EUGENE — Justin Herbert seemingly picked up where he left off in September by leading Oregon to a 48-28 victory over Arizona last week after missing five games because of a fractured collarbone.
The Ducks (6-5, 3-5) are 5-1 and averaging 49.4 points when the 6-foot-6, 225-pound quarterback starts this season.
Herbert, who has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,499 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions, discussed his interrupted sophomore season ahead of Saturday’s Civil War game against Oregon State at Autzen Stadium:
Question: Are you looking forward to playing Oregon State again after what happened last year (a 34-24 loss in Corvallis)?
Answer: Yeah, I’m excited for every game. Sometimes you take football for granted, and I’m just glad to be back and looking forward to this week.
Question: Is that something you learned when you were out, to enjoy the game because you never know how many of them you have?
Answer: You kind of find out how much football means to you. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve missed it a lot and found out how much it means to me. I’m glad to be back.
Question: What memories do you have of this rivalry growing up in Eugene?
Answer: There have been a bunch in the past couple years. The one that sticks out the most to me was the one where Jeremiah Masoli ran over a guy on third down or fourth down. I think it might have clinched the Rose Bowl berth. That was a big moment that sticks out to me.
Question: Do you have to explain to young teammates from out of state what this game is all about?
Answer: I think every game means a bunch to this team, especially this one. Just coming from Eugene I know how important this one is to the fans and all the players here. It definitely means a lot to us.
Question: Did you have rust to knock off against Arizona or did you feel like your old self?
Answer: I played pretty well. With the five weeks I took off there was definitely some rust and things that I can clean up. But overall I was pleased with our performance. I thought I played pretty well.
Question: Coach (Willie) Taggart said you would have played much earlier if it were up to you. Could you have played through pain or did the bone need to heal?
Answer: I had to let the bone heal. It wasn’t to where it needed to be, and we felt it would put me further behind if I came back too soon.
Question: Do you look at the Aaron Rodgers injury and think it could have been worse?
Answer: It could have been worse. I’m fortunate to be here today and in a good position where I’m able to play soon and didn’t miss too much time.
Question: Is it hard for you to slide instead of lowering a shoulder and running over someone?
Answer: It’s pretty tough. Thankfully I played baseball so sliding hasn’t been too much of a challenge. It’s just kind of working with things and realizing sliding is the best option to take.
Question: When you broke the pocket on the 40-yard touchdown run against Arizona, were you hesitant at all because the injury came on a run?
Answer: I think a couple series in I didn’t think much of it. I just knew that if someone was to come around I’d protect myself and get down. Luckily there was no one around so I took off.
Question: Was it surreal when you were out realizing how many people in the state and around the country have a vested interest in your health?
Answer: I thought it was pretty cool. I felt really bad about the whole thing and I knew I let down a lot of people. I felt that our coaches and our players did their best to put us in a position to win. I’m just glad that I’m back and I’m going to do my best to take care of the program.
Question: How many strangers came up to you and asked about the recovery?
Answer: A few times actually. Not as much as you’d think but it happened a few times. I just said I’d be back and I’m going to do everything I can.
Question: Are you expecting to get any endorsement deals with milk companies? (He gained attention for drinking milk during his recovery.)
Answer: No, I don’t think so. I think NCAA regulations probably don’t allow that. So probably not.