The Willie Taggart era is off and running at Oregon, which is showing signs of returning to its glory years under its enthusiastic new coach. The Ducks head into Saturday’s matchup against visiting Nebraska looking to build on their season-opening 77-21 win over Southern Utah, while the Cornhuskers hope to address the defensive concerns raised in a 43-36 triumph over Arkansas State.
Royce Freeman rushed for 150 yards and four touchdowns as Oregon finished with 703 total yards and a program-record nine rushing scores in the rout of Southern Utah. Sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert was 17-of-21 for 281 yards and one touchdown, and could put up similar numbers against a Nebraska defense that came under fire after allowing nearly 500 total yards and 32 first downs against Arkansas State. While the Cornhuskers’ defense is a work in progress under new coordinator Bob Diaco, the offense looked sharp with sophomore Tre Bryant rushing 31 times for a career-high 192 yards and a TD. Bryant figures to receive another heavy workload Saturday as Nebraska looks to control the clock against Oregon’s explosive attack.
TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Oregon -14
ABOUT NEBRASKA (1-0): The offensive line performed well in the opener, allowing Tanner Lee to throw for 238 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Lee’s favorite target was fellow junior Stanley Morgan Jr., who had five receptions for 102 yards - including a 44-yard touchdown catch. The young cornerbacks struggled at times to contain Arkansas State’s passing attack, but safeties Joshua Kalu and Aaron Williams combined for 12 tackles and an interception while linebacker Luke Gifford contributed a team-high nine tackles.
ABOUT OREGON (1-0): The Ducks displayed a fast-paced offense led by wide receiver Charles Nelson (99 receiving yards and a 2-yard touchdown run) and running back Kani Benoit (150 rushing yards and four touchdowns) along with Freeman, who moved to seventh on the Pac-12’s career rushing list with 4,296 yards. There are lingering questions on defense, but the Ducks opened on an encouraging note against Southern Utah with five sacks, seven tackles for loss and eight pass breakups. Linebacker Troy Dye had 10 tackles and an interception while Tony Brooks-James sparked the special-teams unit with a 100-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff.
1. Nebraska has won five straight games in the series, including a 35-32 victory in Lincoln last season.
2. The Cornhuskers are 9-0 under coach Mike Riley when rushing for more than 200 yards.
3. Oregon has scored at least 20 points in 43 consecutive games, which is the longest streak in the country.
PREDICTION: Oregon 38, Nebraska 30