going to give it to them."
Oregon’s offensive line had to be reshuffled after center Jake Hanson was injured. Calvin Throckmorton moved in to handle the snaps with Brady Aiello putting his No. 66 back on — he caught a touchdown pass against Nevada as a tight end wearing No. 82 — so he could replace Throckmorton at right tackle.
Instead of letting freshman Camden Lewis, the only available scholarship placekicker with Adam Stack transferring and Zach Emerson away from the team after a recent arrest on misdemeanor charges, attempt a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter, the Ducks went for a fourth-and-4 at the Montana 25 and were unable to convert.
“Felt we needed to keep playing football," Cristobal said of the decision.
The Grizzlies (2-1) took advantage of the mini-momentum shift with an 11-play, 68-yard drive, but Oregon limited the damage to a 25-yard field goal.
Herbert’s final touchdown pass was 10 yards to Jaylon Redd to extend the lead to 35-3 with 12:27 remaining.
Freshman Sean Dollars added a 63-yard run during garbage time after Tyler Shough came in to relieve Herbert.
Oregon had 247-8 edge in rushing yards over the visitors from the Big Sky Conference.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t come in here and get the win," Montana coach Bobby Hauck said. "They have a really good football team. They were better on defense than I thought they were going to be. They have a really nice team, and the quarterback is just terrific. We just didn’t have enough for them tonight.”
The Ducks led 21-0 at the intermission after outgaining Montana 277-95 in total net yards with 18 first downs to the Grizzlies’ four.
Oregon’s starting offensive line wanted to establish a dominant running game after not playing up to its standard against Nevada.
But on the opening drive, Herbert was 5-for-5 passing for 52 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Jacob Breeland on third-and-goal as the Ducks jumped out to a quick 7-0 head start after winning the opening coin toss.
True freshman “stud” linebacker Mase Funa, who started in place of Bryson Young, sacked Sneed to end Montana’s first drive.
Travis Dye was in the backfield for Oregon’s first two series. Then CJ Verdell got into the swing of things with a 21-yard reception and a 3-yard run to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Montana 21-yard line.
Herbert then tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Breeland to make the score 14-0. The senior signal-caller was 10-for-10 passing for 113 yards and two scores in the first quarter.
On fourth-and-1 late in the second quarter, tight end Ryan Bay dropped a pass that would have moved the sticks.
After Montana placekicker Brandon Purdy missed a 50-yard field goal, Herbert marched the Ducks down the field and threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Johnson with 10 seconds left in the half.
Herbert was 16-for-21 passing for 189 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions before the intermission.
Dye led Oregon with 101 yards rushing on 17 carries.
Now it’s time for the Ducks to bully Stanford down on The Farm.
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email podcast mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.