NOTES/QUOTES/PLAYERS TO WATCH
--Justin Herbert, QB: It’s very easy to say that Oregon’s offense will fly as far as quarterback Justin Herbert can throw it. The good news is that Herbert can throw very far and he’s showing it early in the season. After accounting for six total touchdowns in the opener, Hebert should pad his stats even more against a Portland State defense that’s among the worst in the nation. Part of what makes Herbert so special is his ability to dissect defenses and throw receivers open. He’s also more athletic than he looks, rushing for 41 yards last week.
-- Troy Dye, LB: He’s the heart and soul of the Ducks defense ever since stepping onto campus two years ago and starting from day one as a freshman. Now in his junior year, he’s more than living up to the hype. He was everywhere in the week one win over Bowling Green, finishing with eight tackles and making a toe-tapping interception. His body control on that interception showed exactly why he’s highly regarded in NFL draft circles as a potential player. An uber-athletic linebacker who’s put on good weight in the offseason, Dye should terrorize the Vikings all game long.
-- CJ Verdell, RB: Verdell isn’t the listed starter at running back for the Ducks but he led the team in both carries and yards last week, finishing with 13 rushes for 51 yards. Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal has stated that he will go with a “committee” of running backs in any given game, but it was Verdell who stood out most against Bowling Green. He showed good patience and awareness when running and has the strength to break arm tackles yet the speed to outrun linebackers. Verdell could make a statement to be the lead back with another good outing.
-- Jordon Scott, NT: Much like Dye, Scott has been a starter since he stepped onto campus. Now in his sophomore season, he’s showing much more promise at the nose tackle position. He’s so talented that he forces opponents to double-team him because if not, he’ll disrupt the play. Bowling Green tried to leave Scott one-on-one last week, instead choosing to focus on Jalen Jelks and Justin Hollins, and Scott made the Falcons pay. He finished with seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, pretty absurd numbers for a nose tackle. He’ll get the chance to do more damage this week against a Portland State offense that’s extremely young and inexperienced on offense.
Series History: 4-0 Oregon. In the last meeting between both teams in 2010, Oregon defeated Portland State 69-0. The Ducks have beaten the Vikings by an average score of 56-7 in the series, twice holding them scoreless.
Note to Quote: "I like that ratio — let's keep that going,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said of quarterback Justin Herbert’s five touchdown passes on 10 passes completed.
-- Oregon OLB/S vs. Portland State TE Charlie Taumoepeau
It was obvious coming into the 2018 season that Oregon’s pass defense was considered its weakest link. The unit has struggled mightily over the past few years but took a step forward in the right direction last season, under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
If there was anything to come of last week’s season opening win over Bowling Green, it was that maybe the pass defense isn’t ready to continue moving forward. Falcons wide receiver Scott Miller had his way with Oregon’s defensive backs, finishing with 13 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He got open at will, using his speed and athleticism that proved the Ducks incapable of defending him.
On the opposite end of the receiving spectrum, Portland State tight end Charlie Taumoepeau enters Autzen stadium this year. He’s a preseason all-American at the FCS level, drawing comparisons to former Vikings tight end and pro-bowler Justin Thomas.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 240, Taumoepeau shows a body ready for the NFL as well as hands and athleticism that makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. The only chance the Vikings have of pulling off the massive upset is if Taumoepeau has a huge game, thus opening up the game for the other Vikings players.
Oregon doesn’t have a cornerback big enough to slide over to the nickel position and defend Taumoepeau — and starting outside linebacker Kaulana Apelu is listed at 5-foot-9.
My guess is that backup freshman safety Jevon Holland will get a lot of play this week to help defend Taumoepeau. Holland has drawn raves from coaches and teammates for being extremely smart on the field — his physical gifts (6-foot-1, 192 pounds) make him a matchup option with Taumoepeau.
Holland’s play will go a long way in not only helping the Ducks this week, but in helping the Oregon coaches figure out how to defend bigger and more athletic tight ends.