EUGENE — Kind of what we expected, right?
The No. 23-ranked Oregon Ducks walloped another nonconference football foe well below their talent level Saturday, sending Portland State home with a 62-14 loss before 47,210 at Autzen Stadium.
It was the 22nd consecutive nonconference home victory for the Ducks (2-0), who handled Bowling Green 58-24 in their opener.
“We did what we planned on doing,” said Oregon junior wide receiver Brenden Schooler, who made four receptions for 30 yards in Saturday’s rout. “We want to prove to the country we’re a team to be reckoned with.”
Which brings up the question, how good are the Ducks after two weeks?
They haven’t exactly faced top-notch competition.
From my viewpoint, Oregon has a chance to have a very successful season under first-year head coach Mario Cristobal. With Justin Herbert directing the offense, the Ducks feature one of the top units in the nation. The defense looks improved, though there’s still plenty of work ahead.
Are they physical enough to stay with the big boys? We’ll see.
The schedule certainly plays in the Ducks’ favor, with Pac-12 home games against No. 10 Stanford (Sept. 22), No. 9 Washington (Oct. 13), UCLA (Nov. 3) and Arizona State (Nov. 17).
“We feel we have some pretty good players on both sides of the ball,” Cristobal said.
The Ducks established the line of scrimmage immediately against Portland State, rolling to a 35-7 halftime advantage. The Vikings (0-2), a member of the Big Sky Conference, have lost 15 straight games under Bruce Barnum.
Oregon outgained PSU 562-224, compiling 32 first downs and averaging 7.4 yards per play.
Herbert, a 6-foot-6, 223-pounder out of Eugene’s Sheldon High School, is deserving of being mentioned in the early Heisman Trophy conversation.
He possesses a rocket of an arm and was accurate for the most part against the Vikings, completing 20-of-26 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns. The right-hander had a couple of passes dropped.
The Ducks entered averaging 42.3 points over their previous 16 games with Herbert in the starting lineup, and exceeded that Saturday. There’s not a quarterback more important to his team in the Pac-12 than Herbert.
“I thought we did some really good things today,” said Herbert. “We’ve got some stuff to clean up, but made a big step forward. Communication was a big thing we worked on. Our running backs did a good job of picking up the blitzes.”
The Ducks spread the wealth around running the ball, with six backs besides Herbert toting the pigskin. Senior Tony Brooks-James and redshirt freshman CJ Verdell both had 100-yard rushing games, and freshman Travis Dye added 58 yards.
The offensive line — consisting of center Jake Hanson, guards Shane Lemieux and Dallas Warmack, and tackles Penei Sewell and Calvin Throckmorton — is solid, and there are some backups behind them who provide depth.
“We’ve got eight guys (on the line) who we can rotate in there and we don’t miss a beat,” Herbert said. “Our skill guys keep getting better every day.”
“We have the makings of a great offensive line,” said Cristobal. “I don’t think we’re there yet. I feel strongly our guys are ready to take that next step.”
UO’s defense recorded nine tackles for loss and made four sacks. Inside linebacker Kaulana Apelu (seven tackles), ends Austin Faoliu (seven tackles) and Jalen Jelks (six tackles) and inside linebacker Troy Dye (five tackles) led the way.
“I felt like the defense came out and attacked well,” said senior outside linebacker Justin Hollins. “We were fast. We have nice depth on the line. We’ve got guys who can come in and really cause havoc.”
All in all, Cristobal liked what he saw.
“I liked the juice, the energy, the enthusiasm,” the coach said. “It’s great to be able to play a lot of players, and a lot of guys touched the ball. We want a lot of guys playing ... more importantly because they’ve earned it.
“We had a personnel advantage, but our guys continued to play at a high level. We feel we know who we are, but we haven’t been tested.”
No doubt about that. The Ducks should have no problem with San Jose State next Saturday at Autzen, but mighty Stanford will be in town in two weeks.
There’s still some questions to be answered.