QB drama at Oregon: What will the Ducks do next?
About the only thing that’s certain about the Oregon Ducks at quarterback is there’s a lot of uncertainty.
Vernon Adams Jr., who has a broken index finger, sat out of last weekend’s 41-24 victory at Colorado while backup Jeff Lockie and former walk-on Taylor Alie tag-teamed for the Ducks (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12).
There could be more of the same this Saturday against Washington State.
“I would be comfortable doing it if it makes sense,” coach Mark Helfrich said about rotating QBs, not tipping his hand.
Adams, who transferred to Oregon for his final year of eligibility after a stellar career at Eastern Washington, broke his finger in the season opener against his former team. He tried to play in both of the Ducks’ losses, to Michigan State and Utah, but was clearly impacted by the injury.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough for me, especially this being my senior year,” Adams told reporters this week. “I gotta be 100 percent before I can go out there. I want to give this team my 100 percent because they’re giving me this opportunity to come in and compete, and play for the Ducks. I just gotta give them my 100 percent so that’s what I’m waiting on.”
Lockie, Marcus Mariota’s backup last season, started at quarterback for the Ducks against Colorado, then Alie stepped in. Playing both quarterbacks was by design, although in the end Oregon did not go with a strictly scripted rotation.
Alie finished 4 of 9 for 83 yards, while Lockie was 8 of 11 for 54 yards and an interception.
“We had a plan going in, and we wanted to execute that plan. They’ve both done enough good things in practice last week to merit playing,” Helfrich said. “We felt, looking at the game plan, we could parcel out aspects for each. We had it divvied up pretty well in our minds, unless something freaky happened.”
But receiver Bralon Addison threw one of the best passes in the game, taking a handoff from running back Royce Freeman and tossing a 39-yard touchdown pass to wideout Charles Nelson.
Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost said the game plan for the Cougars would depend on Adams’ finger.
There aren’t too many options for Oregon at QB besides Adams, Lockie and Alie. Addison, who played quarterback in high school, is an unrealistic option, and probably so is redshirt freshman Morgan Mahalak, the scout team quarterback. Freshman Travis Jonsen, who was expected to redshirt, is injured.
Helfrich said he has confidence in Lockie and Alie, if Adams can’t go.
“They’re both capable of executing the whole thing, but they played well enough and executed at a high enough level to warrant (playing both),” Helfrich said. “We’re not done game planning for Washington State yet, so that we’ll see.”
The Cougars (2-1, 0-1) are coming off a 34-28 loss to then-No. 24 California. Sophomore QB Luke Falk threw for 389 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score for the Cougars, who were ultimately thwarted by Cal’s stout defense.
Falk has thrown for 300 or more yards in three outings this season, which could pose a challenge for Oregon’s young secondary. Oregon has allowed opponents an average of 287.2 passing yards per game, to rank 114th in the nation.
Last season, Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns, while getting sacked five times, in Oregon’s 38-31 victory at Washington State. The Ducks have won the last eight meetings with the Cougars.