EUGENE — Let the comparisons begin.
Bill Musgrave? Marcus Mariota? Joey Harrington?
True freshman quarterback Justin Herbert just put his name into Oregon’s record book with his performance Saturday in the Ducks’ 54-35 victory against Arizona State at Autzen Stadium.
In just his third career start for Oregon, Herbert threw for 489 yards, tying Musgrave’s all-time record for a single game in Ducks history.
“Bill Musgrave was a stud, and now is a great coach,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “I think we’ll have to push that back a little bit on the comparisons for Marcus, or Bill or Doug or any other Musgrave.”
BY THE NUMBERS
A look at true freshman quarterback Justin Herbert's statistics in his first three starts for the Oregon Ducks:
Oct. 8, 70-21 loss vs. Washington: 21-34, 179 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 6 rushes, 6 yards
Oct. 21, 52-49 2OT loss at Cal: 22-40, 258 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT, 9 rushes, 56 yards
Oct. 29, 54-35 win vs. Arizona State: 31-42, 489 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 11 rushes, 23 yards
Herbert didn’t even know he tied the record until the postgame press conference.
“I didn’t know that, and I don’t know as much about Bill Musgrave as I need to know,” he said.
This has been a dark season for Oregon, which had lost five in a row before winning Saturday.
But to all the Ducks fans who are worried, trust me when I say this: Justin Herbert is the solution at quarterback.
Herbert is not Jeff Lockie, Taylor Alie or Dakota Prukop.
No offense to those players, but Herbert is on another level.
Herbert has a strong arm, he’s mobile in the pocket, and he can run if needed.
He’s just kind of going out there and having fun, and playing. And the guys have certainly rallied around him. -- Mark Helfrich, Ducks coach on freshman quarterback Justin Herbert
This definitely feels like the beginning of a special career, to the level of some of the Oregon greats in the past.
“He did a great job,” Helfrich said. “He’s just kind of going out there and having fun, and playing. And the guys have certainly rallied around him.”
Herbert has handled himself well in a really tough spot.
With the program at a crossroads, an entire frustrated fan base has looked to him to save the day.
So far, he’s handled it spectacularly, and he keeps moving forward.
A week ago, Herbert was strong against California until overtime, when he threw a game-ending interception.
That can be tough for such a young player to bounce back from, but he did just that on Saturday.
With his four touchdown passes against Arizona State, Herbert now has 10 touchdown passes combined the past two games.
In the postgame press conference, Herbert was reserved and quick to credit his teammates.
Who does that sound like? (Hint: He’s from Hawaii and won the Ducks’ only Heisman Trophy)
I’m just glad that we got the win. It meant a lot to our team and a lot to the coaches. So that’s what we’re focusing on. -- Ducks freshman quarterback Justin Herbert
It was a good day for the Ducks, who haven’t had many this season.
“I think the best part was the win,” Herbert said. “I’m just glad that we got the win. It meant a lot to our team and a lot to the coaches. So that’s what we’re focusing on.”
At 3-5, with the likes of USC, Stanford and Utah looming on the schedule. Oh yeah, and that pesky rival in Corvallis, wins still are going to be tough for Oregon the rest of the way.
Bowl eligibility still feels like a distant dream for this season.
But the two biggest problems the Ducks had coming into this season were on defense and at quarterback.
The defense still is nowhere near a Pac-12 championship level.
Herbert is the guy.
That problem is solved.