Oregon freshman linebacker Justin Flowe is so pumped to play for the Ducks that sometimes he has to remind himself to slow down a bit.
Flowe had 14 tackles and a forced fumble in his first career start and was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week following Saturday's 31-24 season-opening victory over Fresno State.
But this week it gets considerably more serious for Flowe and the rest of Oregon's defense as the No. 12 Ducks (1-0) travel to Columbus to play No. 3 Ohio State. Ohio Stadium is expected to return to its full pre-coronavirus capacity of over 100,000.
Flowe, a five-star recruit out of Chino, California, was everywhere against the Bulldogs after weak-side linebacker Dru Mathis injured his left leg in the first quarter. Mathis will not be available against the Buckeyes.
But Flowe's excitement — he said playing for fans for the first time at Autzen Stadium was “unreal” — led to a penalty for a late hit on Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener.
“I just feel like in certain situations, I always play aggressive, and sometimes I've got to hold off a little bit," he said. “But my game is just go, go go. I just want to do what I can do to help the team and I just go and I bring that passion.”
A key moment for Flowe came in the fourth quarter when he forced Haener to fumble and teammate Jordan Happle recovered. That led to a field goal that tied the game at 24.
“I just know the quarterback likes to scramble,” said Flowe. “So when I saw him scramble, I just took off. I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to go in and get the ball out, so I just came in and got the ball out."
Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown won the game with a 30-yard scramble into the end zone.
Flowe’s tackles were the most for an Oregon freshman since Troy Dye had 14 in an early season game in 2016. He is the first Oregon player since 2007 with at least 14 tackles and a forced fumble in the same game.
“He’s a game-changer,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “The guy had almost 15 tackles. All over the field. Plays with incredible passion, forcing turnovers, really aggressive.”
While it was a win, it certainly was not the blowout some expected and, as a result, Oregon dropped a spot in the AP Top 25 this week. At times the offense stalled and the defense was hurt by the loss of Mathis and also an injury to defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, widely considered a Heisman contender going into the season.
Even with Thibodeaux, Oregon's defense will be tested by the Buckeyes. In their season-opening 45-31 win over Minnesota, freshman quarterback CJ Stroud threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns. Ohio State had 495 yards in total offense.
Flowe, a second-year freshman who played in just one game last year because of injury, will need to be disciplined, while keeping his “go, go, go.”
“Against an offense like Ohio State, you have to be on point — you have to be from a discipline standpoint, execution standpoint,” Cristobal said. “You can’t have any busts. They’ll expose you. They showed that. Ohio State’s ability to make big plays is a complete reflection of how precise they are in what they do.”
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