Spring Game: Blend of old and new a success for everyone involved

Ryan Kostecka

When Mario Cristobal took over as head coach of the Oregon Ducks a year ago, he knew the importance of rebuilding the Oregon brand.

In order to be successful on the field, Cristobal and his staff had to get recruits to the school. Not only were they selling the recruits and their families on the program, they were also selling them on what their futures could be like if they were to choose Oregon.

That’s why Cristobal set in motion a plan of inviting any former Ducks back to the Spring game, and they came out in a major flock. Highlighted by former quarterbacks Dan Fouts, Dennis Dixon (much bigger than I remember), Jeremiah Masoli and Marcus Mariota, Saturday’s spring game became a who’s who of Oregon legends that added to the aura already around the program.

“I want to thank the alums that came back, several of them came from far away… great to see him (Tyrell Crosby) and all those other great on our sideline,” Cristobal said. “So important for our players, to learn more about our past and to grow as a football understanding that for us, upholding the legacy requires a lot and seeing those guys face-to-face and eye-to-eye does a lot for us.”

It also appears the fans have bought into Cristobal’s vision of the program — with 35,000 of them showing up to not only see the former Ducks, but see what the future entails with the players on the field.

“I want to first and foremost thank the 35,000-plus that were out there — they made it feel like it was even more than that. They came out, even though earlier in the day the weather wasn’t great, and they were awesome,” Cristobal said. “I think those things cannot go unnoticed and they cannot go unappreciated. We all felt it and we love it and want to continue to make the spring game bigger and bigger and a great occasion for our fans.”

Apart from all the hoopla and photographs, the game itself was an entertaining one with Mighty Oregon (first-team offense, second-team defense) defeating Fighting Ducks (second-team offense, first-team defense) 20-13.

Justin Herbert, the next in line of great Oregon quarterbacks, finished with 219 passing yards and two scores in what was a very vanilla scheme. The highlights came from transfer receiver Juwan Johnson, a 6-foot-5 specimen, who’s showing a good rhythm with Herbert already.

Backup quarterback Tyler Shough stole the show on offense for the Fighting Ducks, giving fans a look at what the future holds. As any Oregon fan would know, a lack of development from the backup quarterbacks has derailed the Ducks season a few times recently — so Shough’s improvement was a nice sight to see.

“Tyler certainly improved — he has so much pride in his work and he’s got a guy like Justin that’s always there to teach him,” Cristobal said. “He went out there today and did some really nice things, made some nice throws and had some opportunities to make some big plays, some we connected on and some we didn’t. He certainly has grown and improved a good amount throughout the end of last season and the spring.”

Freshmen wide receiver Mycah Pittman and defensive back Mykael Wright lived up to the hype of their recruiting rankings, each posting numerous big plays and showing off excellent skills that should make them instant contributors.

“It’s completely different animal when you’re a guy like Mycah and Juwan to come here right after spring break and say, ‘Alright, by the way we’re practicing tomorrow; here’s your 49 plays.’,” Cristobal said. “Credit to them for always having a positive attitude, competing and you saw they’re going to be impactful guys and we expect them to be better.”