The Ducks faced the first true test of the 2017 season as they battled former OSU coach Mike Riley and Nebraska on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Oregon raced out to a 28-point halftime lead, then had to hang on to beat the Cornhuskers 42-35.
The Ducks offense stalled in the second half, failing to find the rhythm and tempo it consistently displayed in the first two quarters. Oregon amassed 409 yards of offense in the first half, but managed just 157 yards in the third and fourth periods as Nebraska scored 21 unanswered points.
The victory wasn't sealed for Oregon until Ugochukwu Amadi's interception with 2:06 left in the 4th. It was one of four INT's on the day for the Ducks much-maligned secondary.
Ducks coach Willie Taggart said his team wasn't sharp offensively in the second half. "We were running the same plays that we were running in the first half; we just didn't execute as well."
Taggart said Oregon's offense lacked a "sense of urgency" and failed to establish its up-tempo style after halftime.
Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert turned in another solid performance. The sophomore signal-caller was 25-of-33 for 365 yards and 3 TD's, but also threw his first interception of the season.
Herbert blamed a lack of focus for Oregon's offensive woes in the second half. "We were a little complacent and didn't move the ball as fast. Fortunately the defense stepped up."
One of the bright spots for the Ducks defense against Nebraska was CB Thomas Graham Jr. The true freshman hauled in two interceptions and tallied seven tackles. Sophomore LB Troy Dye led Oregon's defensive effort with 11 tackles.
Saturday was a homecoming of sorts for Riley, the Huskers coach who spent 14 seasons roaming the sidelines in Corvallis. “I loved all my time at Oregon State, coaching," Riley said, "but all these games are about the team I’m coaching. It’s really fun to be where I am.
"It’s really weird that all of a sudden right off the bat when I get to Nebraska we have a home-and-home series with Oregon. I think that is pretty neat actually. I embrace these moments personally. It’s pretty neat for me, a lot of my football life was around here. I was in this stadium when it was first built.”
Riley's Cornhuskers are now 1-1 on the season. The Ducks improve to 2-0 as they prepare for their first road game of the season next weekend against Wyoming in Laramie.
--The theme of Saturday's game was "Stomp Out Cancer". The Ducks wore uniforms designed by three childhood cancer survivors and teamed with Nike and three Oregon football players to create the unis. After the game, the Ducks presented the trio of cancer survivors with game balls.
--SR RB Royce Freeman became the fourth player in Pac-12 history and second Oregon Duck to rush for 50 career touchdowns after scoring two against Nebraska. He finished with a game-high 153 yards, moving into fifth place on the conference's all-time rushing list with 4,450.
--The Ducks had four interceptions in a game for the first time since Oct. 19, 2013, when Oregon defeated Washington State, 62-38, at Autzen Stadium.
--The Ducks scored 42 points in the first half for the second straight game, but were shut out in the second half for the first time since the overtime loss to TCU in the Alamo Bowl, following the 2015 season.
(Statistical notes courtesy of Oregon Athletic Communications)