EUGENE, Ore. – The circumstances of Saturday’s game at Autzen Stadium did not appear to favor the underdog Eastern Washington Eagles.
Their opponent, the Oregon Ducks, were coming off a 46-point loss to their new head coach’s former team, and, for the first time this season, they were playing on their own campus, where they’d won their previous 19 games.
Add to that the differences of size, speed and elusiveness one would expect between FBS and FCS programs, and this set up to be quite a daunting scenario for Eastern.
And though the Eagles had come to places like this in previous seasons and acquitted themselves – they had defeated two Pac-12 teams before – the Oregon Ducks made quite sure they were not going to fall into a vulnerable position in this one.
The Ducks scored touchdowns on all six of their first-half drives and lambasted the visiting Eagles 70-14 on a smoky evening in Eugene, handing Eastern its first loss of the season.
“We left the defense out there too long, couldn’t get the running game going, and the passing game wasn’t in sync, too many miscues,” Eagles coach Aaron Best said. “That’s a good ball club. They were angry, we weren’t angry, and I put this on me. This team wasn’t ready and I take full responsibility.”
It is the most points Eastern has allowed since a 84-21 loss to 10th-ranked Houston in 1990.
Oregon outgained Eastern 604-187, and the Ducks converted on 10 of 14 third downs and on 2 of 2 fourth downs. They entered the Eagles’ red zone nine times and scored a touchdown every time.
Eastern, ranked 12th in the FCS Stats Perform Top 25, didn’t achieve a first down until the second quarter, and at that point it was already 21-0.
Oregon (1-1) was coming off a 49-3 loss to defending national champion Georgia, the team from which they hired away Dan Lanning, who earned his first victory as the Ducks’ head coach after serving as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator each of the last three seasons.
The Ducks were not taking the victory for granted, either. With 2:29 left in the first half and the Eagles preparing to punt deep in their own zone, Lanning called timeout to preserve the clock.
On the ensuing drive, Lanning opted to go for the touchdown with five seconds left rather than settling for a field-goal attempt inside the red zone, and it unfolded as the Ducks hoped: Nix found Troy Franklin for a 7-yard touchdown as time expired, and the Ducks took a 42-7 lead into halftime.
Eastern was no more effective at slowing them after the break. Nix, who finished 28 of 33 for 277 yards and five touchdowns, led another scoring drive in the third quarter before giving way to redshirt freshman Ty Thompson, who led the Ducks on a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to make it 63-7.
At that point, the Ducks surpassed their point total the last time Eastern played at Autzen, a 61-42 Oregon victory in 2015.
The Eagles, whose first touchdown was scored by Jett Carpenter when the score was 28-0, scored next late in the third quarter, when a scrambling Gunner Talkington found Freddie Roberson on a fourth-down play for a 15-yard touchdown. That made the score 63-14.
Oregon responded with a 76-yard scoring drive – their sixth of at least 65 yards – to make it 70-14. Finally, with 4:20 left in the game, the Ducks punted for the first time.
The senior Talkington played into the fourth quarter and completed 12 of 21 passes for two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions and was sacked twice.
Eastern Washington has a bye next week before it hosts Montana State on Sept. 24 in Cheney.
The week after that, the Eagles will play at Florida in a game that was originally scheduled to be played in 2020.
“We’re up for any challenge. I think we’re up for anybody,” senior safety Anthany Smith said. “Today doesn’t define who we are. I think that we’re gonna build on this, and whoever wants us, we want them.”
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