EUGENE — Justin Herbert left no doubt the past two games how much he meant to his team.
The sophomore quarterback’s broken collarbone, suffered Sept. 30 at home against California, derailed Oregon’s season. The Ducks were 4-1 in the game he left with a 17-0 lead and 5-4 when he came back.
Herbert’s return seven weeks later — in a dominating win against Arizona — was a big reminder of how much his presence determined wins and losses this fall.
He put the exclamation point on that statement Saturday in Oregon’s 69-10 Civil War win at Autzen Stadium.
In his second game back from injury, Herbert passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another.
“It means the world to our football team. Justin, he’s our franchise quarterback,” Ducks coach Willie Taggart said. “Not only to our offense, but it meant something to our entire football team. When he came back it just inspired everybody having him back. That’s just the kind of guy that he is.”
Running back Royce Freeman has produced on his own talent but proved to be a recipient of Herbert’s return.
Freeman, a senior, finished with 122 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He had just three carries in the second half. The Ducks rushed for 311 yards in all.
Saturday, Herbert and Oregon picked up where they left off a week earlier.
The Ducks had 17 points and 206 yards on the board in the first quarter.
Herbert’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Mitchell in the back of the end zone was right on target. He also connected with Jaylon Redd on a 49-yarder.
Oregon added a 12-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Jacob Breeland on the opening play of the second quarter for a 24-7 lead.
After a 35-point second quarter, Herbert had 227 yards and three touchdowns at halftime as the Ducks long had the game at hand with a 52-7 advantage.
“We just try to keep building on what we did,” Herbert said. “We worked really fast. We moved the ball really quickly. When that happens it makes it so much easier.”
When Herbert went out, the Ducks opened the next game, versus Washington State, with freshman Braxton Burmeister at quarterback.
Oregon scored 68 total offensive points in Burmeister’s five starts. He produced two passing touchdowns with six interceptions and three rushing scores.
The Ducks got a win in that stretch against Utah. But Oregon was not competitive in losses to Stanford (49-7) and Washington (38-3) and had two weeks to get ready for Arizona.
It also allowed Herbert more time to get healthy.
The sophomore outshined Arizona’s Khalil Tate in a matchup of star quarterbacks.
Herbert had 235 yards passing with a touchdown and also ran for a 40-yard score.
“Having him back added a new dynamic and added a passing game back. More consistently being able to pass the ball,” senior left tackle Tyrell Crosby said. “He’s a quiet person but you can tell he’s a leader.”
The Ducks limited Tate to 32 rushing yards on 14 carries and 159 passing yards.
Freeman, who had no rushing touchdowns with Herbert out, ran 19 times for 135 yards and four touchdowns. His 7.1 per-carry average was better than all but one game when Herbert was sidelined.