By Ryan Thornburn

The (Eugene) Register-Guard

Next up

Oregon at No. 12 Washington

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

TV: Pac-12 Line: Huskies by

EUGENE — Justin Herbert is making the important throws again for Oregon.

The Ducks, who were downtrodden during a three-game losing streak after their starting quarterback suffered a fractured collarbone Sept. 30, caught the swag surf again Saturday.

Herbert did not play, but his return to practice and the pregame warm-up routine inspired the Ducks to improve their body language and disposition leading into Oregon’s 41-20 victory over Utah.

“I know that made Justin feel a lot better, just being out there and suiting up,” coach Willie Taggart said. “And being around his teammates, too, feeling like he’s a part of it. I thought it was big in a lot of ways.”

Early arrivals were buzzing as Herbert stepped on the field in full pads an hour before kickoff and showed off his arm.

“I think if we needed to play Justin, he could have played,” Taggart teased after the game. “Not one doctor told me he couldn’t play.”

Maybe the Ducks do heal differently. Herbert is drinking more milk than defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is Pepsi these days.

“And not that candy-ass milk,” Taggart noted. “He’s drinking that Vitamin D whole milk. That’s great, and it’s paying off and he’s healing fast.”

In the aftermath of the 31-14 loss at UCLA the previous week, the team’s psyche needed to mend. Taggart made it clear during a group film study that Braxton Burmeister was not the only one making mistakes.

The surrounding cast responded by providing the true freshman with plenty of support — including a defensive touchdown and a touchdown pass thrown by wide receiver Charles Nelson — as Burmeister picked up his first victory as a starter.

“It’s not really a surprise,” running back Royce Freeman said. “We were close the last three weeks, we just needed to give a little more. I’m really proud of how our team dialed in and focused and laid it all out to get this win.”

Burmeister was efficient in the passing game, completing 9 of 12 attempts for 47 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Oregon finished with 347 rushing yards.

“They can score on anyone and they can win any ballgame we play, but they’ve got to believe,” Taggart said of his offense. “And it can’t be me believing, it’s got to be them. They’ve got to play for each other. I always tell them the way that they play, it’s got to be like a gift to their teammates. I think that’s what we saw out there today, they were playing for their teammates.”

Whether Herbert is playing or not, having him involved adds to the belief the Ducks have in winning with Burmeister.

“We all want to see him (Herbert) healthy and we know he cares about this team a lot,” Freeman said. “This injury that he had was really hurting him not being out there with us. Braxton has gained a lot of confidence out there. As the offense keeps moving, being able to rely on him is pretty big.”

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