Fresno State will face a tough task on Saturday afternoon when it travels to No. 11 Oregon, but the Bulldogs will have at least one advantage.
Fresno State has already played a game this season, while the Ducks will be playing their first.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal discussed that advantage with reporters leading up to his season opener, but also talked about how the Ducks used the weekend to their benefit as well.
Oregon Ducks face difficult season opener against Fresno State
“When you don’t have a game, you can sit and watch,” Cristobal said. “The way we’ve done camp, I feel like our bodies are ready to go. I don’t foresee any issues there. Honestly, I’d rather play, play as much as possible and play as many guys as possible. I think there’s always an advantage with that, but you don’t lean on that. You take advantage of the time we have.”
Cristobal oversaw a strong quarterback competition in the spring and summer, but ultimately named Anthony Brown as the starter against Fresno State.
Brown played three seasons at Boston College from 2017-19, then headed to Oregon as a graduate transfer.
Brown started his first 10 games at Boston College and was ranked among the top three freshman quarterbacks in the nation in passing yards and touchdowns before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. He started 18 more games over the next two seasons before another injury sidelined him midway through his third season.
Brown’s development with the Ducks was also slowed because the program was shut down by COVID-19 shortly after his arrival. He made his team debut in the final regular-season game against USC, tossing two touchdown passes on his four pass attempts to help the Ducks to a 31-24 win and their second straight Pac-12 title.
Brown continued to alternate at quarterback in the 34-17 loss to Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl, and then beat out freshmen Robby Ashford, Jay Butterfield and Ty Thompson for the starting job this season.
“He’s a starter because he’s done a great job,” Cristobal said of Brown. “The other ones are battling for that other spot because they’ve done a great job as well.”
Cristobal has been most impressed with Brown’s command and control of the offense, whether it’s during practice, in the huddle, or at the line of scrimmage. He likes the way he can improvise, both in his play-calling and his movements on the field.
Brown’s throws have also been extremely accurate, and he’s shown he can zing the ball well downfield for a big play.
“He’s done a really good job, and we expect him to keep growing as a leader,” Cristobal said.
The Bulldogs (1-0) pounded UConn 45-0 on Saturday in Fresno, running over the Huskies in every facet.
Fresno State starter Jake Haener threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns before leaving in the third quarter because of cramping.
“I thought we did some good things getting the ball into the playmakers’ hands,” Haener said. “They’re dangerous dudes and they’ve got an attitude when they’re carrying the rock, so it’s good to see.”
Fifth-year running back Ronnie Rivers rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries and caught two passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. It was his 45th touchdown at Fresno State, breaking the school record set by Anthony Daigle in 1993.
“Just to be able to play in front of Bulldog fans again, I know a lot of guys were excited,” Rivers said. “They really brought the energy, so we can’t wait until the next home game when they’re out there again.”
–Field Level Media