The Ducks dodged a bullet when Charles Nelson fumbled on the opening kickoff, giving Oregon possession at their own 30-yard line. On the first play of the game, true freshman quarterback Justin Herbert threw behind his receiver and was picked off by Budda Baker. Jake Browning’s 34-yard pass to Dante Pettis on second down gave the Huskies first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and smart execution on a zone-read play allowed Browning to walk untouched into the end zone. However, Browning was flagged for taunting on the play; another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against him at any point in the game will result in his ejection.
Trailing Washington 7-0, the Ducks started their second drive at their own 21-yard line, and went three-and-out after rushing twice with Royce Freeman and short completion by Herbert. The Huskies took over at their own 33, and strung together a nice 10-play, 67-yard drive that culminated with a short end-zone fade to John Ross to increase Washington’s lead to 14 points.
Oregon’s offense sputtered again on their next drive, again going three-and-out thanks to a sack of Herbert by Greg Gaines. Pettis initially appeared to spring the ensuing punt return for a touchdown, but a flag thrown on Brandon Wellington for a block in the back gave the Washington offense the ball at their own 21. The Huskies looked like they converted on third down, but an illegal touching penalty on Darrell Daniels for voluntarily going out-of-bounds before catching Browning’s pass resulted in a loss of down, and the Huskies went three-and-out.
Oregon finally got something going on their next drive with Herbert stringing together a couple of nice runs and passes to get the ball into Washington territory. The Huskies stood strong on fourth down, though, and forced an incomplete pass to Darren Carrington. Myles Gaskin took any sense of momentum out of the Autzen Stadium crowd on the very next play when he outran the hapless Oregon defense for a 65-yard touchdown and a 21-0 Husky lead with 2:37 left to play in the first quarter.
The Ducks found some more success on their next drive (seven plays for 43 yards, including a 27-yard completion to Carrington) but stalled when Herbert’s fourth-down scramble failed to net an Oregon first down. With the ball again at their own 22-yard line, the Huskies closed out the first quarter and began the second with a six-play drive that stalled after Browning was run out of bounds for Oregon’s first sack of the day on third down. Tristan Vizcaino’s punt bounced into the end zone, giving the Ducks the ball at their own 20 with 12:12 left to play in the second quarter.
Washington’s defense showed up to play on Oregon’s next series, forcing a punt after six plays thanks to a Joe Mathis TFL on a Royce Freeman run. Starting at their 20-yard line, the Huskies were bottled up and went three-and-out when Troy Dye sacked Browning on third down. The Huskies recovered Carrington’s fumbled attempt to catch the kick, but a (well deserved) kick catch interference call on Jordan Miller gave the Ducks the ball at the Washington 40. A promising Oregon drive came to a sudden halt inside the Husky 5-yard line, though, when Freeman fumbled near the sideline and Keishawn Bierria recovered.
The Huskies pounded the ball with Myles Gaskin on their next drive, including a gorgeous 68-yard scamper to the Duck 15-yard line. Browning increased Washington’s lead to 28-0 with a beautiful post route to John Ross, with the receiver getting his foot down with inches to spare at the back of the end zone.
Desperate to get something going by the end of the half, Oregon finally got on the board with 3:33 left to play in the half when Herbert connected with Tony Brooks-James from 18 yards out. A holding and false start penalty on the PAT attempt forced the Ducks to kick their extra point from 35 yards out, but Aidan Schneider split the uprights to make the score 28-7.
Oregon’s defense stepped up to the challenge on Washington’s next drive, forcing another Husky three-and-out to give the Ducks the ball at their own 32-yard line with 1:59 left to play in the half. However, consecutive sacks of Herbert by Gaines and Mathis resulted in a punt that gave Washington the ball at their own 45-yard line with 1:09 remaining in the second quarter.
The Huskies moved the ball well thanks to completions from Browning to Pettis and Ross, and the quarterback scored his second rushing touchdown of the game on a draw play from seven yards out, giving Washington a 35-7 lead with 0:21 left in the second quarter. The half ended with a 1-yard Taj Griffin run, and the Oregon players and coaches were followed into the locker room with a not-insignificant amount of boos.
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