EUGENE — With Justin Herbert already set as Oregon’s starting quarterback, some of the focus at the Ducks’ spring game was on other positions.
Like his backup. And his receivers.
The spring game was split into two sides, Team Thunder on the offense and Team Lightning on the defense. Points were awarded for different tasks, like touchdowns, and the Thunder came out on top 59-34.
With former quarterback Marcus Mariota on hand as an honorary captain, Herbert threw for 126 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His backup last season, Braxton Burmeister, threw for 64 yards and a score. True freshman Tyler Shough, an early enrollee, threw for 102 yards and two TDs.
Coach Mario Cristobal has been impressed with both understudies. He said “it’s going to be an interesting competition.”
“They’ve got the right mentality. They’re competing, and they know it cannot be handed to them,” Cristobal said. “The best thing about their approach? They haven’t just sat back and said. ‘OK, Justin’s the guy, let’s go compete for No. 2.” It’s never been mentioned, it’s never been brought up. They have to be the best player they can possibly be.”
David Daewood stood out among the receivers with three catches for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“I thought what we wanted to see is what we got to see,” Cristobal said. “We wanted to see guys compete. We wanted to see guys have drill transition, all of the stuff we’ve been working on this spring we wanted to see come into play today.”
Oregon’s 2017 season was disrupted by Herbert’s broken collarbone that kept him sidelined for five games, during which the Ducks went 1-4. The sophomore quarterback returned for the final two regular-season games, which the Ducks won to become bowl eligible.
On Saturday he threw the spring game’s only interception, which Kaulana Apelu ran back over 100 yards for a touchdown. Apelu broke his ankle and missed most of last season, but Cristobal was pleased with his explosiveness.
Herbert fractured his collarbone in Oregon’s 45-24 victory over California at the end of last September. He was replaced as starter by true freshman Burmeister, who threw for 324 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions during the span, while also rushing for 106 yards and three scores.
Herbert finished his sophomore season with 1,983 yards passing for 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 183 yards and five scores.
The spring game was Mario Cristobal’s first as head coach of the Ducks.
Cristobal was promoted soon after Willie Taggart bolted for his dream job at Florida State after just one year as coach of the Ducks. Taggart had been hired as a rebuilder from South Florida after Oregon finished the 2016 season 4-8 and in the basement of the Pac-12 North standings.
Cristobal, the team’s co-offensive coordinator under Taggart, has tried to instill more disciplined and physical qualities.
The announced crowd at the spring game was 21,317.
“We’re pleased with the progress,” Cristobal said. “At the same time knowing that there are several things that we need to continue to work on. ... overall a very productive spring.”