SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH
UTES 32 - DUCKS 25
The Oregon Ducks (6-4, 3-4) were unable to complete the comeback against the Utah Utes (7-3, 5-3).
After falling behind 19-7 in the first half, Oregon rallied by scoring 10 unanswered points in the third. However, the Ducks’ offense was unable to sustain drives late in the game and the defense failed to stop Utah’s duo of backups in the backfield. Oregon would take back the lead with 8:15 left in the fourth quarter, but ultimately the Utes proved too much on both sides of the ball.
Justin Herbert: 20/33 - 288 YDS - 3 TD
Things got off to a rocky start for Justin Herbert and the passing game. In fact, his first completed pass didn’t take place until the second quarter.
Herbert’s first completion took place on 3rd & 12, and it was a 28-yard screen pass to CJ Verdell. The drive resulted in Oregon’s first score, a perfect pass to Dillon Mitchell which cut the lead to 13-7.
The junior quarterback was strip sacked in his first drive by Chase Hansen who blew past would-be blocker Tony Brooks-James. The next two drives resulted in three-and-outs for the Oregon offense. Verdell’s catch seemed to spark Herbert’s confidence.
Coming out of the half down 19-7, Herbert drove down the field 75 yards in nine plays, finishing with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell.
Then, after Oregon and Utah traded field goals to make it 22-17, the Ducks took advantage of amazing field position due to a blocked punt by Kano Dillon. A short touchdown pass to Travis Dye followed by a two-point conversion gave Oregon its first lead of the game with 8:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Dillon Mitchell: 8 rec - 169 YDS - 2 TD
CJ Verdell: 3 rec - 64 YDS
Brenden Schooler: 4 rec - 43 YDS
Jacob Breeland: 1 rec - 10 YDS
Travis Dye: 2 rec - 8 YDS - 1 TD
Steven Jones: 1 rec - (-2) YDS
Johnny Johnson III: 1 rec - (-4) YDS
To the surprise of no one, Mitchell was Herbert’s most targeted player, and for good reason. The junior amassed 169 yards on eight receptions, which included the amazing touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Herbert’s dependence on Mitchell is a tad unsettling, but it’s hard to argue that he’s not his best option on nearly every play, especially when you look at the numbers for the rest of Oregon’s receivers.
Verdell had a couple of screens that went for big yardage- one that went for 28 yards and extended Oregon’s first scoring drive and another that went for 22 yards and resulted in a fumble that was luckily recovered by Brenden Schooler.
Outside of Mitchell and Schooler, the receiving corps was once again ineffective. Fun stat of the game: Offensive lineman Steven Jones had more receiving yards (-2 yards) then Johnny Johnson III (-4 yards) after Jones unwisely caught a tipped pass.
Travis Dye: 9 car - 66 YDS
CJ Verdell: 11 car - 28 YDS
Justin Herbert: 10 car - 24 YDS
Tony Brooks-James: 1 car - 1 YD
Jaylon Redd: 1 car - (-2) Yds
Utah was determined to shutdown the run and Oregon’s ever-changing offensive line was in a good position to let them do so.
The Ducks were held to just 117 yards rushing on 32 attempts and were forced to abandon the run game after it became clear they couldn’t reliably pick up yards. Verdell and Dye took the majority of carries, though Herbert had a few huge runs that extended drives.
Backup quarterback Jason Shelley made a name for himself against U of O’s secondary, and backup running back Armand Shyne made short work of the Ducks’ run defense.
Jason Shelley: 18/31 - 262 YDS - 13 car - 22 YDS - 2 RTD
Armand Shyne: 26 car - 174 YDS
Britain Covey: 3 car - 29 YDS - 4 rec - 48 YDS
Cole Fotheringham: 5 rec - 76 YDS
Chase Hansen: 13 tackles - 1 sack - 3 TFL
Cody Barton: 11 tackles - 1 sack - 3 TFL
The first Utah drive had a moment that looked promising: on 3rd & 7, freshman Shelley was backed up to his own 7-yard line. This would have been the perfect time for Oregon’s defense to silence the crowd and instill doubt into the opponent.
Instead, Shelley completed a 14-yard pass to Britain Covey to keep the drive alive. Then, junior running back Shyne ran 42 yards on the very next play. With two snaps, these players showed all or Rice-Eccles Stadium that they were ready to be starters- and more importantly, beat this pesky Oregon team that had caused so much trouble for them since Utah joined the PAC.
Shelley threw for 262 yards and ran in two touchdowns. The freshman handled the ball with a veteran-like composure and was also mobile enough to extend plays after avoiding Oregon’s pass rush. Shyne ran for 174 yards and although he didn’t score he punished the Ducks’ linebackers on a regular basis.
Utah struggled on 3rd down offensively, going 4 of 16. However, their clean play gave them an advantage over Oregon, the Utes had three penalties for 25 yards while the Ducks had 7 for 63 yards, and winning the turnover battle 1-0 is testament to how well Shelley played. Also, Hansen’s strip sack gave the Utes the early momentum that ended up carrying them to a victory.
The Utes will now be cheering, perhaps more enthusiastically than the majority of Oregon’s student section, for the Ducks to beat the Sun Devils Saturday as they attempt to reach their first ever PAC-12 championship game.
UTES PASSING: 262 YDS
UTES RUSHING: 232 YDS - 2 TDS
TURNOVERS: Ducks 1 - Utes 0
Oregon’s defense ultimately fell short of their expectations, allowing 32 points to a team missing two star players, but they should still be credited with forcing five punts and six field goals when it could have been much worse.
Especially in the first half, when Oregon’s offense had four of its five drives end without a score the Ducks’ defense held the Utes to 19 points. Utah only managed a field goal in the third quarter, allowing Justin Herbert to help take the lead in the fourth.
Shelley then proceeded to pick apart the secondary, capping his drive by running it in for a score to take the lead. This was followed by Shyne driving down the field and setting up a field goal, the last score of the game.
Oregon got the ball back with 11 seconds left but the drive ended around the 50.
Perhaps a defensive turnover could have turned the game in Oregon’s favor, who knows. In the end it seemed like the loss of Apelu and then the mid-game loss of his replacement, Sampson Niu, proved too difficult a loss to overcome.
ALL-GANG GREEN TEAM
- Thomas Graham Jr. had nine tackles, a sack and two tackles for a loss.
- Nick Pickett had nine tackles.
- Troy Dye, Keith Simms, and Sampson Niu all had eight tackles apiece. Niu also had a few impressive moments before he left due to injury.
SALUTE TO SPECIAL TEAMS
Sure, Matt Gay was once again amazing, hitting all 6 of his field goals including a 55 yarder to end the half, but Oregon had a few special team highlights of their own. No, not with their field goal kicker Adam Stack, who went 1-of-2, but in the punt coverage game.
Sampson Niu left at the half, Steven Jones left late in the game, Justin Hollins left but came back, Cyrus Habibi-Likio was seen on crutches, CJ Verdell left at the half.
NEXT UP: ARIZONA STATE
Saturday, 11/17, Eugene, Oregon