The Ducks rebounded from a disheartening first game by beating Eastern Washington, 70-14. They won Dan Lanning his first victory as head coach of the program. They scored 10 touchdowns, including one on defense and one that brought tears to fans at Autzen Stadium and even the players on the sidelines.
The game started with a bouquet of flowers laid on the 4-yard line at one end of the Oregon sideline, in honor of the former OU tight end. spencer webb, who died in the summer before he could wear number 4 on the pitch this season. The night ended with Webb’s friend and companion, Cam McCormickreturning to the locker room with that bouquet in hand, after McCormick scored one of Oregon’s 10 touchdowns on the night — McCormick’s first trip to the end zone since 2017.
“It’s been a long journey for me, but I’m glad I got to score a touchdown tonight wearing his jersey,” said McCormick, who endured an injury-ravaged career. “Because I felt like he was there with me.”
McCormick was followed into the locker room soon after by Lanning, who addressed the team after Saturday’s win. He then invited them, according to tradition, to sing “Mighty Oregon” to celebrate the victory. But first, the players made sure to acknowledge Lanning’s first win with the Ducks.
“Give it up for coach real quick,” one shouted, prompting cheers for Lanning and then the chanting of the fight song.
Moments later, Lanning met with the media to discuss the game. He lacked feeling and wanted to see even more of his team as the season progressed.
“We’re not playing our best football yet,” said Lanning, whose offense scored on their first nine possessions on Saturday, and whose defense did a much better job of containing the perimeter and tackling than the previous week. . “I think the ceiling is very high, and there’s still a lot of things we can improve on. … I don’t know if we know exactly where we are at the moment.”
Granted, the Ducks went from playing the defending national champions in Week 1, a 49-3 loss at Georgia, to turning the tables on FCS’s Eastern Washington on Saturday. When BYU hits town next week, that might be the best indicator yet of how this Oregon team is performing.
But Saturday’s game wasn’t so much about taking on an opponent as it was about exorcising some week one demons. And it has largely been accomplished.
Bo Nix bounced back from an uneven opener to complete 28 of 33 passes for 277 yards on Saturday, with five touchdowns and no turnovers. troy franklin caught 10 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, Terrence Ferguson had two touchdown receptions and Byron Cardwell also scored twice, including one of Oregon’s four rushing touchdowns.
“I think right after last week, we wanted to come in this week and have a great week of focus, getting back to basics,” Nix said. “Be excellent on the fundamental side of the ball, then come here and play and be pretty sharp.”
Defensively, almost everyone who dressed for the game was able to get repeats; no one on the UO defense had more than three tackles. One of them was Casey Rogerswho was in the end zone to jump on a missed interception return by Trikweze Bridges in the third quarter, a touchdown that gave Oregon a 56-7 lead.
The Georgia game had been frustrating for an inside lineman like Rogers, with how much the Bulldogs were attacking the perimeter. Saturday was nicer.
“This week we could see the ball go a little bit more in the box,” said Rogers, who helped the UO defense hold Washington East to 187 total yards. “And then we knew they were going to run around the perimeter too. They were going to do a lot of quick passing. So we were able to do the things that we needed to fix from last week and execute them.”
Rogers’ touchdown followed the most significant of the night, McCormick’s TD reception that opened the scoring in the second half and put Oregon up 49-7. The touchdown was the second of McCormick’s career and his first since Oct. 28, 2017.
In between, McCormick suffered a series of lower leg injuries that sidelined him for all but three games between 2018-21. But he was in the starting lineup on Saturday, having played at Georgia in his first appearance since his injury last year at Ohio State.
“It just shows that my hard work doesn’t go unnoticed,” McCormick said. “I can still play. That’s kind of what I wanted to show a lot of people, that through all the injuries, I still have it. I know it’s been a while, but I’m rusting off and I’m going to get better every week.”
With McCormick wearing Webb’s old No. 18 shirt, offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham hoped to have the opportunity to create a memorable moment. That opportunity presented itself when the Ducks reached the red zone to open the second half. McCormick caught a short pass and ran through the end zone just before a defender kicked the ball out. Replay confirmed it was a touchdown.
As McCormick walked to the sidelines to celebrate with coaches and teammates, he had tears in his eyes.
“He wore 18 while doing it, it was just fine,” Ferguson said. “It’s really emotional for all of us.”
Time will tell what Oregon’s performance on Saturday will prove to be resounding in the 2022 season. But McCormick’s touchdown will forever be meaningful, for the player who scored it, the team and the fans who celebrated him, and the memory of the player he honoured.
“I’m super grateful that I got to share this moment wearing his shirt,” McCormick said. “Because I felt like he was there watching over me.”