Oregon’s 30 to 27 victory over Washington will be remembered as one of the best games in this bitter rivalry.
Despite multiple injuries to key starters, despite Herbert facing the most talented secondary he’s faced so far this season, despite the Huskies having possession with mere seconds left in a tie game on the Oregon 20-yard line,z Mario Cristobal and the Oregon Ducks got the win and avenged a couple of painful losses to Washington.
Justin Herbert: 18/32 – 202 YDS – 2 TD
Oregon’s star quarterback may not have matched his typically outstanding level of play, but against a top ten rival with an elite secondary Justin Herbert was able to hang on for a wild win.
The game plan for Herbert was clearly two-fold: take what the offense gives you, and get the ball to Dillon Mitchell. The Huskies’ defense denied Herbert the deep ball, but allowed him to dink and dunk his way to 24 first downs. And as far as getting the ball to rising star Mitchell, Herbert seemed to be playing a simple game of pitch and catch.
Herbert had only a few attempts at running the ball and none of them were very successful. Instead, he was forced to operate as a pocket passer, occasionally scrambling to extend the play and get his receiver open. On back to back plays in the first half, Herbert almost threw what would have been his first interception of the game (and what probably should have been if not for a drop) but aside from the low completion percentage and the couple of near picks, Herbert managed the game very well.
Dillon Mitchell: 8 rec – 119 YDS – 1 TD
Jaylon Redd: 3 rec – 33 YDS – 1 TD
Ryan Bay: 3 rec – 23 YDS
Jacob Breeland: 2 rec – 12 YDS
Kano Dillon: 1 rec – 8 YDS
Travis Dye: 1 rec – 7 YDS
Dillon Mitchell is no longer a secret. Through the first three games (AKA Oregon’s trip to the cupcake factory) Mitchell had a combined 98 yards and one touchdown on six receptions. However, during the last three games, the junior has amassed 463 yards and two touchdowns on 29 receptions. In fact, he’s already surpassed his total yards from last year.
Even though Washington was surely aware of Herbert’s connection with Mitchell, their disciplined and talented DBs were still unable to contain him when it mattered most. Six of his eight catches earned a first down, and the mere potential of the ball in his hands forced the Huskies to always be aware of the playmaker- one of the reasons why redshirt freshman CJ Verdell was able to plow his way into the end zone for the win.
Jaylon Redd is also beginning to make a name for himself. He may have started the season a little rocky with a couple bad drops, but the sophomore has more than redeemed himself with four touchdowns, including his fantastic game-tying catch just before the half. Halfway through the season, it seems Redd may actually be our second best pass catcher.
The other four players to catch a ball from Herbert were not receivers; three tight ends and one running back snatched the other seven passes for a total of 50 yards.
CJ Verdell – 29 car – 111 YDS – 2 TD
Travis Dye – 15 car – 67 YDS
Justin Herbert – 5 car – (-1) YDS
Gone are the games where Oregon utilized every running back on their roster. Cristobal has clearly settled with Verdell as his workhorse and Travis Dye as his change of pace back. But if Wheaties asks the Ducks to send a headshot of the games star player, it would have to be Verdell’s smiling face that makes the box.
Verdell has surpassed 100 yards in 4 of his 6 games. Against Washington, Cristobal trusted him to run the ball a career-high 29 times. And when they approached short-and-goal situations, a scenario that typically results in a cameo from Cyrus Habibi-Likio, Verdell stayed in the game to finish the job. He certainly will never forget his unfortunate fumble against Stanford, but he will forever be remembered for his overtime score against Washington.
Dye had a notable performance as well, playing with Chip Kelly-era speed while Verdell caught his breath in the third quarter. And when Dye helped the Ducks march down the field in a 15-play, 88-yard drive to Washington’s 1 yard-line Verdell was there to take his place and pound it in to tie the game, 24-24.
Jake Browning: 15/25 – 243 YDS – 1 TD – 1 INT
Myles Gaskin: 15 car – 69 YDS –
Salvon Ahmed: 11 car – 61 YDS – 2 TD
Drew Sample: 4 rec – 79 YDS
Ty Jones: 2 rec – 55 YDS – 1 TD
Ben Burr-Kirven: 19 tackles – 7 solo
Tevis Bartlett: 12 tackles – 7 solo – 1 sack – 1 TFL
Taylor Rapp: 9 tackles – 4 solo – 1 TFL
Peyton Henry: 2/3 FG – 9 PTS
Let’s take off our Duck-fan hats here (as well as our scarves, and gloves, and jackets, and pants, and…) and give credit where credit is due. This was a damn fine game between most likely the best two teams in the PAC-12. A quick glance at the scores by quarter and it becomes clear that this game was as close as close can be.
