8 takeaways from Oregon Ducks’ dominant blowout win over Portland State

The Oregon Ducks dominated from the first whistle to the final whistle on Saturday, setting a program record with 81 points and going the final 52 minutes of game time without allowing a single score from the Portland State Vikings.

Of course, that’s what was supposed to happen.

“It’s a standard,” head coach Dan Lanning said after the game. “That’s how we measure ourselves, based on the standard — not necessarily on the scoreboard.”

The scoreboard at Autzen Stadium read a number that it never had on Saturday, and the Ducks got off to a strong start for the 2023 season. Of course, the story of Oregon’s season isn’t going to be told based on what the team did against Portland State, but rather against schools like Texas Tech, Washington, USC, and Oregon State.

However, the season has to start somewhere, and the Ducks did everything possible to convince those who watched on Saturday that they are every bit as elite as people expect them to be this year. Following the game, here are some of my biggest takeaways from all of the action:

The Offense Remains Elite

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The offensive success in Eugene didn’t go out the door when Kenny Dillingham left Oregon to take the head coaching job for Arizona State.

Sigh of relief? Not really, that was expected. With Bo Nix, Troy Franklin, Terrance Ferguson, and Bucky Irving all returning, there was an expectation that the Ducks would still be able to put up points in 2023. When you add transfers from Tez Johnson, Traeshon Holden, and Gary Bryant Jr., then the plethora of weapons starts to get a little crazy.

On Saturday, Oregon scored 50 points in the first half for the first time since 2017 against Oregon State. They broke the Oregon scoring record in offensive coordinator Will Stein’s first game with the team. Outstanding achievement, right?

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“I mean, not really,” Lanning said after the game. “I’m not concerned with… we won the game. I’m glad we won the game. I’m not really, you know, in for stats, right? I’m in for W’s, and wins and, you know, wins for us come based on performance.”

Regardless of Lanning’s feelings, what the Ducks did on offense —albeit against an FCS opponent — was impressive. 729 yards of total offense, 38 first downs, and just one punt on the day. Oregon QBs went 33-for-38 on the day, and eight different players scored a touchdown.

There were a lot of questions about this Oregon team coming into the year, but whether or not the offense was going to be able to produce was never among them. It’s nice to have that confirmed after the first game.

The Defense Shows Promise

While offensive proficiency was not a question coming into the 2023 season, defensive proficiency certainly was. Oregon was among the worst defense in the nation last year in certain categories, and if the Ducks were to reach the expected heights this season, that unit would need to drastically improve.

Early on in this game, fans might have had some doubts that was possible.

After forcing a 3-and-out on PSU’s first drive of the game, the Oregon defense allowed the Vikings to march down the field on an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a game-tying touchdown.

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“We had two critical errors in that drive. We made a really bad execution in the red area on that touchdown,” Lanning said. “But ultimately, I think what you saw is when you don’t do your job, bad things can happen. We had a couple guys not do their job early in that series. It led to a long drive and I think we all settled down after that and realized, ‘Hey, all I gotta do is my part, my 1/11th and the rest will take care of itself.’”

From that point on, the Ducks’ defense went the final 52 minutes of the game without allowing a score from the Vikings.

Linebacker Connor Soelle led the team with 5 total tackles, while Jeffrey Bassa, Tysheem Johnson, Khamari Terrell, and Bryce Boettcher each had four. The Ducks didn’t register any sacks on the day, but there were a handful of pressures in key late-down situations that forced incompletions and got the team off of the field.

Ultimately, PSU was 4-for-15 on 3rd down conversions, and 0-for-1 on 4th down conversions.

Again, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt because of the opponent, but I went into this game hoping that we saw a dominant performance from the defense. That looked like it wasn’t going to happen early on, but the unit buckled down and showed a lot of promise.

Running Back Depth is Astonishing

The depth that Oregon has at the skill positions on offense is truly remarkable. Specifically looking at the RB room, take a look at these stats from Saturday:

  • Bucky Irving: 4 rushes, 119 yards, 2 TD | 3 catches, 30 yards

  • Jordan James: 10 rushes, 86 yards, 3 TD

  • Jayden Limar: 8 rushes, 51 yards, 1 TD | 4 catches, 24 yards

  • Dante Dowdell: 8 Rushes, 55 yards, 1 TD

All of that is without any rushes — or playing time, for that matter — for RB Noah Whittington, who is arguably the 1B to Irving’s 1A. While the Ducks will likely tighten down a 2-3 RB rotation as the season goes on, it’s clear that there are a plethora of players that they can go to in the backfield and feel comfortable with.

Ty Thompson Gains Fans

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One thing that Oregon fans have been dying to see for a couple of years now is quarterback Ty Thompson getting a chance to play with starters on the field, and a full playbook at his disposal.

