A season-opening loss clearly didn't sit well with the Oregon Ducks. After demolishing Nevada 77-6 last week Oregon now welcomes FCS opponent Montana to Autzen Stadium.
If last week was any indication, the Ducks are loaded for bear as they prepare to face the Grizzlies. Especially with Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal insisting there are better efforts to come from his team.
"Obviously there were explosive plays on both sides of the ball — we took advantage of turnovers, special teams play continues to improve minus the one fumble that we had … and we saw a lot of guys play (well)," Cristobal told reporters early this week. "Sure, we’re getting better, but we still haven’t seen our best football. We still haven’t seen our best performance."
Don't tell Nevada that. The Wolf Pack had no answers last week as the Ducks rolled up 623 yards and held the team that was coming off of an upset of Purdue to just 192. Still seething from the loss to Auburn in Arlington, Texas, Oregon put four touchdowns on the board in each of the second and third quarters.
So can Montana offer much resistance? Maybe not but he Grizzlies have been stingy on the scoreboard thus far, having allowed just 17 points in each of its first two games.
Montana also has scored 92 total points in those contests, but beating South Dakota and North Alabama from its own subdivision is one thing. Facing the Ducks in Autzen is a completely different kind of animal.
Montana at Oregon
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 14, at 10:45 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Oregon -37.5
When Montana Has the Ball
There's not much ground game in the Grizzlies attack. Instead, it's all about senior QB Dalton Sneed connecting with Samuel Akem, finding Samori Toure and targeting Jerry Louie-McGee.
Akem and Samori are already off to sharp starts in their junior seasons, with more than 200 receiving yards apiece. Fellow receiver Louie-McGee, meanwhile, is a reliable senior who can be used in the running game when needed. He had nearly 600 yards from scrimmage last season and is already over 100 in the first two games of 2019.
The Griz will need all of the above plus more if they hope to give the Ducks a run. Defensively, Oregon has only endured a letdown in one quarter — in the fourth against Auburn — in what's shaping up to be a solid campaign on that side of the ball. So Sneed, with 699 passing yards through two weeks, needs to find his connections early and often.
"We think that their quarterback is really special player," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told reporters. "He’s a runner, he’s a thrower, he’s the heart and soul to their team. Very tough, will throw his body around — there’s no hesitation in his game whatsoever."
When Oregon Has the Ball
Justin Herbert knows how to surgically cut up secondaries. But how will the Heisman Trophy candidate deal with the three-safety package often employed by the Grizzlies?
The talented Oregon QB has already faced an SEC defense in Auburn. So anything else — no matter how exotic — shouldn't be as challenging, especially for the likes of Herbert. And he'll get exotic from Montana, which more often than not lines up with three down linemen opting to go with an extra man in the secondary to guard against the pass.
The senior quarterback is hoping his stats — 47-of-63 for 552 yards and six touchdowns — can improve as the Ducks prepare to enter Pac-12 play.
“He has just grown into a tremendous leader and player, I think we all know that,” Cristobal told reporters after last Saturday's win over Nevada. “I think he was outstanding.”
But the Quack Attack isn't all about Herbert. A total of 17 Ducks have already touched the ball in two games, as the team loves to spread the rock around.
CJ Verdell, in anchoring an underwhelming run game to this point, has 25 carries for 136 yards and two TDs. And Johnny Johnson III leads a receiving corps with his 11 receptions for 147 yards.
Montana is a good team that shouldn't be overlooked. But it doesn't change the fact that the Grizzlies are an FCS squad that doesn't boast the same talent and depth as Oregon. And after that Week 1 loss to Auburn, the Ducks likely feel as if there's still plenty to prove.
So don't expect a letdown from the hosts, who have as much to offer as anybody in the Pac-12 and are hoping to roll with rhythm with conference play a week away.