Las Vegas Bowl score: Oregon struggles in Mario Cristobal's debut vs. Boise State

The Mario Cristobal Era at Oregon began with a timeout. As the Ducks made their way to the line of scrimmage after receiving the ball to start the Las Vegas Bowl, the play clock neared zero, and they needed a timeout to save themselves from a delay of game penalty. It was an inauspicious start and a bad sign for how things would turn out in the desert.

Oregon had a slow start to the game, dug an early hole, and was never able to get out of it. No. 25 Boise State took a 24-0 lead thanks to four Oregon turnovers in the first half, but the Broncos were in the giving spirit themselves. Within a 30-second span in the final minute of the first half, the Broncos had two red zone turnovers, both of which the Ducks returned for touchdowns to cut the lead to 24-14, and that was as good as it would get for the Ducks in a 38-28 loss.

Of course, the results of a coach's first game don't tell us much about the future. After all, back in 2009, a coach named Chip Kelly was starting his first season as coach of the Ducks, and he lost his first game to Boise State as well. I'm sure Ducks fans would happily relive the success of the Kelly Era if all it takes is a loss to Boise to spark the fire.

It certainly wasn't sparked on Saturday, however, as the Oregon offense finished with only 280 total yards, and 75 of those yards came on the final possession of the game when the outcome had already been decided. The Ducks also felt the absence of stud running back Royce Freeman, who sat out to prepare for his NFL future. Without Freeman toting the rock, the Ducks were only able to rush for a paltry 47 yards on 28 carries. Not exactly the kind of identity Cristobal is hoping to establish with his team in the future.

The good news is that now that the bowl game is over, Cristobal and his staff can focus on securing talent for that future with the early signing day coming next week. Then they can focus on finishing up the class in time for February's signing day and preparing for a 2018 season, and a search for continuity in a program that is lacking it for the first time in a long time.

Every journey begins with the first step, but it doesn't have to be a defining one.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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