Nebraska's defense held OR scoreless on seven straight possessions in the second half to spur a furious rally, but the Ducks forced four turnovers, including a clinching interception in the final 2 minutes, and held on for a 42-35 victory Saturday afternoon at Autzen Stadium.
It showed how far a newly installed defense still has to go.
Next week, OR takes on their last non-conference opponent in quarterback Josh Allen and the Wyoming Cowboys.
Justin Herbert passed for 365 yards and three touchdowns to lead the OR offense. Almost 800 yards have been accumulated by opposing quarterbacks in two games - by far the highest total allowed to start the season by a Nebraska defense since at least 2000.
Oregon is facing an old foe today, Nebraska head coach Mike Riley, who was a longtime coach at Oregon State.
In of the marquee non-conference matchups of Week 2 of the 2017 college football season, the Oregon Ducks hosted the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Tanner Lee could be the second coming of Johnny Unitas and even that wouldn't be enough to overcompensate for the opened floodgate.
Needing to answer, the Huskers hitched their wagon to running back Tre Bryant. The Ducks are in the red zone already up 7-0.
"They're unbelievable", Diaco said of the support.
The Ducks also had 14 third-down tries and converted seven.
"They broke their quarterback in past year, so he has had the benefit of playing", Riley said. But Willie Taggart's group responded with a 35-7 scoring run that ensured its memory would be diluted.
OR sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert completed 25 of 33 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns, and Freeman ran 29 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns, as the Ducks amassed 566 total yards, but only 157 coming in the second half. Shortly after, OR extended its lead by seven more less than five minutes into the game.
OR marched down the field on the opening drive of the game and scored on a 32-yard pass play from quarterback Justin Herbert to Brenden Schooler in the back of the end zone. Herbert found wide receiver Charles Nelson from eight yards out, and OR went up 14-0 in less than four minutes of gameplay.
"Royce and Charles have to be 10-year players in that program from what I remember", Riley said.
For his part, Lee had a tepid showing. The young secondary, so porous last season, came up with four interceptions. He finished with 940 yards and nine touchdowns - a season most players would be happy to consider their worst - but left quite the impression in his five carries against the Huskers.
"We were so up and down at times", offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said. "I believe so much in positive energy and enthusiasm, and the more we can have that by everyone at Autzen the better it's going to be".
Nebraska's maligned defense, which had trouble slowing down Arkansas State, blanked the Ducks in the second half.
The Blackshirts, meanwhile, forced two turnovers and other turnover on downs to redeem themselves from a first half in which OR (2-0) amassed 409 yards and scored 21 straight points to close the second quarter. Instead, Lee threw his fourth interception of the game to end it. "He'll be a challenge for us, but someone you've got to wrap up and bring to the ground". The Ducks honored Stomping Out Cancer in the pregame ceremony with their first themed game of the season. "They never let go of the rope", Diaco said.
After getting an interception on Nebraska's first offensive possession, the Ducks force a three-and-out for the Cornhuskers on the next.
"As bad as it was", Riley said, "we had a shot".
Defensively Nebraska is going to have to play considerably better in the secondary, if they give up that kind of yardage to OR it's going to be a long day.
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