EUGENE, Ore. — Dakota Prukop says he’s lucky to be surrounded by so many playmakers at Oregon.
From prolific running back Royce Freeman to Olympic hurdler Devon Allen, the Ducks’ new quarterback has lots of options. And that makes his job easy, he said Saturday night after No. 24 Oregon defeated Virginia 44-26.
“It’s a really unique group,” Prukop said. “It’s cool.”
Prukop threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns — all to different receivers. Freeman ran for 207 yards and two scores, while Allen caught four passes for 141 yards and a touchdown, which he celebrated by pretending to clear hurdles in the endzone.
While it wasn’t perfect, and questions about the defense remain, the Ducks got their second win to start the season before next Saturday’s game against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium.
Freeman said the Ducks’ famous speed emerged.
“Definitely found a little rhythm. There were times out there that Virginia wasn’t even set and we were snapping the ball,” Freeman said.
Oregon was coming off a 53-28 victory over UC Davis in its opener, Prukop’s debut. The graduate transfer showed creativity in the first half against Virginia, escaping from the Ducks’ own 1-yard line with a 9-yard run and a pitch to Dwayne Stanford, who scampered 14 yards to get the ball out to the 24.
On the same drive, Prukop hit Allen with a 55-yard pass and the Ducks went on to score on a 2-yard pass to Stanford for a 20-6 lead. Prukop found Allen with a 77-yard pass for a touchdown in the third quarter that put the Ducks up 37-13.
Allen finished fifth in the 110-meter hurdles last month in the Rio Games, becoming just the fourth active college player in the modern era to compete in the Olympics.
“It’s really easy when you have the skill players like that around you,” Prukop said. “It’s really just hats off to those guys, to do what they do.”
Albert Reid rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown, while Kurt Benkert threw for 193 yards and two scores for Virginia. The Cavaliers fell 37-20 to Richmond in the team’s opener last weekend, spoiling Bronco Mendenhall’s debut as coach.
“I can live with the things that have to be improved when kids try that hard and are having that much fun and they’re supporting each other the way they were,” Mendenhall said. “That was the makings of a football team today and that was a completely different feeling than what I had a week ago.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers again struggled with mistakes, including a pair of interceptions and some costly penalties Mendenhall said last week the rebuilding project would take time, “Lots and lots of work ahead, steep learning curve still to come.”
Oregon: The Ducks are seeing mixed results in the new 4-3 defense installed by coordinator Brady Hoke, the former Michigan coach. Last week the Ducks gave up 392 yards and four touchdowns to lower-tier UC Davis. The Ducks ranked last in the Pac-12 for touchdowns allowed with 37.5 points per game. Virginia also managed four touchdowns.
On the other side, Oregon had 632 yards total offense. Receiver Pharaoh Brown, who is back after a horrific injury kept him out last season, had five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.
But coach Mark Helfrich lamented the “simple things” that prevented the Ducks from putting the game away.
“Coulda, woulda, shoulda. We could have shut the door so many times in all phases,” he said.
Virginia: On the road again next week, this time to face UConn. The Huskies rallied from a 21-point deficit but ultimately fell to Navy 28-24 on Saturday. The series is even at 1-1, with UConn winning the last meeting 45-10 in 2008.
Oregon: Takes to the road for the first time this season to face Nebraska at Memorial Stadium. The Cornhuskers beat Wyoming 52-17 on Saturday.
“Oregon, they’re no joke,” said Nebraska receiver Jordan Westerkamp, who caught a pair of touchdown passes. “They’re a top program in the entire nation. This will be our first big test.”
Ducks linebacker A.J. Hotchkins was stretchered off the field in the second half. Tight end Johnny Mundt, who had a touchdown in the opener, did not play. He was seen in a knee brace earlier in the week.
Allen joins Florida A&M’s Bob Hayes (1964), West Virginia’s James Jett (1992) and Texas’ Marquise Goodwin (2012) as active college athletes who have competed in the Olympics.
QUOTABLE: Allen on his hurdle celebration: “I knew I was gonna do that just because it’d be funny, being the guy from the Olympics.”