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Ducks Battle Through Injuries, Dominate Colorado at Autzen

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Oregon win 45 to 3!

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

EUGENE, OREGON

DUCKS 45 - BUFFS 3

The Oregon Ducks (5-1, 3-0) dominated the Colorado Buffaloes (3-3, 1-2) both on offense and defense, resulting in a 45-to-3 victory at home.

The Ducks played their most complete conference game of the season against one of the PAC-12’s best offenses. Oregon nabbed four interceptions and scored 21 points off of them. Steven Montez was the best challenge so far for this Duck defense and they passed with flying colors.

Oregon’s offense also had a fantastic day despite losing one of their most important pieces in tight end Jacob Breeland. Jaylon Redd and Cyrus Habibi-Likio scored a combined five touchdowns and CJ Verdell had his best game of the year.

After a series of losses in the PAC-12 North, Oregon controls its own destiny going into Seattle next week. And if Cristobal is able to keep this team disciplined and healthy, anything is possible, including their first PAC-12 championship game since 2014.


OREGON PASSING

Justin Herbert: 18/32 - 261 YDS - 2 TD

Tyler Shough: 1/2 - 14 YDS

Oregon’s opening drive set the tone for the night: 10 plays, 75 yards, 3 minutes and 23 seconds resulting in a touchdown. Justin Herbert threw the ball seven out of ten times on this first drive, and the Ducks were able to overcome a comically high snap (reminiscent of last year’s Stanford @ Oregon game) that put them at 2nd-and-29.

Back-to-back passes to Jaylon Redd for 22 yards and 17 yards got the Ducks back on track, then Jacob Breeland made two plays for a combined 31 yards and a touchdown.

The next drive also featured a heavy dose of Herbert, and twice on fourth down Cristobal elected to keep the ball in his senior quarterback’s hands, the second time leading to a turnover on downs after failing to connect with CJ Verdell. Oregon’s third drive settled for a field goal. Herbert rocketed a potential touchdown pass to grad transferJuwan Johnson in his season debut but he wasn’t able to hold on.

Perhaps Herbert’s most impressive drive took place with 1:27 left on the clock in the second quarter. In just eight plays, Herbert led his team in an 80-yard touchdown drive that included huge passes to Mycah Pittman and Johnny Johnson III.

Herbert threw the ball for 16 of 28 in the first half, but due to an influx of Colorado turnovers, a handful of explosive run plays, and a late-game appearance by backup Tyler Shough for mop-up duty, Herbert only passed the ball four times in the second half. After a 12-yard sack at the 8:07 mark in the third, Cristobal clearly made the decision to limit the amount of risk surrounding Herbert through playcalling.

Overall, another impressive performance by the hometown hero.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

OREGON RECEIVING

Jaylon Redd: 4 rec - 75 YDS - 1 TD - 23 long

Mycah Pittman: 3 rec - 57 YDS - 39 long

Jacob Breeland: 3 rec - 53 YDS - 1 TD - 24 long

Juwan Johnson: 2 rec - 36 YDS - 22 long

Johnny Johnson III: 2 rec - 24 YDS - 14 long

Daewood Davis: 1 rec - 14 YDS

CJ Verdell: 2 rec - 8 YDS - 7 long

Darrian Felix: 1 rec - 4 YDS

Bryan Addison: 1 rec - 4 YDS

The Oregon receiving corps continues to improve on a weekly basis, mainly due to the decrease in drops by veteran receivers and the addition of three passcatchers who were injured in fall camp, but a lower body injury to Breeland in the first quarter has the potential to stall the progress of this unit; the tight end has become Herbert’s go-to target, unfortunately, out of the four injuries suffered on Friday (Jacob Breeland, Dallas Warmack, Troy Dye, and Jevon Holland) this appeared to be the most serious.

Redd scored his sixth touchdown of the season. He’s caught one touchdown in each of the last five games and has proven himself at least as reliable and lethal as Breeland in the passing game. Redd was also responsible for Oregon’s final score of the half, a three-yard touchdown run to put the Ducks up 24 to 3.

