SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Oregon Ducks upset No. 12 Utah, 30-28, from Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Oregon’s outstanding all-around effort propelled them to their largest win of the 2016 season. Following a disappointing, 62-20, loss to Utah last season at Autzen Stadium, revenge was on the menu for the Ducks this time around.
With two seconds remaining in the game, Darren Carrington came down with a Justin Herbert pass, as he grazed the back pylon. Originally, it was called incomplete on the field. Yet, after review the call was overturned.
“It was a situation where we had no options on that play,” stated Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich. “You don’t want a situation in that field position where there is hesitation on anybody's part. If the quarterback has any doubt, throw it to the back pylon. That’s what happened.”
The miraculous toe-tapping score gave Oregon the, 30-28, lead they desperately deserved.
The true freshman quarterback from Eugene completed 30 of 43 for 324 passing yards. Herbert tossed three touchdown passes without an interception. He also ran for a score, tagging the Utes stellar defense for a total of four TD on Saturday.
“The guys drove on an excellent defense at the end. In the fourth quarter, in their stadium, (and) down,” Helfrich proudly stated. “Stared it right in the face.”
He was truly incredible. The Eugene native made huge strides in the second half. Hebert was extremely poised and under control throughout the final drive, especially.
“We do that drill every single day in practice,” said Herbert. “We just needed to stay calm and play.”
Utah gunslinger Troy Williams found his receiver Evan Moeai in the end zone with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter. The 30-yard connection placed No. 12 Utah ahead, 28-24.
Herbert dashed to the end zone for the go-ahead score with 6:41 remaining in the contest, 24-21. It was the freshman’s second rushing score of the season. His first came in his very first collegiate appearance against Washington State in Pullman.
“That guy (Herbert) took some shots from a very good defense,” said Helfrich. “He responded great. The o-line competed.”
Game-changing plays occur without warning. Much-heralded freshman Dillon Mitchell finally made his mark on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Ducks, it wasn’t all positive.
After a 45-yard Mitchell punt return set-up the Ducks first TD of the day, the Tennessee native gave it right back moments later.
With the Ducks leading 17-14, Utah punted to Oregon, and Mitchell. The freshman inadvertently touched the ball, which Utah promptly recovered in the end zone for the score, 20-17.
Following a booth review, the call on the field was overturned to the dismay of Oregon, and Helfrich. The Ducks’ valid argument was that the play was blown dead on the field.
“They told me that replay overturned it,” Helfrich responded. “They called it a touchback, blew the whistle. The rule is a clear and immediate recovery that was neither clear, nor immediate.”
The Ducks most impressive offensive possession of the day opened the fourth quarter, after another sterling defensive stand. Herbert tucked the ball and ran for 20 yards. Then, Tony Brooks-James gashed the defense for 35 yards, placing the Ducks in Utah territory.
Following a Royce Freeman 18-yard dash inside the 10, the workhorse back concluded the drive with his 1-yard scoring catch from Herbert. The fourth-quarter tally placed Oregon ahead of No. 12 Utah, 17-14.
The freshman punt returner squirted through the Utah special teams unit for a 45-yard return with 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Mitchell advanced his team to the Utah 29-yard-line, setting up Oregon’s first touchdown of the day.
On the very next play, a little Duck trickery led to a 29-yard strike from Herbert to Jalen Brown. The double reverse flip back to the quarterback opened up mass space for his receiver, who was wide open in the end zone, 14-10.
Joe Williams scurried 12 yards to secure an 11-point lead for his Utes, 14-3. The Utah running back was unstoppable on Saturday. He rushed for 149 yards on 23 carries, bolstering the Utes’ attack. Williams also caught three passes for 37 yards.
Utah’s offense was driving as halftime drew close. In an instant, Jimmie Swain forced a fumble by Utah quarterback, Troy Williams. Oregon’s Wayne Tei-Kirby recovered the massive turnover on Oregon’s 26-yard-line.
The biggest play of the first half for the Oregon offense came after their fumble recovery. On 4th and 4, Herbert found his favorite receiver Johnny Mundt for a completion of 21 yards. Schneider missed the 31-yard field goal attempt, however.
“In the first half, I thought we let one slip,” Helfrich said. “Utah has been a great starting team. They weren’t really tonight and we took advantage of that.”
Mundt led all receivers in the game with 58 yards on four receptions entering halftime. If anything, one could see Herbert’s confidence grow after the big completion.
Oregon drew their first blood from a solid drive of 14 plays. The Ducks consumed 5:25 off the scoreboard clock, traveling 62 yards to conclude the first quarter of play.
Following Aidan Schneider’s successful field goal, the Ducks cut their deficit nearly in half, 7-3. That would be where the scoring stopped for the first half though.
Seeking their ninth win of the season, Utah receiver Cory Butler-Byrd inhaled the first points of the day from his signal-caller, Williams. Following his 24-yard reception, the Utes led, 7-0, less than five minutes into the game.
“We want to be in that locker room with more on the line in the coming years,” replied Helfrich.
The defensive effort by the Ducks on Saturday truly illustrated that nobody has given up on one another within the Oregon football program. The growth and maturity of this group has been tested, yet they continue to battle each week. You can not help but appreciate the fight of this now 4-win team.
Oregon won the time of possession versus Utah. The Ducks controlled the clock for 30:13 on Saturday afternoon.
The Duck offense amassed 575 total yards. As for Utah, they were slowed by Oregon’s defense. The Utes were able to accumulate 453 total yards.
The change of pace between Duck RB’s Royce Freeman and Tony-Brooks James challenged the Utah front seven all afternoon. Oregon dictated the tempo, as they controlled the clock.
For the game, Freeman rushed for 129 yards on 20 carries, including his receiving TD. Freeman also caught a season-high eight balls for 36 yards. Meanwhile, TBJ toted the rock 10 times for a total of 84 yards.
“They had a better next play mentality than the last few weeks against some very good fronts,” Helfrich explained. “Good to see that response.”
Brown led all receivers for the game with 89 yards on five grabs, and his tally. Mundt finished with five catches for 72 yards.
Utah’s Troy Williams completed 20 of 30 passes for 235 yards, and a score.
Wide receiver and special teams playmaker, Charles Nelson was ejected from the game for targeting in the first half.
On a side note, Troy Dye’s sack in the first half places him at 7.5 for the season. Oregon’s freshman linebacker continues his impressive campaign.
“I thought we played a lot more solid on defense,” said Helfrich proudly. “You never know exactly what’s going through their mind in a game like this, but we’re not apologizing to anybody."
Next up for the Ducks (4-7) is their final game of the 2016 season against you know who on Saturday. Oregon State (2-8) is having another terrible campaign. Yet, a win against the Ducks to conclude their season from Reser Stadium is just what they’re seeking. Let’s help prevent that from happening.
Darren Carrington’s Game-Winner
Special Team Blunder
Nelson’s Targeting Ejection
Duck Trick Play
Oregon’s 96-yard Scoring Drive
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