The Oregon Ducks had an interesting path to the Fiesta Bowl this season.
To start, their schedule didn’t kick off until November 7. By season’s end they had compiled a 3-2 record, and only qualified for the Pac-12 championship game after Washington was unable to field the 53 scholarship players required to play due to COVID-19 cases within the team.
No matter - led by quarterback Tyler Shough’s steady hand, Oregon shocked the USC Trojans in the conference championship 31-24, qualifying for the Fiesta Bowl and setting up Shough’s showdown with Cyclone quarterback (and friend) Brock Purdy. The two both hail from the Phoenix area, played on the same club baseball team as kids, and faced each other multiple times on the football field in high school. They maintain their friendship in the offseason.
— PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (@Fiesta_Bowl) December 31, 2020
With @oregonfootball’s @tylershough2 and @CycloneFB’s @brockpurdy13 set to face off in the desert once again this Saturday at the @PlayStation #FiestaBowl, we take a close look at the QB1 matchup. pic.twitter.com/qkZVmVzIf8
Shough has had a solid season in the Ducks’ shortened year, passing for 1,480 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions in six games, but is not Oregon’s only threat under center. Anthony Brown made a surprise season debut against the Trojans, and threw two touchdowns of his own, going 3-for-4 while appearing in goal line situations. The Boston College transfer patiently waited his turn, and cashed in when the Ducks needed it most.
“He’s a really good player, and he deserved to play somehow, some way,” coach Mario Cristobal said after the Ducks’ championship victory. “Not only that, he provided an advantage for us in the (run-pass option) world. We all very much appreciate Anthony for hanging in there throughout the season, because it’s a position where one player is playing for the most part.”
Brown is no stranger to success - at Boston College he threw for 2,121 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2018.
It’s been an up-and-down season for Oregon, but the team has hit its stride when it matters most. Its 243 yards of total offense against USC was a mere footnote after a hard fought win, and Cristobal highlighted a secret weapon lurking before Saturday’s game - a two quarterback tandem which allows for plenty of options, especially in the red zone.
Keep your eyes peeled when the Oregon has the ball, because there may very well be a few tricks up its sleeve.