Ducks Put On Spring Game Show
EUGENE, Ore. — The curtain was raised on the Dan Lanning era of Oregon football Saturday, and what a show the Ducks put on for their fans.
Three UO quarterbacks combined for five touchdown passes in the annual Spring Game, three of which were longer than 30 yards, while the defense forced five turnovers. If explosive plays and takeaways are the biggest X-factors in college football today, as Lanning said afterward, the Ducks provided a hopeful prelude Saturday to the upcoming 2022 season.
And they did so with scores of alumni on the sidelines, and tens of thousands of fans in the stands at Autzen Stadium. Even Mother Nature seemed to get the memo that it was "Duck Day" around the UO athletic department, with sun washing over the crowd in attendance for the Spring Game.
"What an awesome atmosphere," said Lanning, who was named Oregon's newest head coach in December. "This is why you come to Oregon. So thrilled to have our alumni come back, and our fans to be so supportive."
All eyes were on the quarterbacks as the Ducks look to identify a new starter. Transfer Bo Nix perhaps showed his experience in starting fast — his Yellow team opened the game with a 70-yard reception by Seven McGee, who caught the game's first touchdown pass two plays later.
Nix would throw two more scoring passes on the afternoon, a 39-yard dart to Dont'e Thornton later in the first quarter, and a 70-yard bomb to Thornton in the fourth quarter that iced a 31-21 victory for the Yellow squad.
"That was awesome," said Nix, a transfer from Auburn. "With a crowd like that, that was an impressive spring game. I wasn't expecting that. The atmosphere was fun."
The younger quarterbacks were slower to start, but also had their moments. Ty Thompson got the Green team on the board late in the first quarter with a TD pass to Troy Franklin, capping a drive on which Thompson was 4-of-4 for 75 yards. And Jay Butterfield bounced back from an interception on his first drive with a 31-yard scoring pass to Josh Delgado that tied the game 14-14 early in the second.
"Obviously you've gotta respond," Butterfield said. "That's what they preach here. If you make a mistake, how will you bounce back?"
Each quarterback had at least one touchdown pass. Each also had at least one interception.
"I feel like I got a good idea of where I need to improve, and what I did well," Thompson said.
Trikweze Bridges returned an interception for a touchdown to open the second half, and DJ Johnson led all defenders with seven tackles, including four sacks. JJ Greenfield had one of the interceptions, forced a fumble late in the scrimmage and also downed a punt inside the 5-yard line.
Three receivers reached the century mark in yards, with McGee catching six passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. Thornton also accounted for 116 yards, on three receptions including two for touchdowns, and Chase Cota caught six passes for 100 yards.
"I feel like we did a good job stretching the field, and giving guys a chance to make a play," Thompson said.
Saturday's Spring Game was Oregon's 14th practice of this spring. There is one more allowable workout, which the Ducks will hold Monday to review issues that arose in Saturday's exhibition.
Those were to be determined once coaches dove into film from the Spring Game. But in the immediate afterglow, the reviews were almost universally positive.
"This is the best spring game environment I've ever seen," center Alex Forsyth said. "I don't know what the numbers were" — attendance was estimated at 42,000 — "but that place was loud. And it was really energetic. I thought it was a really fun game."