Kani Benoit

Associated Press

Oregon starts fast, hangs on to outlast Nebraska

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Oregon used 14-0 runs to begin and end the first half to claim a 42-14 lead at the half. It would need each and every one of those points as Nebraska pitched a shutout in the second half, but the Ducks still held on for a 42-35 win.

The Ducks (2-0) opened the game with a 75-yard drive capped by a 32-yard strike from Justin Herbert to Brenden Schooler, then intercepted Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee on the Huskers’ first play from scrimmage. Five plays later Herbert fired his second touchdown pass of the afternoon, an 8-yarder to Charles Nelson.

The teams traded touchdowns through the remainder of the first quarter and into the second until Oregon posted a 21-0 run to close the half, turning a 21-14 track meet into a 42-14 lapping, with scoring runs from Royce Freeman and Kani Benoit and, aided by another Lee pick inside his own territory, a third scoring strike from Herbert with 39 ticks left until the break.

Oregon closed the first half with 409 yards of total offense — Herbert was 21-of-25 for 313 yards — and the idea of Nebraska (1-1) defensive coordinator Bob Diaco making second-half adjustments seemed like a dark joke.

And then the second half started.

Nebraska moved 75 yards to pull within 42-21 to open the third quarter, then forced a three-and-out and raced 53 yards to pull within 42-28. And then Herbert was intercepted by Nebraska’s Aaron Williams, but the Huskers gained only two yards on the ensuing possession. This would be a theme for Nebraska.

Oregon’s next touch ended on a turnover on downs, but Lee was intercepted for a third time. The Ducks’ next possession missed a field goal, and then a punt, but Nebraska failed to take advantage both times. Finally, after a Freeman fumble with 5:50 left in the fourth quarter, Nebraska pulled within 42-35 on a 2-yard Mikale Wilbon run.

Oregon went three-and-out again on its next possession, and suddenly Nebraska had the ball at its own 43 and more than two minutes remaining with a chance to tie the game. But Lee was pressured into his fourth interception, into the arms of Ugochukwu Amadi. Oregon would not score in the second half, but Oregon would not need to score in the second half.

Herbert finished the day hitting 25-of-33 throws for 365 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while Freeman pounded out 29 carries for 153 yards and two scores. Oregon rolled out 566 yards of total offense, well short of the Nebraska opponent record of 656. Nebraska ran for 109 yards as a team, while Lee was 19-of-41 for 252 yards with three scores and four costly interceptions.

Oregon running away from Nebraska in track meet

Associated Press
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Chip Kelly‘s offense is no longer in Eugene, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the box score. The new-look Ducks lead visiting Nebraska 42-14 at the half.

The Ducks raced to a 14-0 lead over the game’s first three and a half minutes. Oregon accepted the ball to open the game and moved 75 yards in only five plays, the last 32 on a Brenden Schooler pass from Justin Herbert, to score its first touchdown, then intercepted Tanner Lee on Nebraska’s first play from scrimmage. Five plays after that Herbert found Charles Nelson for an 8-yard score.

Nebraska got on the board with a 95-yard drive, capped by a spectacular De’Mornay Pierson-El pass that overcame pass interference.

Oregon moved 75 yards in eight plays, punctuated by a 2-yard Royce Freeman plunge to grab a 21-7 lead as the first quarter gun sounded. Nebraska immediately responded with a 75-yard march of its own to pull within 21-14, and Freeman again capped a long drive — 73 yards — to put the Ducks back up 14 at the 7:10 mark of the second quarter.

Attempting to pull back within a touchdown, Lee converted a 4th-and-1 sneak inside Husker territory, but it was called back for a procedure penalty. Nebraska was forced to punt and paid the price when the Ducks notched their fifth score of the afternoon — a 5-yard Kani Benoit dash that ended a 7-play, 71-yard drive — to give Oregon a 35-14 lead with 2:40 left in the half.

Thomas Graham, Jr., claimed Lee’s second interception of the half at the Nebraska 34, and Herbert again made the ‘Huskers pay with a 17-yard strike to Dillon Mitchell with 39 ticks to play. Herbert closed the half hitting 21-of-25 passes for 313 yards with three touchdowns, and the Ducks added 96 yards and three scores on 20 carries. Oregon accumulated 409 yards of total offense in the half; Nebraska’s single-game opponent record is 656.

Nebraska will receive to open the second half.

Mike Riley picks up long-awaited win vs. No. 22 Oregon as Nebraska hangs on

Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
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Nebraska head coach Mike Riley had a seven-game losing streak against Oregon dating back to his years as head coach of Oregon State. So when Nebraska brought down No. 22 Oregon quarterback Dakota Prukop on fourth down and saw the final seconds tick away off the clock, there was a reason to celebrate with a Gatorade shower for Riley. Nebraska (3-0) held on for a 35-32 victory over the Pac-12’s Ducks and enter Big Ten play with momentum that eluded them a year ago.

Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong ran 34 yards for a touchdown with 2:29 to play, giving the Cornhuskers a 35-32 lead. Oregon once led the game, 20-7, and was unable to hold Nebraska down in the second half.

This one will not be fun to review for new Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke, who made his return to a Big Ten stadium for the first time since being fired by Michigan two years ago. Nebraska had 228 rushing yards, with Armstrong leading the way with 96 rushing yards and a touchdown and Devine Ozigbo nearly equaling him with 94 yards and a touchdown. Terrell Newby chipped in with 42 rushing yards as well. Armstrong’s passing effort helped lead the way too with 200 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

Oregon’s offense took an early hit in the first half with running back Royce Freeman going down with a leg injury. He did not return, leading the Ducks to look to Prukop, Taj Griffin and Kani Benoit to take care of the ground attack. It was effective with 327 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Oregon’s unique decisions to go for two-point conversions came back to haunt them, perhaps. Oregon attempted five two-point conversions and converted on just the first one in the game. That left four potential points off the scoreboard in a three-point game. Take the points, Oregon. Take. The. Points.

Nebraska will hit the road next week for their first Big Ten game of the season. The Cornhuskers travel to Northwestern, a team that has given Nebraska the fits in recent years. Oregon will return home for its Pac-12 opener against Colorado. Colorado gave Michigan a run for a while in Ann Arbor before the Wolverines put them away in the second half of a 45-28 victory.