Sure, neither team was perfect, but the fact that both of them were able to push past their mistakes was impressive. Oregon had few explosive plays on offense, too many on defense, and Justin Herbert looked much more human against the Huskies’ punishing secondary.
Taylor Rapp shut down wherever he was placed, and Ben Burr-Kirven continued his streak of tackling damn near everything. Washington’s reputation of hard-hitting, physical football was absolutely met; it seemed like any Duck player who caught the ball was immediately greeted with a painful yet clean tackle.
Washington’s composure was most apparent after Jake Browning’s opening pick. Chris Petersen’s team responded with an 11-play, 59-yard drive that resulted in a game-tying field goal. Then, while Tony Brooks-James was looking to take Peyton Henry’s kick to the house, the ball was stripped from him and was recover by the very same Henry that kicked it.
It should also be noted that both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed left the game due to injury, leaving Washington’s third and fourth string RBs to pick up the workload. The four backs had a combined total of 193 yards on the ground.
And for all the smack that was talked about Browning’s big game ability (specifically from your’s truly), the senior quarterback was much more efficient after the first half, when Oregon elected to bring less pressure. In the first half, Browning was 6/14 for 91 yards and a pick, but after halftime he made 9 of his 11 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown, including this 43-yard touchdown pass to Ty Jones:
In a close game like this, it’s usually pretty simple to point out the loser’s fatal mistakes. And in this game it was a combination of turnovers and missed opportunities that ultimately cost the Huskies a chance at returning to the playoffs.
- The Interception: Justin Herbert’s first throw in college was a pick by Budda Baker, so the fact that Browning’s first throw in his final game against Oregon is satisfying for Duck fans looking for closure. Give credit to the Huskies defense for holding the Ducks to a field goal, but this was definitely a costly mistake.
- The Fumble: Back and forth the game went, both teams sustaining drives but ultimately failing to score. Then, with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, Petersen elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 while the Huskies were on Oregon’s 26. But thanks to a big push by Jordon “Fat Mac” Scott, the play was blown up, Browning fumbled, and Johnny Johnson III recovered. Instead of burning more precious clock and going up a score, the 24-24 tie remained until overtime. And to make matters worse, Oregon was a perfect 3 of 3 on their 4th down conversions.
- The Miss: Just like last year against ASU, Washington’s poor kicking cost them a chance to make it to the playoffs. Cristobal froze Henry with a couple timeouts, and the ball flew farther right than the Bible Belt. This is a kick that both sides will remember for a long, long time.
Washington Passing: 15/25 – 243 YDS – 1 TD
Washington Rushing: 45 attempts – 194 YDS – 2 TD
Turnover Margin: Ducks 1 – Huskies 1
While giving up 437 yards to an opponent isn’t the best, Oregon’s defense was able to muster just enough stops to break Washington’s measly two-game series win streak.
The first half saw Oregon blitz the Hell out of Washington and by the game’s conclusion they would have five tackles for a loss and one sack. It was clear that the Ducks’ presence in the backfield greatly disrupted Browning’s rhythm, but in the second half Leavitt elected to focus on taking away the pass instead of rushing the QB, a decision that unfortunately bolstered Browning’s accuracy and confidence.
Oregon’s secondary certainly had a better day than, say, against Stanford. Deommodore Lenoir made the first big play of the game when he swiped an interception on Washington’s opening drive. And when the pass rush was called, the secondary looked pretty decent, which should surprise no one who’s been watching the Ducks closely thus far.
- Troy Dye – Solid as ever. 10 total tackles and a tackle for a loss.
- Justin Hollins – Terrorized Browning most of the game, but just missed out on a sack that turned into a score.
- Kaulana Apelu – Kaulana “the little engine that could knock you out” Apelu did a spectacular job wrapping up tackles during the first half, a time when Oregon was still fighting their nerves.
- Isaac Slade-Matautia – Replaced Apelu during some key moments and nearly got a pick. Also had a critical tackle in overtime.
- Austin Faoliu -Back from injury. Was a much need veteran presence, especially after his backup, Drayton Carlberg, was ejected for a targeting penalty.
- Jordon Scott – Lived up to his massive reputation. Just like in the Stanford game, was responsible for a huge fourth down stop in the fourth quarter, and generally did a fantastic job shutting down Washington’s running game when he was on the field. Was a little shaken up near the very end, so finger’s crossed we get him back for the big Wazzu game next week.
- Deommodore Lenoir – Shut up a lot of haters with that early interception. The turnover led to a field goal which in the end was crucial for the win.
Three star linemen, Dallas Warmack, Jordon Scott, and Penei Sewell, were injured and left the game. More details to come.
Now do yourself a favor and watch Verdell’s game winning touchdown from the sideline and pretend you were there!