EUGENE, Oregon — The Ducks dismantled the Beavers, 69-10, in the 121st edition of the Civil War on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. It was the largest margin of victory ever recorded in the rivalry. Royce Freeman also assumed first place in Pac-12 history for rushing scores.
This was the performance Oregon head coach Willie Taggart was seeking all year.
“It was controlled ticked off. They prepared well to go out there and play our best ballgame. I wish you could see me after this. I enjoyed it a lot, a lot.”
Oregon concludes their bowl-eligible regular season with a solid record of 7-5, including an impressive 6-1 mark from 50-year-old Autzen.
Before the game, Taggart mentioned that his team had yet to play their best game this season. On Saturday afternoon from a chilly Eugene, his demand came to fruition.
“We got to go out and play our best football game. I’ve been challenging our guys all year to play our best ballgame. We know if we play our best, we can beat anybody.”
When you envision playing your best football at the end of the season, this contest was it. Oregon poured on the offense with 577 total yards compared to 211 for Oregon State. UO was 9-of-16 on third down, including being perfect (2-for-2) on fourth down.
Not to mention, UO scored on their first seven drives, including eight of the first nine in the first half. The defense held Oregon State to 112 total yards in the first half.
Penalties once again were an issue, but nothing was standing in Oregon’s way on this day. The Ducks were flagged on 12 different occasions for a total loss of 138 yards.
Justin Herbert continued to show the nation that he was the missing ingredient over the last two months. The sophomore was electric with 251 passing yards and four overall scores.
“We just played really well tonight,” said the UO quarterback. “We just have to keep building off what we did. We moved the ball really, really quickly. When that happens, it makes it so much easier. It’s something we emphasize, to move the ball as fast as we can.”
Nevertheless, this game was all about the senior class of Oregon. Royce Freeman couldn’t have written a better ending to his storied career, minus a national title win. The senior from Imperial amassed 122 rushing yards on 19 carries, alongside two touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 20 yards.
“I really enjoyed it more for our seniors,” Taggart stated. “For those guys to go out with a victory in the Civil War game from Autzen Stadium was really important to me and the rest of the team that we go out and play well for those guys.”
There would be no Royce without the help of the best left tackle in college football, Tyrell Crosby.
“You could kind of sense they were giving up,” said Crosby after the game. “It was fun that we were able to impose our will on them.”
He gave Oregon four years of brilliance and is primed for a special career at the next level.
“It means a lot,” said an emotional Freeman after the game. “We’ve been playing together since we were freshmen. He’s been out there blocking his butt off. If you ask me, he’s one of the best if not the best tackle in the country. He gives everything he has every single Saturday for us. I’m so appreciative to him as a teammate.”
His leadership on and off the field is a great example for the younger players.
“Those guys have done everything I have asked of them,” said UO’s first-year head coach. “They helped change the culture of our football program. They didn’t want to leave with another loss to Oregon State. I’m really happy for them.”
Following the first of two field goals for senior Aidan Schneider on the day, Freeman and the Ducks didn’t waste any time on their second possession.
In 2:48 off the clock, UO traveled 47 yards on eight plays and concluded the drive with a Freeman two-yard tally as Oregon amplified their early lead to 10-0.
“I was really impressed by all of them,” Taggart stated in reference to a complete team victory. “Special teams, too. They did what they were supposed to do. We talked all year about trying to play a complete ballgame.”
With his first score, Freeman coincidently tied former OSU running back Ken Simonton (59) for the most rushing tallies in Pac-12 history.
“Right now, it’s more joy that we beat the Beavers,” Freeman stated. “A lot of emotion. To see my mom and brother out there to welcome me. Reflecting on all the memories I have from Autzen.”
During the first half, Freeman became just the fourth player in college football history to rush for 5,000 yards and receive 800 yards.
Up 10 points, Ugo Amadi got involved with a huge forced fumble of Timmy Hernandez. Thomas Graham Jr. was right there for the recovery, as the offense capitalized moments later.
Oregon was ahead 17-0 after Herbert found his favorite target since his return, Dillon Mitchell. The Duck receiver registered a 29-yard score to conclude UO’s 5-play, 33-yard drive in 2:04.
Darell Garretson finally found Hernandez for a 43-yard scoring connection. The tally was the lone touchdown of the day for Oregon State. The 10-point deficit was as close as OSU came to the Ducks.
Herbert and the offense answered right back with another efficient possession. Jacob Breeland cruised into the end zone from 12 yards to finalize their 61-yard drive in 55 seconds on three plays, 24-7.
