Ducks wriggle out of Seawolves’ trap
A week after upsetting Ohio State for one of the biggest regular-season wins in program history, Oregon struggled at times against Stony Brook, an FCS school located on the north shore of Long Island.
The Seawolves came into Saturday’s game with a loss to New Hampshire and a win over Colgate on their resume, and the team traveled nearly 3,000 miles to play the Ducks and earn a guaranteed $625,000 payout.
Oregon, meanwhile, was coming off last week’s historic victory — which vaulted the Ducks from No. 12 to No. 4 in the AP poll — and were perhaps looking ahead to their Pac-12 opener next Saturday against Arizona.
The matchup had all the elements of a classic trap game, with the Ducks rolling out a fairly conservative game plan both offensively and defensively, plus a number of players — notably star edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and former five-star linebacker Justin Flowe — sitting out with injuries. Still, there were more than a few groans heard around Autzen when Oregon’s final first-half possession stalled out with a pair of sacks and the Ducks took a 17-7 lead into the locker room for halftime.
“All in all, there were some bright spots in the first half but not nearly enough,” said Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, whose team was favored by 42 points.
“We need to take more control of a game like that early on, but very encouraged by the second half and the ability to really dial in and focus and finish the game.”
Ultimately, Stony Brook simply couldn’t match Oregon’s speed and athleticism, but the Seawolves managed to expose a few weaknesses, notably with a 50-yard pass completion that took the top off the Ducks’ secondary and an offense that rolled up 191 yards in the first half.
The Oregon defense buckled down after halftime, limiting Stony Brook to negative-17 yards in the third quarter and finishing the game with three interceptions — two from Verone McKinley III and one from Bennett Williams.
“We played 80 guys tonight. A lot of guys saw significant playing time, a lot of them saw their first playing time,” Cristobal said. “We weren’t trying to rest guys, we’re just banged up at certain positions so guys had to play.
“I think as the game went on they started to get in the right type of groove and understand how to get a signal and apply it on a play-by-play basis to play much better football in the second half.”
THOMPSON SHINES IN DEBUT: Starting quarterback Anthony Brown was not seen on the sideline to start the second half, staying in the locker room after taking a couple hard hits just before halftime.
Highly touted quarterback Ty Thompson, a five-star recruit out of Gilbert, Ariz., came out and started the second half for the first game action of his career. The 6-foot-4, 223-pound freshman completed two of his first three passes, but one was called back due to a penalty and the Ducks eventually punted.
Thompson stayed in the game and led Oregon on a 10-play, 48-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Terrance Ferguson to give the Ducks a 24-7 lead.
“(Ty) did a nice job,” Cristobal said. “He got the ball out, he was accurate with the ball, he made the right decisions in the run game and he was playing during some real relevant time as well. I’m proud of him.
“I thought Ty was very cool. He didn’t flinch at all. He knows the offense, he’s very composed, he’s very confident and he did a really nice job.”
Thompson completed 6 of 9 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, including a 54-yard scoring strike to Dont’e Thornton in the fourth quarter. Freshman Jay Butterfield also took some snaps late in the game with the Ducks up big.
“Both those guys just looked really sharp,” Cristobal said. “They looked like what they look like in practice on a daily basis, so we’re not surprised that they were able to execute and run the offense like they did. We’re fired up about those guys.”
Brown did eventually return to the sideline wearing pads and a helmet. The senior was 14-for-18 passing for 159 yards and one score during his game time, and he also ran for a 7-yard touchdown.
“He took a pretty good shot there at the end of the half and they were just making sure he was OK,” Cristobal said of Brown’s injury. “We expect him to be OK and he looks good, so we expect him to be healthy for the week.”
In other injury news, starting right tackle Steven Jones was slow to get up and was seen walking back to the locker room in the third quarter, and wide receiver Troy Franklin also left the game with an undisclosed injury.
IT NEVER RAINS AT AUTZEN STADIUM: It was at least a little ironic that there was a lightning delay on a day when Oregon wore its “lightning yellow” uniforms.
Heavy rain was falling as the Ducks and Seawolves warmed up, and the start of Saturday’s game was eventually delayed by a little more than 30 minutes after a loud thunder boom was heard and a lightning strike was recorded within 8 miles of Autzen Stadium.
Fans were directed to leave the seating area and seek shelter, with many people crowding on the concourse and a few brave souls remaining in their seats as the rain fell harder and harder.
Eventually the downpour subsided and the sun came out, producing a vibrant rainbow above the stadium just before kickoff.