EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — While Justin Herbert was his usual steady self at quarterback for Oregon, the Ducks' spring game gave redshirt freshman Tyler Shough a chance to show off his growth.
Herbert, playing Saturday for the Mighty Oregon side, completed 17 of 32 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Shough, starter for the Fighting Ducks, completed 18 of 31 passes for 178 yards and a score. Clad in green, the Mighty Oregon side prevailed in the end 20-13.
But Shough stood out.
"Just major improvements. A lot of maturity, definitely, since last season," running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio said about Shough. "Just seems confident out there and he's ripping it. ... He's grown a lot, even under Justin, and he's kind of stepped outside of that shadow and he's kind of added his own flavor to the offense."
Former Oregon QB Dan Fouts was honorary captain for the Mighty Oregon team, while former offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman was captain of the yellow-clad Fighting Ducks team. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and numerous other alums, as well as a large group of potential recruits, were among the 35,111 at Autzen Stadium for the game.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said that things started to click for Shough in the offseason. Herbert's backup last year, Braxton Burmeister, left Oregon for Virginia Tech in February.
"It definitely felt good," Shough said about his performance Saturday. "It definitely felt more real than practice. Obviously I love playing football and being out there in front of everybody with our guys, was pretty special. It was super fun. Obviously there's things that you want back, some scenarios, but overall I felt like the offense did a pretty good job."
There was speculation Herbert may leave Oregon early to declare for the NFL draft, but announced his intention to return shortly before the team's 7-6 victory over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl.
Oregon finished 9-4 and Herbert threw for 3,515 yards with 29 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He has 63 career TD passes, ranking him fifth among active quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season.
Herbert will be joined this year by his younger brother Patrick, a tight end who was among nearly a dozen early enrollees taking part in spring practice. Patrick caught a pass from Shough for 5 yards on Saturday.
Other newcomers on display Saturday were defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, a five-star recruit from Westlake Village, California, and Penn State graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver who will help fill the void left by the departure of Dillon Mitchell. Two days after the bowl game, Mitchell announced that he would leave Oregon early for the NFL draft, set for later this month.
Johnson, who had 81 catches for 1,123 yards and two touchdowns over three seasons at Penn State, joined the Ducks last month. On Saturday he had three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.
"This is not only my first one here, it's my last one," Johnson said about embracing Oregon's spring game.
Travis Dye, who like Herbert decided to return for his senior year, rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries and also caught three passes for 11 yards.
The game was played in 10-minute quarters, with a running clock for the second half.
The Fighting Ducks side opened scoring with a 32-yard field goal by Camden Lewis. But Mighty Oregon pulled in front for Herbert's 6-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.
Habibi-Likio's 2-yard scoring run put the yellow team back in front before Zach Emerson's 28-yard field goal tied the game at 10. Emerson added another field goal before the half to put Mighty Oregon up 13-10 at the break.
Herbert padded the lead with a 9-yard scoring pass to Jaylon Redd in the third quarter. Lewis added a 26-yard field goal for the Fighting Ducks.
Oregon opens the season on Aug. 31 against Auburn in Arlington, Texas.
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