"It is a tough place to play. It usually is the leading attendance at least in percentage to capacity in the Pac-12 for several years now. —Kyle Whittingham on playing at Autzen Stadium
EUGENE, Ore. — Word is that Oregon may have quarterback Justin Herbert in the lineup when Utah visits Autzen Stadium on Saturday. The sophomore has missed three games with a broken collarbone, but returned to practice this week.
“There’s always a chance,” Oregon coach Willie Taggart said when asked if Herbert would play against the Utes.
The Ducks (4-4, 1-4) haven’t won a game this season without Herbert, losing to Washington State (33-10), Stanford (49-7) and UCLA (31-14). Prior to the skid, he quarterbacked them to victories over Southern Utah (77-21), Nebraska (42-35) and Wyoming (49-13). A narrow loss to Arizona State (37-35) followed before Herbert was injured in a 45-24 win over California.
For the season, Herbert has passed for 1,264 yards with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. Last year, he threw the game-winning 17-yard TD pass to Darren Carrington II with two seconds remaining in a 30-28 victory at Utah.
In preparing for the upcoming meeting, Taggart joked that no one could touch or breathe on Herbert in practice this week. If he’s not ready to go, Oregon is expected to start freshman Braxton Burmeister.
Regardless of who takes the snaps, Taggart insists the Ducks have an identity on offense. The Ducks can run the ball. Senior running back Royce Freeman has rushed for 957 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“We have an identity,” Taggart said. “We’ve just got to add on to that.”
Generally speaking, though, Taggart noted that everybody’s got to step up and play better for the Ducks. He added that they need more explosive plays on offense and more takeaways on defense.
Oregon enters the game 10th in the Pac-12 in passing offense (204.4 ypg) and 10th in scoring defense (30.4 ppg). However, the Ducks are first in sacks (26) and second in defending the run (119 ypg).
Defensive players to watch include linebackers Troy Dye (8.6 tackles per game) and Jonah Moi (4.5 sacks), as well as defensive lineman Jalen Jelks (10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) and cornerback Arrion Springs (11 passes defended).
Oregon has scored 39 touchdowns this season and made only two field goals.
Then there’s Autzen Stadium, one of the great home-field advantages in the conference.
"It is a tough place to play. It usually is the leading attendance at least in percentage to capacity in the Pac-12 for several years now,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “I don't know how they stack up this year, but in years past they have oversold that place to like 105 percent. It is very loud, the student section will get after you and it is a great facility. It is a great venue to play in."
The Utes prevailed 62-20 there in 2015.