TE Mundt makes a splash for No. 2 Oregon
EUGENE, Ore. (AP)
Freshman tight end Johnny Mundt had already impressed his Oregon coaches and teammates with his work ethic.
Against Tennessee, he impressed everyone else, too.
Mundt subbed for absent tight end Colt Lyerla against the Vols on Saturday and had five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. The Ducks defeated Tennessee 59-14 to remain ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.
''My parents have always told me hard work pays off so on Day 1 when I showed up I was giving my all every play, every rep and it's definitely paid off,'' he said.
Mundt knew on Friday that he was going to start in place of Lyerla, who several players - including Mundt - said had a stomach bug and missed several practices. Oregon's coaches, however, would not confirm the reason for Lyerla's absence. Coach Mark Helfrich cryptically said only than ''circumstances'' prevented him from playing.
Regardless, it worked in Mundt's favor.
''I had a little bit of nervousness but it went away once I started warming up and got into football mode, got in the zone and just blocked everything out,'' he said.
Trailing 7-3 to the Vols in the first quarter, Oregon pulled in front with Marcus Mariota's 16-yard pass to Mundt for the freshman's first career touchdown. Mariota found Mundt again with a 17-yard scoring pass early in the second half.
But Mundt's most dramatic play was a 57-yard run at the end of the first quarter that surprised even his teammates.
''I was just glad to see his hard work come to fruition,'' offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. ''He took more reps in fall camp than anybody on our team because we had a couple injuries at tight end and he never backed down from any of it.''
It was the first time an Oregon tight end had more than 100 reception yards since Ed Dickson in 2009.
''The guy's rock solid. He comes and works every day, has a great attitude,'' Helfrich added. ''He's a guy you root for. There's a lot of guys like that on our team. But he in particular is just a real positive guy and works really hard and wants to everything he can to help our team.''
The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Mundt has been overshadowed in his recruiting class by the excitement surrounding running back Thomas Tyner, who last fall ran for 643 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Aloha High School west of Portland.
Tyner came into the Tennessee game after the starters had departed and ran for 29 yards on eight carries, including a 2-yard touchdown. So far this season, Tyner has gained 80 yards with three scores.
Mundt was considered a four-star prospect out of Central Catholic in Modesto, Calif. He caught 33 passes for 625 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior, while also playing at linebacker.
Mariota, who passed for a career high 456 yards against the Vols and hit Mundt with two of his four scoring passes, was one of those teammates who was impressed.
''You'd expect him to be wide-eyed, but he was ready to go,'' Mariota said. ''He was calm and collected, and he looked like he just had a lot of fun.''
Even Lyerla was complimentary, via Twitter: ''the team killed it (hash)mundt4heisman.''
Oregon's breakout start will have to wait a bit before he gets another shot on field with the Ducks. Oregon has a bye this weekend before hosting California in their conference opener on Sept. 28. The Golden B ears fell 52-34 to Ohio State on Saturday.