The post-Justin Herbert era has begun in Eugene, Oregon.
For the first time since 2016, the now-Los Angeles Charger and Eugene-native did not start Oregon's season opener. In his place was Chandler, AZ native and former four-star quarterback, Tyler Shough.
So far, so good. At least in the eyes of his teammates.
“Tyler was unbelievable," described CJ Verdell. "I just can’t say enough about what he did today."
Shough completed 17-of-26 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown, and added 85 yards and a touchdown on the ground, to lead No. 12 Oregon (1-0) to a 35-14 victory over the Stanford Cardinal (0-1) Saturday evening at Autzen Stadium.
Mario Cristobal said he would not name a starting quarterback ahead of the season opener and when asked when Shough knew he would start, the quarterback dodged the question, but there was little doubt throughout training camp. While Oregon took in graduate transfer Anthony Brown, Shough began camp taking reps with the ones and ended camp earning the starting gig.
In fact, Shough has been preparing for this moment for years. After redshirting his freshman season, Shough seemed poised to take over as Oregon's starter but then Herbert returned for one final season as a Duck. Despite that, Shough always attacked during practice and prepared as if he was the starter and in doing so, won the respect of the locker room.
"He knows what he's doing," said wide receiver Bryan Addison last season. "(Herbert) is putting a great role model on him. Whenever Tyler is in the game it's just like (Herbert) is in the game. Really, they are two of the same to me."
Now with the keys to the offense entrusted to him, Shough did his best impression of Herbert's Rose Bowl performance rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
"We have always known he's a really good athlete and we have always wanted to run the quarterback. And in this offense, there are going to be some opportunities," said Cristobal following the win. "When he did keep the ball and when he handed it off, for the most part, were on point."
New offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead relies on the quarterback being a threat with his legs and making smart decisions with the zone read/option. Saturday's performance showed why that makes the Ducks offense so lethal.
But, that wasn't the only thing Shough needed to perfect to run the new offensive scheme. He also needed to attack downfield with accurate deep shots and he passed that trial with flying colors, too. Shough connected on deep balls of 44 yards and 38 yards to Mycah Pittman and Johnny Johnson III in the first half alone, with both completions leading to Ducks touchdowns.
"[The deep shots that he took were really good throws, gave the receivers a chance, and the receivers just did a great job coming down with the ball," said Cristobal. "I thought Tyler did a really good job tonight."
"We have a great relationship with our wideouts and just giving those guys a chance," said Shough.
It wasn't all perfect for Shough, however. He did throw an awful first-half interception where he didn't see Stanford linebacker Levani Damuni and had two interceptable passes in the fourth quarter. But Cristobal thinks it's just a matter of progressing through his reads and calming down, which will come with time.
"He did some really good things and I'm sure he's... thinking about a couple he would like to have back right now. The one interception and just going through his progression and working all the way through to the open back," said the Ducks head coach.
"There were some throws in the beginning I'd like to have back and I think that's just part of [it being] the first game. Just trying to get the jitters out," added Shough. "I had a couple bad decisions over the middle. Just trying to force it in too much and just got to hit the check[down]."
But Shough found his stride as the game went on. He was visibly calmer and the Oregon offense responded scoring three second-half touchdowns with Shough marching the Ducks down the field.
"It honestly felt good getting in the groove there later," said Shough.
Oregon fans will eagerly await if that groove carries over into Week 2, when the Ducks travel to Pullman, WA to take on the Washington State Cougars on Saturday, November 14th.