Pittman once again delighted Duck fans with his sure-hands, catching three balls for 57 yards. Nearly 40 of those yards came off a single play that contributed to Oregon’s last-minute second quarter touchdown drive right before the half to give the Ducks a 21-point lead.

In addition to having similar names, Johnny Johnson III and Juwan Johnson had similar games. Each receiver finished with two receptions, though Juwan found more yards after the catch than Johnny. Following the departure of Breeland, it was comforting to see Juwan’s large frame barreling past defenders and generally using his size to his advantage, though a dropped pass in the end zone brought back memories of last year’s receiving corps. Hopefully we can chalk that up to this being his first game back from injury and first game as a Duck.

Daewood Davis caught a single pass for fourteen yards in garbage time from Tyler Shough, and the running backs didn’t amount to much in the passing game. Then again, it didn’t seem necessary to involve the running backs too much, as Oregon’s receivers found little resistance from Colorado’s secondary when it came to picking up yards.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

OREGON RUSHING

CJ Verdell: 14 car - 171 YDS - 70 long

Travis Dye: 3 car - 54 YDS - 47 long

Cyrus Habibi-Likio: 13 car - 47 YDS - 3 TD - 8 long

Darrian Felix: 3 car - 8 YDS - 8 long

Jaylon Redd: 1 car - 3 YDS

Justin Herbert: 1 car - (-12)

Having missed the large majority of the California game due to injury, Verdell seemed eager to get back to work. On 14 carries, the sophomore tallied a season-high 171 yards as well as a season-long 70-yard run that set up the game’s final touchdown. Colorado may not have the most elite rushing defense, but it was encouraging to see Verdell find success coming off his brief appearance against the Golden Bears.

After successfully passing the ball throughout the first couple of drives, the Ducks began to rely on the run game and were rewarded. Cyrus Habibi-Likio for the moment has claimed Travis Dye’s roll as running back 1-B, most likely due to Dye’s costly pair of fumbles against Cal, while maintaining his duties as goal-line specialist. The sophomore finished with three touchdowns (none of which were longer than three-yard runs) and also helped the Ducks maintain their offensive momentum through a handful of good mid-field runs.

The Ducks’ run game really drove the point home on their final scoring drive, beginning at the end of the third quarter: a Verdell 70-yard run, then five consecutive runs from Habibi-Likio for the score.

After returning the opening kick off, Dye didn’t make an appearance until the 6:29 mark in the fourth quarter. To his credit, his second carry went off for 47 yards. Darrian Felix also received some carries, but they were in garbage time.

How bad was this game for the Buffs? Colorado had more interceptions thrown than points scored, and finished with 14 penalties for 114 yards.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

NOTABLE BUFFALOES

Steven Montez: 19/34 - 131 YDS - 4 INT - 3 car - 12 YDS - 14 long

Alex Fontenot: 15 car - 71 YDS - 20 long - 3 rec - 12 YDS - 11 long

Jaren Mangham: 10 car - 42 YDS - 9 long - 1 rec - 3 YDS

Laviska Shenault Jr.: 4 rec - 70 YDS - 24 long

Nate Landman: 14 tackles - 10 solo - 2 TFL

Mikial Onu: 9 tackles - 4 solo

Terrance Lang: 2 tackle - 2 solo - 1 sack - 1 TFL

The Colorado Buffaloes came into this game averaging 34.6 points. Their most talented player, Laviska Shenault Jr., was back from injury and quarterback Steven Montez was hoping to round out his career with another upset in Autzen.

But this beat-up squad was only able to tally three points when all was said and done, despite having some success moving the ball up and down the field. After their first drive ended in a three-and-out, Colorado traveled 72 yards in 13 plays but chose to kick the field goal when they were stalled at the Oregon 9 on 4th-and-2.

In hindsight, perhaps Mel Tucker should have gone for it, now that we know how dominant this Duck defense would be in this game. Though it’s possible that wouldn’t have made a difference, because out of the five drives in which Colorado reached the red zone two of them ended in end zone interceptions, one of them a turnover on downs and the other a missed field goal from the Oregon 16.

