Willie Taggart said there is “absolutely” a chance Justin Herbert will be taking the snaps again for Oregon this season.
But the Ducks’ star quarterback will be out indefinitely as Taggart confirmed Monday that Herbert suffered a fractured collarbone during last Saturday’s 45-24 victory over California.
The nation’s highest-scoring offense will now be in the hands of either fifth-year senior Taylor Alie or true freshman Braxton Burmeister against No. 11 Washington State this Saturday at Autzen Stadium (5 p.m., Fox).
“We’re not going to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves,” an upbeat Taggart said. “Washington State or anyone else is not going to feel sorry for us.”
For the third consecutive year, Oregon’s backup quarterbacks will be in the spotlight against the Cougars.
In 2015, Eastern Washington graduate transfer Vernon Adams Jr. missed the Washington State game because of an injury. Jeff Lockie started for Oregon and finished 13-for-22 passing for 123 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Alie also took snaps in the 45-38 double-overtime loss. His two pass attempts were incomplete.
In 2016, Dakota Prukop made his final start for the Ducks before getting replaced by Herbert in the fourth quarter of a 51-33 loss in Pullman.
Oregon’s quarterback du jour will be able to lean on a strong running game and an improved defense this time.
“They both are smart guys, they both are guys that the entire team loves to be around, they’re both athletic,” Taggart of Alie and Burmeister. “They can do what we ask them to at the quarterback position.”
Alie, who also left the Cal game with an injury, is among the list of players Taggart described as “day-to-day.”
Running back Royce Freeman, tight end Jacob Breeland and wide receivers Charles Nelson and Dillon Mitchell are also on the mend.
“Guys will be rehabbing with good trainers and they’ll do a good job of getting our guys ready to play,” Taggart said.
Freeman rushed for 246 yards and two touchdowns and also had three receptions for 46 yards and another touchdown during the home loss to Washington State two years ago.
If Oregon’s starting running back can’t play —Freeman left the Cal game in the first quarter after landing on his shoulder — Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James are capable of carrying the load after combining for 214 yards rushing and three touchdowns off the bench.
Herbert was 7-for-8 passing for 86 yards before getting injured during a 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound sophomore has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 1,264 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions this season.
Alie was 9-for-13 for 41 yards with an interception in relief of Herbert, but both former Sheldon High quarterbacks were knocked out of the game by the fourth quarter.
Burmeister completed his only pass for four yards. The only other quarterback on the roster is true freshman walk-on Mike Irwin.
Taggart is looking forward to seeing how the group responds to adversity.
“I do think Braxton or Taylor or whomever we put in there can go in there and run our offense,” Taggart said. “I’m excited for these guys. Are you kidding me? Come to college and have a chance at a big-time program to go and win some games. You gotta love it, baby.”