LAS VEGAS – Raiders rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell was known for his efficiency when he was at Purdue, and he even set the school record for career completion percentage.
That same skill was on display Sunday.
O’Connell completed 15 of 18 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown as Las Vegas beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-7 in the preseason opener for both teams.
“You just kind of hope to go out there and do your best and see what happens,” O’Connell said. “Not worried about the stats. There’s more things than just the stats, especially responsibility in the run game and stuff like that, that I need to improve on. So I know I have a lot of work to go still.”
O’Connell, third on the depth chart behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo and veteran Brian Hoyer, played the first three quarters, leaving with Las Vegas up 24-7 and the outcome well in hand.
“I thought he generally handled himself well for the first (playing) opportunity,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said. “He’s going to learn a lot from some of the things we might have been able to do a little bit better that would’ve helped us maybe sustain a few drives. He soaks it all in, and he’ll take every opportunity to improve.”
The Raiders drafted O’Connell in the fourth round this year out of Purdue, where he finished with a 66.7 career completion percentage, one of several Boilermakers records. Against the 49ers, O’Connell quarterbacked three touchdown drives.
“Since Day 1, Aidan has been ready to go,” Raiders wide receiver Keelan Cole said. “So I’m not surprised at all about the performance.”
O’Connell outplayed his 49ers counterparts, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold, who are competing to back up starter Brock Purdy. The spotlight is especially bright on Lance, who was taken third overall two years ago after the Niners traded a bunch of assets to move up in the draft and select him with the hope he would be the club’s quarterback of the future.
The 49ers even declared Lance would be the starter last season, but he was done after breaking an ankle in the second game. Purdy wound up leading San Francisco all the way to the NFC Championship to earn the starting job for this season.
Niners general manager John Lynch said in April, however, that the team wasn’t ready to move on from Lance.
As part of his audition for the backup job, Lance on Sunday faced a heavy Raiders pass rush and couldn’t get the offense going early. The 49ers went three-and-out on his first three series.
“That was definitely frustrating,” Lance said. “I put it on myself to be better.”
Lance played the first half and completed 10 of 15 passes for 112 yards, but was sacked four times and had two potential interceptions dropped. One near pick occurred in the end zone that San Francisco tight end Ross Dwelley dove to caught for Lance’s one touchdown throw.
Darnold played most of the second half for the Niners, going 5 of 8 for 84 yards. His receivers did him few favors, however, a fumble after one catch and a drop on another pass turning into an interception. Both plays set up Las Vegas touchdowns.
The Raiders were much more effective, setting the tone from the beginning with a 10-play, 68-yard drive on their first series. Zamir White, who has been receiving first-team snaps in practice with Josh Jacobs out because of a contract dispute, rushed six times for 21 yards and the touchdown.
White played into the second quarter, finishing with 43 yards on 13 rushes.
The 49ers headed home after an extended stay in the Las Vegas area. Both teams practiced against each other Thursday and Friday at the Raiders’ headquarters and largely rested their starters for the exhibition.
“We got two good practices against them,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I always like it when you can do that, and we practiced against them real hard the second day, especially with all the (starters). I didn’t enjoy that game by any means today, but a lot of guys got a lot of valuable reps.”
STARTER LEAVES EARLY
Las Vegas starting left guard Dylan Parham was injured early in the second quarter and went into the blue medical tent. He did not return to the game.
Las Vegas released defensive tackle Kyle Peko and put wide receiver DJ Turner and linebacker Darius Harris on injured reserve.
49ers: Host Denver on Saturday.
Raiders: At Los Angeles Rams on Saturday.