As the Duck lead grew the Buffs became more desperate for points resulting in more risks and more turnovers - four to be exact, all through the air. It took roughly five minues for Oregon to score 21 points thanks to those interceptions, and despite having a great group of receivers Colorado was unable to make the game-changing receptions that have been their calling card this season.

Autzen deserves its fair share of the credit as eight of Colorado’s 14 penalties were false starts. The endless pressure from the Duck front seven also contributed to the influx of mental mistakes as a handful of holding calls were also committed, and Oregon’s defensive line movement seemed to fluster the Colorado o-line. The Ducks also committed a surprising amount of penalties themselves, 10 for 119 yards, but they were able to overcome the flag-happy refs through dominant play.

Colorado still has a shot at the wild PAC-12 South, though I’m sure they’d be happy not to meet up with the Ducks again should they make it to the PAC-12 championship game.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

OREGON DEFENSE

COLORADO PASSING: 19/34 - 131 YDS - 4 INT

COLORADO RUSHING: 40 car - 168 YDS

COLORADO 3RD DOWN: 9 of 18

TURNOVERS FORCED: Ducks 4 - Buffs 0

Don’t let the 45 points fool you, this game again belonged to the Oregon defense. For the fifth game in a row, the Ducks have limited their opponent to under eight points. Colorado is statistically the best offense that Oregon has faced so far, yet the Duck D still managed to limit the Buffs to 299 yards.

Perhaps the most telling stat of the game is the turnover ratio, which Oregon won 4 to 0. After Dye and Holland collided in the first half, Verone McKinley III saw an increase in playing time and quickly had a huge effect on the game. Down 17 to 3 late in the second quarter, Colorado was able to get to the Oregon 1-yard line. However, a couple Buff penalties put them back to the 11 and as Montez attempted to connect with tight end Brady Russell on third-and-goal safety Haki Woods Jr. blanketed him, and as the ball deflected off Russell’s hand McKinley was able to launch over the two and nab the pick while just barely managing to tap a toe on the turf.

Colorado’s next three drives would end in similar fashion. Shortly after returning from halftime, Montez had a pass that was deflected and eagerly gobbled up by STUD linebacker Bryson Young at the Buff 26-yard line. Colorado’s following drive ended once again with a McKinley III pick, though this time the sensational resdshirt freshman nearly scored by returning it 53 yards. And after finally establishing a potential scoring drive in the second half, Montez again had a pass ricochet off a well-covered receiver (this time it was Shenault Jr, who kicked the ball into the air, covered again by the sensational Woods Jr.) and fall into the hands of a Duck defensive back - Nick Pickett.

The Ducks scored 21 points off those four consecutive turnovers, effectively erasing any shot of a comeback for the visiting team. Oregon’s flurry of points in the second and third quarter forced Colorado to go for it on fourth when they normally would have settled for a field goal, contributing to the defensive effort. Third down was hellish for the Buffs, finishing 9 of 18, and their two fourth down attempts ended first in an end zone interception, then in a loss of yards for a turnover on downs.

Despite losing a couple star defensive players in Holland and Dye for a majority of this game, Avalos’ squad remained disciplined. Backup linebacker Sampson Niu finished with a team high nine tackles and the increased playing time for McKinley III added some impressive highlights to his reel. Overall, 27 Duck defenders recorded a tackle, which is a testament to both Oregon’s depth and their thorough domination of the Buffaloes.

ALL-GANG GREEN TEAM

  • Verone McKinley III: 5 tackles - 3 solo - 2 INT
  • Sampson Niu: 9 tackles - 5 solo
  • Haki Woods: 6 tackles - 4 solo - 1 TFL
  • Thomas Graham Jr.: 5 tackles - 4 solo - 1.5 TFL
  • Bryson Young: 5 tackles - 2 solo - 1 INT
  • Nick Pickett: 2 tackles - 2 solo - 1 INT
  • LaMar Winston Jr.: 2 tackles - 1 solo - 1 sack - 1 TFL
  • Nate Heaukulani: 1 tackle - 1 solo - 1 sack - 1 TFL

NEXT UP: wASHINGTON HUSKIES

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports