Ducks: spotlight will find Herbert
EUGENE — Wyoming’s new football facility is still under construction, but there are no plans in the blueprint to include a revolving door for all of the NFL scouts showing up in Laramie these days.
Josh Allen has received a lot of attention since ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that an NFL personnel director told him to “put it in the books” that the Cowboys’ quarterback would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft.
The visiting team for Saturday’s game at War Memorial Stadium is pretty excited about its quarterback, too.
Oregon sophomore Justin Herbert is eighth nationally in passer rating after completing 77.8 percent of his passes for 646 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
Allen, who doesn’t have as strong an offensive line or as talented skill players to work with as Herbert, is 80th in passer rating after completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 502 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
“This is definitely a big game in terms of Josh Allen going against Oregon and all the scouts looking at this game or whatever,” center Jake Hanson said. “Obviously if Justin’s on the same field and puts up a great performance, I think he’ll definitely get a lot of recognition for that.”
Herbert threw 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions as a true freshman on a 4-8 team. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound former Sheldon High standout has embraced coach Willie Taggart’s challenge to lead the program back up the Pac-12 mountain.
“He’s playing big-time football right now completing 77 percent of his passes,” Taggart noted. “That’s pretty cool. I hope he can continue to do that.”
Wyoming’s defense is tied for ninth in the FBS in points allowed (12.0 per game) and 12th in yards allowed (229.0).
Herbert, whose quiet, unselfish demeanor reminds some of his older teammates of Marcus Mariota, isn’t concerned about stealing the spotlight from Allen.
“We’re just looking forward to the game,” Herbert said. “It’s going to be a good matchup, and I’m excited for it.”
Herbert blistered the Blackshirts by completing 22 of 25 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as Oregon built a 42-14 lead over Nebraska. He only attempted eight passes in the second half and had an interception as the Ducks held on for a 42-35 win.
Taggart and Hanson both said a lack of execution on third down, the Ducks were 1-for-6 converting in the second half, is the primary reason why the offense sputtered and Herbert cooled off.
When Oregon was able to mix Royce Freeman and a dominant running game with Herbert’s accurate air attack, it resulted in 119 points over the first six quarters of the season.
“I’ve said since day one, he’s had some qualities that are really special,” co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo said of Herbert’s fast start in the Gulf Coast offense. “With any amount of execution and preparation, it can result in some things that are happening right now.”
The good news for Oregon fans is Herbert won’t be eligible for the NFL draft until 2019 and wouldn’t be selected until the 2020 draft if the hometown hero decides to stay for his senior season.
The Ducks believe it’s only a matter of time until their quarterback is in the national spotlight with Allen and Pac-12 stars Sam Darnold (USC) and Josh Rosen (UCLA).
“He’s been as good as there is in the country, really,” Hanson said. “I think he’s been overlooked for a long time, but it’s starting to get to the point where you can’t overlook him anymore because he’s playing so well.
“He’s definitely showing the whole country that he’s one of the best.”
Follow Ryan on Twitter @rgduckfootball . Email firstname.lastname@example.org .