The 16-year conference record was broken by Freeman on a 13-yard scamper in the second quarter. It placed the senior running back in Pac-12 history and put Oregon ahead 31-7. For his career, he has 60 rushing touchdowns (No. 1 in Pac-12) and 64 overall (four receiving).
Oregon State then tried a fake punt on their side of the field to no avail. It led to the Ducks’ fifth touchdown of the first half. Jaylon Redd rushed in from 19 yards to give UO a 31-point advantage, 38-7.
On the Beavers next drive, true freshman standout cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. intercepted Garretson. It was his third pick of the season, as it led to more points for the green and yellow.
“Those guys were feeding off each other,” Taggart replied. “We got the ball, went down and scored. Then the defense came out and did what they were supposed to do.”
Herbert ran in for his seventh career rushing score and fifth of the 2017 season. With his six-yard outburst, the Eugene product gave his team a 45-7 lead with 7:43 remaining in the second quarter.
The fireworks weren’t over yet, as Herbert connected with Mitchell for the second time in the half. This hookup was for 53 yards and placed Oregon ahead 52-7 entering the locker room at halftime.
In the final 30 minutes, the offensive attack slowed down as the reserves began to find some action on the field. Nevertheless, UO still pushed across 17 more points. A few weeks ago, that was good enough for eight quarters of work.
Following Schneider’s second field goal of the game, 55-7, he ended his regular season 9-of-12 on field goal attempts and a perfect 59-for-59 on extra points. The senior from Portland ended his regular season career in style, the only way he knows how.
Linebacker Justin Hollins continued his incredible campaign. He intercepted a pass that was deflected by Jalen Jelks and housed it for a 62-7 advantage midway through the third quarter. The athletic freak finished with four tackles, a TFL and that pick.
“I like how Hollins has been coming along the last couple games,” stated the head coach. “Like the rest of our guys, improving. And that’s what’s good to see with our guys. The improvement through these games. He was really consistent.”
Following a Beaver field goal, indeed a field goal down 52, Kani Benoit ended the onslaught with a 47-yard streak to the end zone. The final tally of the afternoon handed Oregon a 69-10 lead, the largest margin of victory in Civil War history.
Herbert concluded his day 13-of-23 for 251 passing yards, three passing tallies and no interceptions. He added two carries for 10 yards and another score.
“It was a lot different,” Herbert said after win. “Tonight we just played really well on both sides of the ball. It makes our job a lot easier when the defense holds them to 10 points. We compliment each other well.”
In total, the starting quarterback finished with a RTG of 191.2 after his turnover-less game. He could be a Heisman Trophy candidate next season, if healthy. Just saying.
Following his incredible final drive, Benoit finished with the exact same amount of rushing yards as Freeman. The redshirt senior amassed 122 rushing yards on 11 carries (11.1 YPC) and a score in his regular season swan song performance.
Overall, Oregon running backs registered 311 yards on 49 carries, including five rushing touchdowns.
Redd concluded with a total of 82 yards on four touches. He had 31 yards on two carries plus his touchdown. Yet, he also caught two passes for 51 yards.
Nelson concluded his remarkable regular season college career with minus-four yards on one rush alongside one catch for eight yards. For a team guy like Nelson, he couldn’t ask for more than UO’s 59-point win over their rivals.
Mitchell led all receivers in the game with six catches for 119 yards and two TD’s. He averaged 19.8 YPC on an incredibly efficient seven-target afternoon.
Breeland secured three passes for 33 yards and his paint job.
Troy Dye led the defensive charge with a game-high eight tackles, six solo, one TFL and one pass breakup.
Jelks had six tackles, 0.5 TFL, and a pass breakup.
Alongside his scoring interception, Hollins ended his day with four tackles and one TFL.
Four Duck defenders finished with four tackles against the Beavers. In total, the defense tallied nine TFL, four pass deflections, two interceptions, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble and recovery.
Oregon State could not even surpass the 100-yard rushing mark as a team. The stout UO run defense held the Beavers ground game to 98 yards on 36 carries.
Nobody on the Beavers had a noteworthy performance. However, Garretson completed just 11-of-20 passes for 112 passing yards, two interceptions and a touchdown.
Don’t be surprised if this was Royce Freeman’s final college game. With the 2018 NFL Draft on his horizon, he could allow the younger guys an opportunity to grow at a bowl game. Nevertheless, Taggart said he is fine with whatever his senior RB wants to do.
Next up for Oregon (7-5, 4-5) is a bowl game. Details will follow after the conference championships have been played. Regardless, ATQ will take you every step of the way.