He got that opportunity on Saturday, and looked great.

Thompson finished 7-for-8 passing for 81 yards and 1 TD. He added 2 rushes for 25 yards. He looked calm and collected in the pocket, and he delivered his passes with some zip on the ball and great accuracy.

“I think that’s a sign of what Ty’s capable of, right? Because Ty performed exactly how we expected him to perform today,” Lanning said. “He did a really good job. Like I said I think he first started his first drive off 3-for-3, was really efficient and made some tough runs, played with some toughness at quarterback which we loved to see. And I think he proved everybody that can operate in this offense really well.”

The Ducks hope that they don’t have to play Thompson in meaningful minutes this season, of course, but should that situation present itself, I believe they can put him in with some confidence. And as far as next year goes, I think QB13 is in a great position to land himself a QB1 job at the start of the year.

A Few Absences Stand Out

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While we finally got to see some of the most anticipated new faces on Oregon’s roster Saturday afternoon, there were a few players who didn’t take the field that draw some questions. Here are some guys who we didn’t see play vs. Portland State, either because of injury or unknown reasons:

  • Noah Whittington

  • Kris Hutson

  • Evan Williams

  • Mase Funa

  • Jestin Jacobs

  • Casey Kelly

  • Nishod Strother

For some of those players — Kelly, Jacobs, and Strother — the absence was understandable because they have missed some practice time with injuries over the past week or two. For Whittington, Williams, Hutson, and Funa, though, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

All four players warmed up with the team before the game and looked fine. Williams has been sporting a club on his right hand for the past week or so, which leads me to believe he was being held out for precautionary reasons. I’m not sure the reasoning for the others, though.

This was Lanning’s answer when I asked about why Whittington didn’t play after the game:

“I’m not gonna talk about anybody that didn’t play today, but Noah does everything right for us. He’s doing a good job. We’re just gonna be smart with our players.”

We will see if any of those guys get on the field next week vs. Texas Tech.

Surprising Starters

We spend much of the offseason as beat reporters watching practice and trying to decipher which players are going to start where, and what the depth chart is going to look like.

The Ducks came out on Saturday and threw all of us for a loop early in the game.

On offense, things looked mostly as you would expect, other than TE Patrick Herbert getting the start over TE Terrance Ferguson. Outside of that, though, the offensive line and skill position players looked pretty accurate to projections.

It was a different story on defense.

I’m not sure many reporters projected a starting defense that included Jake Shipley, Emar’rion Winston, Taki Taimani, Bryce Boettcher, and Bryan Addison. This is meant as no disrespect to any of those players who got the starting nods — they all played well — I just did not expect them to come out with the first team.

Maybe that will be the starting unit as the season goes on, or maybe things will change from week to week. I just know that a lot of those preseason depth chart projections got thrown out pretty quickly.

Operations Were Great

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Going into a Week 1 game against an opponent who you are supposed to thrash, one of the main things that you want to see from your team is good operational play, and the ability to not hurt yourselves. That means no penalties, and relatively clean play from start to finish.

That was a success for the Ducks.

They had just two penalties on the day; a 10-yard holding penalty, and a 10-yard personal foul on Khyree Jackson. Other than that, there were no false starts, no delay of games, and no pass interference calls.

“Ultimately, we talked about not having any pre-snap or any post-snap penalties in this game,” Lanning said. “I thought there was one that was really, you know, poor on our part. Some aggressive penalties might happen in between the whistles, but ultimately I thought the operational piece was pretty smooth.”

With so many new offensive linemen, and a new offense ultimately, you expect some growing pains as the season starts, but they were not present on Saturday. That’s a good start for the Ducks.

True Freshmen Get Experience

A total of 23 true freshmen got into the game on Saturday, which is remarkable when you’re talking about getting young players on the roster valuable experience. While a few young guys — Matayo Uiagalelei, Cole Martin, Kenyon Sadiq, Blake Purchase — got into the rotation early in the game, a long list of guys got in before all was over.

“Well, what I did see today, what I did see in the fall is that it was a group that wants to compete,” Lanning said. “And they understood that if they step on the field, they’re viewed no different than a starter, right? There’s a standard of excellence that we expect and I think a lot of guys are trying to perform to that level. The only you’re gonna get better football is playing, right? So some of those guys get out there, getting that early experience, those are gonna be guys we’re relying on later on the season. Those are guys we’ll be relying on every single game so it’s good for them to get, you know, some early opportunities out there in the field. We’ll see what they do with it going forward.”

We will see as the season goes on how many of those players end up having a major impact on the field, but it’s good to get the experience early on in the year.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire