Braxton Burmeister

Oregon backup QB Braxton Burmeister "different" than last season

Oregon backup QB Braxton Burmeister "different" than last season

It’s good to know your options, right? Whether quarterback Justin Herbert is out for UCLA or not, (due to concussion protocol) let’s take a look at who is behind him to command the offense.

Backup quarterbacks Braxton Burmeister and Tyler Shough split first-team reps during Tuesday's practice, according to UO offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo. Neither quarterback has seen the field in Pac-12 conference play yet, but according to teammates and coaches, both have improved immensely in practice.

Option one: Sophomore Braxton Bumeister. The six-foot-one, 206-pound backup quarterback recently underwent a minor knee surgery last month, but was cleared to play last week.

"I'm most excited to get a chance to get him off injury, get a chance to get him back out there full speed," Arroyo said. "The biggest part about being off that long is getting out the kinks. His maturity has grown bounds since last year.”

The area that Burmeister has improved on the most? According to wide receiver Jaylon Redd, his confidence and command on the field is noticeably different than last season.

“After his experience last year, I feel like he could come on the field this year and do it way differently and run this offense and team like it needs to be,” Redd said.

Burmeister played in the first two games this season and completed four of eight passes for 27 yards and three carries for 17 yards. Last season as a freshman, Burmeister started five games when Herbert was out with injury; he was 44 of 77 for 330 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions.

Option two: Freshman Tyler Shough. The backup quarterback has attempted zero passes, but he led the team on a touchdown drive against Portland State. He’s played in two non-conference games.

A result of Burmeister’s injury, Shough received every second team rep over the last month and a half.

“He benefitted a lot," UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "He got a ton of reps. Braxton had (before injury) gotten most of the second team reps.”

Arroyo said he was confident in Shough’s abilities, and Redd agreed.

“Tyler is smart and he has good reads, I like the way he throws the ball,” Redd said.

Shough was rated the No. 1 player out of the state of Arizona by 247Sports and Rivals.

Will it be Herbert on Saturday against UCLA? Burmeister? Shough? Or a combo? More to come as Herbert’s concussion protocol is evaluated.

“Whoever wins the job, I’m confident in,” Redd said.

 

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Surprises and disappointments in Oregon's freshman class

Surprises and disappointments in Oregon's freshman class

Hopes were high for the 2018 Oregon football class ranked 13th in the nation with 12 four-star players. Through five games, there have been some pleasant surprises and disappointments. It is the first class that gets to utilize the new NCAA redshirt rule and it’s transformed how Duck freshmen develop.

If you are not familiar with the new rule passed in June, college football players can now play up to four games in a season and still redshirt without burning a year of eligibility. College football players are granted five years to complete four seasons of eligibility. This changes the game plan for Oregon and the rest of the nation.

 

Which Duck freshmen can no longer redshirt?

There are seven Oregon freshmen that have played all five games this season and can’t redshirt;

Starting left tackle Penei Sewell

Safety Jevon Holland

Running back Travis Dye

Punter Tom Snee

Long snapper Karsten Battles

Cornerback Kahlef Hailassie

Linebacker Adrian Jackson

 

Which Duck freshmen are making an impact?

Two freshmen have started; Sewell is the first true freshman offensive lineman to start a UO season opener since 1997. The left tackle was a top-5 graded offensive tackle in the Pac-12 each of the first two weeks.

Jackson started at outside linebacker against Portland State, when La’Mar Winston Jr. was out with an injury, and has made two solo tackles.

Dye had the best game of his career at Cal, leading the Ducks’ rushing attack with 18 carries for 115 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown. Dye is Oregon’s 2nd leading rusher, behind CJ Verdell, with 259 yards on 46 attempts.

Holland did a great job shutting down Cal’s passing attack last Saturday, finishing the game with two interceptions. He has three interceptions through five games, tying with senior Ugo Amadi for the second most in the nation.

Snee has been solid at punter, amassing 402 yards through 11 attempts, with the longest punt at 48 yards.

“Jevon has really played some good football for us and Penei has been outstanding for us as a starter,” UO coach Cristobal said. “Travis continues to get better. He has provided some explosive plays.”

 

What disappointments?

Former Oregon wide receiver Jalen Hall, who was rated the ninth-best player at his position for the 2018 class, could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of charges that he and a friend committed a home invasion robbery on Sept. 10. 

Hall enrolled early at Oregon for spring practices, participated in one practice before leaving for what were called "personal reasons". Cristobal expected him to return.

In September, before the arrest, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal officially said that Jalen Hall was no longer on the team

 

How has the rule impacted playing time for Duck freshmen?

12 true freshman have seen action through five games. More freshman could be potentially be added to this list as the season rolls on or as injuries occur. An interesting aspect of the new redshirt rule is how Oregon will take advantage of freshman gaining invaluable bowl game experience, plus the extra month of bowl game practice. The following have played in 2-3 games:

Wide receiver Bryan Addison; 3 games

Safety Steve Stephens; 3 games

Quarterback Tyler Shough; 2 games

Cornerback Verone McKinley III; 3 games

 

How does the redshirt rule impact Oregon’s backup quarterbacks?

The backup quarterback position remains a big question mark for Oregon. Both freshman Shough and sophomore Braxton Burmeister have played in two games.

Burmeister, who underwent a minor knee surgery, is close to done rehabbing and Cristobal expects him to fully return to practice for Washington prep week.

Because Burmeister has not used a redshirt season, it’s possible either him or Shough could be kept at four games or less to preserve a season of eligibility.

“We are going to let it play out and see where we are at once everyone is healthy,” Cristobal said. “It is hard to predict. You want to save a guy a year if you can, but the way football goes nowadays, a lot of guys are gone in three or four years so that fifth year is never used up.”

 

What does Oregon coach Mario Cristobal think of the rule so far?

The rule was unanimously agreed upon amongst college football coaches, including Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal is excited for how it changes the developmental aspect of the sport.  Whether it be to injury or a player developing throughout a season, he plans to award playing opportunities to Ducks who he believes can help the team.

Bye week good timing for Oregon injuries

Bye week good timing for Oregon injuries

 

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal gave a bye week injury update on the Pac-12 coaches conference call, as the No. 18 Ducks prepare for No. 10 Washington. 

 

Senior running back Tony Brooks-James: Suffered an ankle injury during the loss to Stanford, played only on special teams at Cal. According to Cristobal, Brooks-James "practiced full-go" on Tuesday and is healthy.

Defensive end Austin Faoliu: After being held out of last week's game, Faoliu is close to fully healthy and Cristobal expects him to be "full go" by Wednesday or Thursday. 

Tight end Jacob Breeland: Traveled to Cal but did not play. According to Cristobal, Breeland "practiced full-go" on Tuesday and is healthy.

Backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister: Still rehabbing a minor procedure on his knee. Cristobal expects him to be practicing late next week.

Running back CJ Verdell: Reportedly had a minor knee injury which caused him to miss some of the second half. Cristobal called it "a scare" but that he could have gone back in the game. Verdell is 100 percent healthy and already practicing this week. 

Running back Darrian Felix: A bruised foot has limited his playing time but Cristobal expects him to practice this week.

 

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The Good and Bad from Oregon's victory over Bowling Green

The Good and Bad from Oregon's victory over Bowling Green

In No. 24 Oregon’s 58-24 victory over Bowling Green the good outweighed the bad. Coach Mario Cristobal opened up his first season as UO head coach 1-0. 

The GOOD:

Oregon's rushing attack is led by seven-headed monster: In the Ducks' 58-24 win over Bowling Green tonight, six running backs played and totaled 212 rushing yards with an average of five yards per rush. Who makes seven? Quarterback Justin Herbert who finished with 41 rushing yards on six attempts. Here is a breakdown of how each running back performed.

UO’s “penalty problem” showed improvement: In 2017, Oregon was the most penalized team in the nation, averaging 9.4 penalties for 88.3 penalty yards per game. Oregon finished with three penalties for 35 yards.

Cristobal focused on the Ducks’ sense of discipline, plus a culture of accountability and attention to detail, by bringing referees in to practice to call penalties and then watch film with the coaches and players to help correct those bad habits. “We are pleased with progress but we want to cut it down even more,” Cristobal said.

Safety Ugo Amadi poised to be a star: Amadi returned his fifth career interception 38 yards for a touchdown on Bowling Green’s first drive of the second half.

The senior finished sixth on the team in total tackles with five, but he was tied for the lead with four solo tackles. After his performance in the opener, the Ducks have moved him to the starting punt returner role.

Justin Herbert reaches two milestones: Herbert was 10-of-21 for 281 yards passing with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He surpassed 4,000 career passing yards, tying Marcus Mariota as the fastest UO quarterback to do so in 18 games. His five touchdown passes are the most by an Oregon quarterback in a season opener in program history, beating Akili Smith (1998) and Danny O'Neill (1994), who both tossed four touchdowns.

 

The BAD:

Injuries: Oregon tight end Cam McCormick broke his fibula during the Ducks' season opener against Bowling Green and is out for the rest of the 2018 season

The only other injuries to come out of Saturday were concussions to linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir during strong collisions. Cristobal said they are both being "checked out" in Oregon's "strict and regimented" concussion protocol. 

The cringe-worthy start: Both the offense and defense got off to a sloppy start. The duck defense missed tackles and misread plays. The offense dropped passes and mishandled snaps. Communication was off, the coaching staff had to call timeouts when the right players weren’t on the field. Bowling Green took a 10-0 lead over Oregon before the Ducks finally got a defensive stop and found their rhythm to rattle off 37 unanswered points.  

Braxton Burmeister: The sophomore quarterback completed one of four passes. The offense came to a sudden halt and Cristobal made the decision to put Herbert back in the game. The backup quarterback position is still a giant question mark for the Ducks.

How the new redshirt rule helps Oregon

How the new redshirt rule helps Oregon

Oregon’s cupcake nonconference schedule just got more interesting and the Ducks may see less transfers this season. 

If you are not familiar with the new NCAA rule passed in June, college football players can now play up to four games in a season and redshirt without burning a year of eligibility. College football players are granted five years to complete four seasons of eligibility.

The rule was unanimously agreed upon amongst college football coaches, including Oregon coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal is excited for how it changes the developmental aspect of the sport.  Whether it be to injury or a player developing throughout a season, he plans to award playing opportunities to Ducks who he believes can help the team.

“The opportunities are endless to not only help your team, but to prevent a guy from losing an extra year of eligibility,” Cristobal said. “It certainly helps you plan differently.”

With that said, Cristobal made it clear he expects the level of competition to increase, not decrease.

Playing time will not be handed out

Just because the new rule allows participation in four games a season doesn’t mean Oregon players are guaranteed to see the field. According to Cristobal, playing time will remain a privilege, not a right. 

“That would create the wrong kind of dynamic within the walls of our locker room,” Cristobal said.

Oregon’s cupcake nonconference schedule just got more interesting

The Ducks’ nonconference opponents (Bowling Green, Portland State, San Jose State) went a combined 4-32 last season. Those three yawn-worthy games just got more interesting because now coaches and fans will get a chance to see plenty of freshmen from that highly touted 2018 recruiting class get on the field.

This means true freshman quarterback Tyler Shough, who many have described as starting quarterback“Justin Herbert-like” is likely to get a chance to play at the college level right away without wasting a year of eligibility. The back-up quarterback competition could play out between Shough and sophomore Braxton Burmeister in live games instead of just behind closed doors at practice. Keep in mind that Burmeister could also utilize his redshirt if he does not appear in more than four games.

Freshmen get valuable experience

It’s hard to emulate the speed of the college game in practice, even on scout team. Now freshmen will be able to get on the field in low-pressure situations, which is great to get their feet wet and for coaches to see how they handle being under the lights.

Oregon could give an early opportunity to see how a player reacts to the level of college level or allow them to continue to grow and learn the playbook before potentially playing later in the season.

Those meaningless bowl games that some player skip? Freshmen can get added into those, with the added month of bowl practice.

“The development process is real now,” Cristobal said. “It’s almost like the developmental squad in the NFL where down the line the opportunity, whether it be due to injury or whether that player has developed to a point where they can help us and actually contribute to the team.’

Incentivizes and may limit transfers

The new rule keeps players involved and motivated by the possibility of playing time at some point during the season.

Oregon could show a player how he fits into a game scheme, without losing a year of eligibility. Which is a great way for a coach to prove the school has a plan for him, which could potentially prevent some players from transferring.

Takes pressure off starters

Oregon starters will be less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries. The change provides more roster depth and the opportunity for Ducks at the top of the depth chart to experience less wear and tear throughout the season.

[WATCH: Cristobal continues to impress on the recruiting trail]

Imagine how different last year could have been

In 2017, the Ducks redshirted eight players on the 2018 roster; CJ Verdell, Cyrus Habibi-likio, Demetri Burch, Daewood Davis, Cody Shear, Alex Forsyth, Popo Aumavae, and Isaac Slade-Matautia. All of those players could have played in four games and still have four years of full eligibility left if this rule was in place last season.

The rule allows for the development of the player to be improved and the coaches’ ability to evaluate the player. Which Duck freshman are you most looking forward to utilizing this rule?

 

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 1)...: They find a backup quarterback

The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 1)...: They find a backup quarterback

Oregon's promising 2017 season ended with a wild two weeks that saw Willie Taggart depart for Florida State, coach Mario Cristobal take over the program, recruits decommit left and right and then the Ducks fall flat during a 38-28 loss to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. Still, the 2018 season could see Oregon return to Pac-12 prominence. That is, if a lot of variables play out in the Ducks' favor. We will take a position-by-position look at the team to discuss what must happen in order for Oregon to rise again in 2018. 

Other position entries: QuarterbackRunning backsReceivers/Tight endsOffensive lineDefensive backsLinebackersDefensive line.   

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Today: The 2018 Ducks will contend if (Part 1)...: They find a backup quarterback.

Key departure: Senior Taylor Alie.

Projected 2018 starter: Justin Herbert, Jr., (6-6, 225). 

Key backups: Braxton Burmeister, Soph., (6-1, 204); Tyler Shough, Fr., (6-4, 190).

What we know: Oregon, other than during the Las Vegas Bowl, had one of the best offenses in the nation when Herbert was healthy. He will be the unchallenged starter again in 2018 and could find himself in Heisman Trophy contention should he remain in the lineup and the Ducks improve on last year's 7-6 record. 

What we don't know: Can the Ducks survive any length of time without Herbert in 2018? Unless Oregon brings in a transfer quarterback, the backup will either be Burmeister, who struggled greatly during the five games Herbert missed last season (57 percent completions, two touchdown passes and six interceptions), or Shough, a four-star recruit who plans to enroll in time for spring drills.

What must happen for Oregon to contend: Herbert must avoid injury or one of the two youngsters had better become serviceable enough to prevent the offense from imploding upon their insertion into the lineup. 

Oregon went 1-4 minus Herbert last year while scoring about 15 points per game. Herbert missed the toughest part of the team's schedule last season. If he were to miss a weaker stretch of games next year, maybe the Ducks survive his absence in the short term. If he misses any stretch that includes key games against the likes of Washington, UCLA, Stanford or Arizona, the Ducks could be cooked.   

That is, unless Burmeister grows up in a hurry or Shough turns out to be the next Herbert. 

Next up: The 2018 Ducks will contend if...: Tony Brooks-James is ready dominate. 

Sources: Herbert cleared to play against Arizona following X-ray

Sources: Herbert cleared to play against Arizona following X-ray

Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert, who missed five games with a broken left collarbone, has been cleared to play Saturday against Arizona, according to multiple sources. 

A source told NBC Sports Northwest on Tuesday that Herbert was taking first-team reps and would likely start, as reported that night on Talkin' Ducks. However, Oregon coach Willie Taggart that same day said during an interview that Herbert would undergo an X-ray later in the week to determine his availability. 

On Thursday, Brett McMurphy tweeted that sources had told him that Herbert would start against the Wildcats (7-3, 5-2). However, according to a source, Herbert's availability wasn't 100 percent certain until Friday when an x-ray revealed that Herbert's collarbone had indeed fully healed. But, it was pretty much a done deal that he would return this week unless he suffered a set back. In fact, Herbert, a source said, might have been able to play last Saturday had the Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) not been on an off week.  

The injury was believed to require six to eight weeks to heal. Saturday will mark seven weeks since Herbert injured his collarbone while rushing for a seven-yard touchdown in the first quarter against California. That score gave the Ducks a 17-0 lead. They went on to win 45-24. 

However, in the five weeks without Herbert the Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) went 1-4 with freshman Braxton Burmeister starting at quarterback. In his six appearances - counting the Cal game - Burmeister completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns with six interceptions. Oregon defeated Utah 41-20 two games ago but found it very difficult to score in four losses, falling 33-10 to Washington State, 49-7 at Stanford, 31-14 at UCLA and 38-3 at Washington.  

Herbert's return makes it quite possible that the Ducks could win their final three games and finish the season with an 8-5 record. 

Arizona presents Oregon with a chance to finally 'do something'

Arizona presents Oregon with a chance to finally 'do something'

The Oregon Ducks have a chance to finally "do something" of substance this season when they host Arizona on Saturday. 

Oregon (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) not only needs a win in the worst way, but the Ducks could use a victory against a strong opponent in order to validate this uneven season in some capacity. To date, coach Willie Taggart's first year at UO has seen a hot start fueled by taking down weak opponents morph into a hot mess after sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert - expected back this week - went down with a collarbone injury.  

Oregon's best victories this season have come against Utah (5-5, 2-5), California (5-5, 2-5) and Nebraska (4-6, 3-4 BigTen). That's hardly a lot to brag about having defeated. Following the Wildcats (7-3, 5-2) on the schedule will be Oregon State (1-9, 0-7) in the Civil War then, assuming UO qualifies for the postseason, a likely inferior bowl game opponent awaits in December. 

A bowl victory would certainly be sweet for Taggart, who has yet to win a bowl game. But the signature victory of the season would still ben a win over the Wildcats, who have won five of their last six games since sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate became the starter.

The trajectories of both teams have been vastly different since Tate replaced injured starter Brandon Dawkins against Colorado on Oct. 7 and Herbert went down with his injury during a win over Cal the following week.

While Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez discovered that he could have a future Heisman Trophy candidate on his hands, Taggart discovered that his freshman backup, Braxton Burmeister, wasn't close to being ready for Pac-12 play. Consequently, not only did the Ducks go 1-4 in Herbert's absence, but aside from a 41-20 win over the Utes, the Ducks scored just 34 points in four defeats. 

Young quarterback, or not, generating just 8.5 points per game in four losses is a poor reflection on the offensive coaching staff armed with a strong offensive line and a stable of good to great running backs led by Royce Freeman. They couldn't average at least 17 points per game despite poor quarterback play? Oregon still would have still lost all four games but at least the Ducks would have shown a pulse. 

With Herbert expected back this week - Taggart said x-rays later in the week would determine his quarterback's availability - Oregon has a chance to erase the madness of the season by closing strongly with three consecutive wins, highlighted by a victory over Arizona. 

Ironically, Taggart swiped Burmeister from Arizona where he had originally committed. Taggart also flipped freshman receiver Darrian McNeal, who has two receptions for 10 yards. So far, that hasn't worked out so well for UO.

But Taggart and the Ducks can make everything right with a win on Saturday. It is likely to be a shootout. Taggart said the Ducks would have to "pray" in order to defend against Tat. Taggart isn't lying. Oregon has zero chance of "stopping" Tate. But, the Ducks' defense could be good enough prevent Tate from eclipsing the volume of offense Oregon should generate with Herbert back in the pocket. 

He will return to find a better team than the one he left. Senior receiver Charles Nelson hasn't caught a pass from Herbert since the first half of the team's win at Wyoming in game 3. When Nelson returned to action at UCLA, Herbert was already down and out. Now they will be reunited in the passing game that will only be helped by a running game that maintained a high level of production despite the lack of a passing threat to keep defenses honest. 

By any measure, this has been somewhat of a disappointing season for Oregon when one considers what might have been had Herbert remained healthy. Now the focus must be to go 3-0 the rest of the way and ride into the offseason with a win over Arizona, a bowl victory and an 8-5 record. 

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Oregon vs. Arizona

When: 4 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium, Eugene.  

T.V.: Pac-12 Networks. 

Betting line: Off

Records: Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12), Arizona (7-3, 5-2).

Last week: Arizona won 49-28 vs. Oregon State. The Ducks were off.  

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (45-50, 5-5 at Oregon); Arizona's Rich Rodriguez (163-116-2, 43-32 at Arizona.

Fear factor (five-point scale): 5. Rodriguez is the inventor of the zone read play that he made famous during his days at West Virginia. Now he has an even better running quarterback in Tate than Pat White, who became a dominant force for the Mountaineers 10 years ago under Rodriguez. Tate is doing things from a rushing standpoint that had never been done before in the Pac-12.  Tate is so good as a runner that he makes former Oregon quarterbacks; Marcus Mariota and Dennis Dixon look ordinary. 

Arizona leads the Pac-12 with 347.7 yards rushing per game. Of that, 161.6 has come from Tate. He is the first Pac-12 quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season (1,293 on 11.3 yards per carry). 

Arizona doesn't throw much but when it does, Tate is more than capable of producing big plays, but he has thrown six interceptions. 

Where Arizona is weak is on defense. It ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in total defense. For that reason, it's a good bet that Oregon's more balanced offense, matched against a vastly inferior defense, will prove to be too much for Tate to overcome. 

Game prediction: Oregon 47, Arizona 40.

Don't give up on the Ducks, they might not lose again this year

Don't give up on the Ducks, they might not lose again this year

SEATTLE - By far the best reality to take away from Oregon's 38-3 loss Saturday at Washington is that the nightmare is most likely over.

Sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert will likely return the next time the Ducks take the field in two weeks against Arizona. And, Oregon (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) has come out of the five-game stretch without him still in position to not only reach a bowl game but to realistically end the season at 8-5.

All things considered, that's not bad given that UO went 4-8 last season and just lost four out of five in blowout fashion without Herbert.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

"We've taken our lumps now," UO coach Willie Taggart said following Saturday's loss at Husky Stadium. "We'll take them. But we will come back swinging. I promise you that."

Believe it. So, don't dwell on the fact that Oregon were devoured by the hated Huskies (8-1, 5-1) for a second consecutive season. That result was a forgone conclusion once it became clear that Herbert wasn't ready to return from a broken collarbone and that freshman Braxton Burmeister would make his fifth start against the best defense the Pac-12 has to offer.

When asked if Herbert would return for the Arizona game at home on Nov. 18, Taggart responded: "I hope so," he said. "It would be nice."

As much as Taggart has tried to put a positive spin on life without Herbert in order to not impact his team, the reality is that the Ducks have to have him back. Taggart expressed that on Saturday. 

"If he comes back I'm sure everyone will be excited," he said. "You guys will be excited. We'll be excited. Our fan base will be excited. We all know what it is. We need the kid back. He will be great for our football team."

The despondent Ducks who made it to the post-game press conference didn't appear to be a group that expected to lose. That's a good sign. But the reality is that they had to play a near perfect ball game in every area to compensate for the 31 yards passing they got from the quarterback. It wasn't going to happen. 

Speaking of Burmeister, for all of his faults as a clearly overwhelmed freshman quarterback, it can't be said that the kid isn't tough. He can take a hit and he keeps coming back for more. However, he doesn't possess the passing skills needed to compete at this level. At least, not yet. 

Oregon was able to defeat Utah last week because the rest of the team bought into the fact that they all were responsible for a three-game losing streak without Herbert and not just Burmeister. That created a more focused team that through accountability ironed out some issues.

"I think early everybody felt sorry for themselves," Taggart said. "I felt that once he started practicing again they felt a little better."

That wasn't evident in the team's play against Washington only because the Huskies are simply too good to defeat with a one-dimensional offense. Taggart, who said he was never close to playing Herbert in this game, gave his team credit for not quitting and still fighting despite the fact they were clearly outmatched.

But the end result of the team going through what it went through is that Herbert should return to a find a team that is fundamentally much better than it was when he went down. Also, he will hit the field for the first time since the Wyoming game with senior receiver Charles Nelson, who injured his ankle in that third game of the season. What should have been a lethal passing combination all season long has played just two full games together. 

Come Nov. 18, the Ducks will return to being an offense capable of scoring 40 points in a half. Match that with a much improved defense and the Ducks have a the makings of a squad that could run the table the rest of the way.  

So, throw away this game. Forget it ever happened. Take a week off the clear your mind while the Ducks rest their bodies. Then, come back ready to find the Ducks ready to play their best football of the season.

"We still have a lot to play for," Taggart said.

Pride. A winning season. Taggart's first bowl victory. And, the seniors who haven't won a bowl game since the 2014 Rose Bowl. 

"Were just going to fight for any way to win a game," center Jake Hanson said, "and get our seniors to a bowl game."

Doing so and winning would make all that this team has endured worth it in the end. 

Taggart continues playing coy about Herbert's return

usatsi_103021501.jpg
USA Today

Taggart continues playing coy about Herbert's return

Oregon sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert is closer to returning. At least, that's what the Ducks' depth chart indicates. 

UO's quarterback chart reads: "Braxton Burmeister or Justin Herbert."  This is the first time that Herbert has appeared on the depth chart since breaking his collarbone on Sept. 30 during a win over California.  Saturday's win over Utah saw the first time Herbert has suited up for a game since getting injured. 

Taggart said after the 41-20 win over the Utes at Autzen Stadium that team doctors didn't tell him that Herbert could not play. However, that doesn't mean they told Taggart that Herbert could play.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

That said, Taggart did indicate that Herbert might have played if the team "needed" him. But one can't be sure if Taggart was serious or is simply playing mind games with opponents, namely No. 12 Washington.

The Ducks (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) play at the Huskies (7-1, 4-1) at 7 p.m. on Saturday. It would be wise to make Washington at least believe that Herbert could return if he is not going to play. If Herbert were going to play, then it would make more sense to not list him on the depth chart.

The difference between the play of Herbert and that of freshman Braxton Burmeister is so vast that the Huskies must prepare for Herbert's potential return. But it doesn't appear to create much of a competitive advantage to have Washington focus on Herbert if he isn't going to play. Does anyone truly believe that the Huskies are too concerned about Burmeister beating them? 

The bottom line is that Herbert will only return when he is completely healed. 

"We're going to put Justin out there when we fell like he's ready to go," Taggart said on Monday. "We're not going to do anything to jeopardize him. If he's ready this week, we will play him. If not, then we won't."

According to a source, Burmeister took first-team reps on Tuesday but Herbert did participate in team sessions. That indicates that Herbert is not ready to return this week. Oregon has a bye next week before hosing red-hot No. 22 Arizona on Nov. 11. 

Taggart said that his team's play against the Utes following three blowout should have boosted his team's confidence. 

"It showed that we could win against a good football team even without our best quarterback," Taggart said. 

Probably, but likely not against a team the caliber of Washington. 

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Oregon vs. Washington

When: 7 p.m., Saturday, Husky Stadium, Seattle, Wash.  

T.V.: FS1. 

Betting line: Washington minus 21.

Records: Ducks (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12), Washington (7-1, 4-1).

Last week: Washington won 44-23 over UCLA (4-4, 2-3). Oregon defeated Utah.  

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (45-49, 5-4 at Oregon); Washington's Chris Petersen (126-27, 20-12 at Washington).

Fear factor (five-point scale): 10. Washington is allowing 12.1 points per game while scoring 38.6. Somehow the Huskies lost 13-7 at Arizona State a couple of weeks ago, which means they can be vulnerable at times. But likely not at home against a Burmeister-led Oregon team. 

If Herbert starts, then the Ducks would have a puncher's chance to win. But even then, it's clear that Oregon is not on Washington's level. 

Preliminary pick: Washington 47-13 (with Burmeister). Washington 47-27 (with Herbert).