EUGENE — A nightmare scenario happened Saturday night for Oregon.
Ever since Terry Wilson and Travis Jonsen left the program in the offseason, the Ducks’ quarterback situation was on shaky ground.
Justin Herbert is a fine starter and is continuing to grow and improve. He is the type of quarterback who could eventually lead the Ducks to where they want to go.
But after Herbert?
Not much, and when Herbert went down in the first half Saturday against California, the Ducks led 17-0, but faced a bleak situation.
Taylor Alie filled in for the injured Herbert, until he went down with an injury of his own.
The Ducks had no choice at that point except to burn Braxton Burmeister’s redshirt.
Despite the dire injury situation at quarterback, Oregon held off Cal, 45-24, behind a stellar rushing attack that put up 328 yards.
“That’s impressive,” Oregon coach Willie Taggart said about the running game. “That’s something that we stressed all week and wanted to do.”
It was a convincing win, but after the game, it almost felt like a loss because of the injuries, which not only included Herbert and Alie, but also senior running back Royce Freeman.
Herbert is out "for a while" because of a fractured collarbone, coach Willie Taggart said Monday. Taggart would not rule out Herbert's return this season.
Coming into the season, it was inevitable that the Ducks would need to burn Burmeister’s redshirt. With such little depth, Oregon couldn’t further limit itself by sticking with a redshirt decision.
Taggart said he was pleased with how Burmeister played, but with the status of both Herbert and Alie in doubt, he said the Ducks are not close to making a decision on the starting job for next week.
If Herbert can’t go for an extended amount of time, then the fate of the season likely is put on Burmeister’s shoulders.
Burmeister, from La Jolla, California, was a huge recruiting success for Taggart in his first class, as he flipped the four-star quarterback away from Arizona before signing day.
At 6-foot-1, he’s about 5 inches shorter than Herbert, and he has far less experience.
But Taggart expects all of his players to step up when the opportunity presents itself.
“Those guys were out in the second half, and our guys went out and played,” Taggart said. “So it’s not like we can’t do it. We just have to put the pieces together and keep rolling.”
If Freeman misses any significant time, that is a sad loss for Oregon.
However, the Ducks have so much depth at running back — Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James combined for 214 yards and three touchdowns against Cal — that they likely can make up for losing Freeman.
The Ducks won the game Saturday to improve to 4-1 this season, which is a nice start to the Taggart era, but right now, Oregon’s fans are crossing their fingers that Herbert will be back soon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.