QB Herbert returns for Oregon after five-game absence
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert went into this week feeling great, but he got an X-Ray on his collarbone Thursday just to make sure.
Sure looked good Saturday. Herbert returned after a five-game absence to help lead the team to a 48-28 victory over Arizona.
Oregon was coming off a bye, and there were rumblings all week that Herbert would start. Nothing was official until his name was announced among the starters before the game at Autzen Stadium.
Herbert threw for 235 yards and a touchdown, and also ran 40 yards for another score against the Wildcats.
“I had a pretty good feeling this week, so we decided to take an X-ray on Thursday, and I had a good feeling about it.”
Herbert has thrown for 1,499 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions this season. He’s also rushed for four scores.
“He played great,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I knew he was going to throw the ball down the field. He’s a big strong guy and we did not play the ball well. ... He throws the ball up there and we are just spinning in circles and letting them catch it or letting them run by.”
Herbert fractured his collarbone in Oregon’s 45-24 victory over California on Sept. 30. He left the game near the end of the first quarter after a 7-yard touchdown run.
He was replaced as starter by true freshman Braxton Burmeister and the Ducks went 1-4 over the course of his absence. Burmeister threw for 324 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 106 yards and three scores.
“It was a tough situation, but Braxton handled it really well,” Herbert said. “He’s a tough kid and I know he’d do anything for this team, so we all rallied behind him and got him as comfortable as possible. I’m glad he got in there and he’s a really good guy.”
With Saturday’s victory, Oregon became bowl eligible at 6-5 overall and 3-5 in the Pac-12.
Herbert became Oregon’s starter as a freshman last season when graduate transfer Dakota Prukop struggled. He played in nine games, throwing for 1,936 yards with 19 touchdowns.
The injury was a setback for Herbert, who was looking forward to establishing himself as a leader this season as the Ducks’ starter from the start.
He spent time over the summer at the Manning Passing Academy, learning from fellow counselors Sam Darnold from USC and Jake Browning from Washington. Herbert also bulked up, putting some 15 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame.
“It was a lot of fun just to be back there,” he said Saturday. “We’ve got great guys on this team and it’s so much fun to be part of this and it’s awesome to play in that game.”
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