Late hit in 4th sends Adams off field
EUGENE, Ore. - Oregon seemed in mid-season form during its first appearance of the season, but what had fans talking after the 61-42 victory over Eastern Washington was worry about transfer quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.
Worry not for Adams' talent, but for his health.
Early in the fourth quarter, Adams scrambled up the middle of the field and slid for a first down before taking a vicious hit to the head from former teammate John Kreifels. Adams stayed on the ground motionless for a couple of seconds, then stood up wobbling before trainers could get to him. Adams was taken to the locker room under his own power; Kreifels was ejected for targeting.
Adams returned to the sideline, but not the game. He finished with 246 yards passing, completing 19 of 25 passes for two touchdowns, and 94 yards rushing on 14 carries in his Oregon debut.
The Ducks also got three touchdowns from running back Royce Freeman, who gained a career-high 180 yards on 21 carries.
In Adams' first drive as a Duck, he marched down the field against his former team for a 63-yard scoring drive that was capped by a Kani Benoit 8-yard touchdown carry. In traditional Oregon fashion, the Ducks went for two, but were stopped short.
After a quick defensive stop, Freeman was called on to shoulder some of the load, and he answered with back-to-back 11- and 14-yard runs to set up Adams' first touchdown as a Duck, a 6-yard pass to receiver Bralon Addison.
Trailing 13-0 with just 5:21 left in the quarter, Eastern Washington quarterback Jordan West found receiver Shaq Hill for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 6.
In what was his breakout play of the first half, Adams silenced his former fans with a 46-yard connection with receiver Dwayne Stanford to set up the Ducks on the 1-yard line. Freeman capped off the 58-second drive with a 1-yard run to put Oregon up 20-7 with the first quarter drawing to a close.
The Ducks opened the second quarter with a 12-yard touchdown run from running back Tony Brooks-James on fourth down, but that score was answered by the Eagles on a fourth-down conversion of their own when West found receiver Kendrick Bourne on a bootleg right to cut the score to 27-14.
Corner back Chris Seisay came up with the first Oregon turnover of the season when he picked off West on the Oregon 17, but the Ducks gave the ball right back when Adams scrambled up the middle and coughed up the ball.
The Eagles capitalized on a rare Oregon turnover, and West found star receiver Cooper Kupp for a 16-yard touchdown. Kupp finished the first half with eight receptions for 160 yards and a touchdown.
As the first half clock wound down, the Ducks put together a 48-second, 57-yard drive, and Aiden Schneider knocked in a 38-yard field goal as time expired, making it 37-21.
After an Eastern Washington punt to open the second half, Freeman dove into the end zone on fourth down to cap off 65-yard drive for the Ducks, putting them up 44-21.
A series of personal fouls by the Oregon defense kept the Eagles' drive alive, allowing Kupp to find the end zone for the second time in the game after a 75-yard drive that cut the lead to 16.
Still with a lot of gas in the tank, Freeman answered on the next drive with a 35-yard rush that gave him 172 on the night, breaking his previous career high. Adams soon after found Marshall in the end zone who made a spectacular grab to put the Ducks back up 23. With that touchdown pass, Adams extended his streak of throwing for multiple scores to 27 games.
After the Eagles were able to finish a drive with a three-yard touchdown run, the Ducks came back and knocked in a 30-yard field goal as the third quarter came to an end, Oregon leading 54-35.
After Adams was taken to the locker room, quarterback Jeff Lockie came in and led the Ducks on a scoring drive that was capped by a Brooks-James 15-yard touchdown run.
Kupp scored one more time for the Eagles, but the Ducks were able to wind down the clock to a 61-42 victory.