Mighty Oregon defeated the Fighting Ducks 20-13 in the Oregon spring game Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon.
Potential Heisman Trophy candidate Justin Herbert looked to be in midseason form at times during the game, as the senior quarterback finished with 219 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-32 passing for Mighty Oregon despite facing off against the first-team defense.
Herbert was aided by the play of running back C.J. Verdell and graduate transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson, who both made some big plays during the game. Johnson was especially productive with three catches and a touchdown.
Mighty Oregon received a strong performance from highly touted freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. The skilled pass-rusher wreaked havoc on Oregon's second-team offensive line at times and finished with a sack.
For the Fighting Ducks, much of the focus was on redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Shough, who acquitted himself well with 178 yards and one interception on 18-of-31 passing.
After the Fighting Ducks took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, Mighty Oregon and the first-team offense struck back. After Herbert connected with Verdell on a 64-yard pass play, Herbert found Johnson for a six-yard touchdown on a perfectly executed fade route:
Johnson is the top option to replace Dillon Mitchell as Oregon's No. 1 wideout in 2019 after transferring from Penn State.
James Crepea of The Oregonian noted that Verdell and Johnson will be two of Herbert's best friends on the football field throughout the 2019 campaign:
The touchdown pass was the first sign of Herbert and Johnson having some chemistry, but it was far from the only time they would connect during the game:
Shough did not throw or run for a touchdown in the first half of Saturday's game, but he made some impressive throws that likely inspired confidence among the Oregon faithful.
In addition to showing he could throw the deep ball on a completion to Josh Delgado, Shough showcased his ability to throw on the run with a sideline strike to Mycah Pittman:
Tyson Alger of The Athletic expressed his belief that Shough gives Oregon better quarterback depth than it has had in quite some time:
With Herbert set to make the leap to the NFL next season, early indications are that Shough is shaping up to be a quality replacement.
The only Fighting Ducks touchdown came courtesy of sophomore running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who scored from two yards out:
Habibi-Likio was among the Fighting Ducks' biggest weapons, and he figures to be a key part of Oregon's backfield rotation in 2019 along with Verdell and Travis Dye.
The Fighting Ducks had a chance to take the lead in the second quarter, but their drive stalled out in the red zone when Thibodeaux sacked Shough on fourth down.
Erik Skopil of Duck Territory noted that Thibodeaux already looks ready to make a significant impact as a freshman:
A field goal late in the closing seconds of the first half gave Mighty Oregon a 13-10 lead heading into the locker room, but it wasn't long before it added to that advantage.
Playing against a running clock in the second half, Herbert threw his second touchdown of the day in the second quarter on a nine-yard corner route to Jaylon Redd:
The junior wideout had been quiet to that point, but he is Oregon's top returning receiver and figures to form a dynamic pass-catching duo with Johnson.
The Fighting Ducks made it interesting with a field goal in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to 20-13, but that turned out to be the final margin.
As expected, Herbert was the star of the game, and his ability to utilize both his new and returning weapons figures to be among the biggest takeaways for head coach Mario Cristobal.
After rebounding from two tough campaigns in a row to go 9-4 last season, the Ducks are set to enter 2019 as a top contender to win the Pac-12 and represent the conference in the Rose Bowl or perhaps even the College Football Playoff.