DUCKS 37 - COUGARS 35
The Oregon Ducks (7-1, 5-0) barely beat the Washington State Cougars (4-4, 1-4) at home by a score of 37 to 35. Freshman kicker Camden Lewis was carried off the field after nailing the short game-winning field goal as time expired.
Perhaps some Duck fans would consider it premature or unrealistic to be talking about playoffs with four games left in the season after struggling against a team with only one conference win, but after a disastrous week for BIG-12 contender Oklahoma the PAC-12’s chances have drastically increased for a playoff bid, even if it is still unlikely.
Putting aside the postseason pipe dreams, Oregon’s defensive performance raises some questions as far as pass defense is concerned, especially with USC’s talented receiving corps coming up. The Washington schools have highlighted some of Oregon’s deficiencies, but have also produced some clutch performances in crucial situations, experiences that could pay dividends to close out the season.
Justin Herbert: 21/30 - 222 YDS
Coming into this match-up, Justin Herbert had a streak of 35 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, but the success of CJ Verdell on the ground and the speedy pass rush of the Washington State defenders led to that streak being broken at Autzen last Saturday.
But a more important streak, that is the streak of four consecutive losses to Mike Leach and Washington State, was broken thanks in large part to Herbert’s composure on the final drive of the game. Down by one point with one minute remaining, the hometown hero led his team on a 7-play, 53-yard game-winning drive in which he completed all four of his passing attempts for a combined 52 yards. And on 2nd-and-goal with 14 seconds remaining, he ran the ball to the center of the field, drained the clock, and knelt to set up the field goal.
This season has shown us that Herbert’s best quality as a quarterback is to protect the ball, evident by his season record of 21 touchdowns and one interception. The Cougar defenders were able to sack Herbert three times in this game, and each of them could have been prevented by some better decision making by the quarterback. but in a game that came down to the final play the fact that Herbert led the Ducks on touchdown drives at the beginning and end of the second half should earn the quarterback some praise.
He certainly wasn’t perfect, the overthrown swing pass to Verdell on 3rd-and-6 with 3:16 in the fourth comes to mind, but in the end he did what was needed to remain undefeated in conference play.
CJ Verdell: 23 car - 257 YDS - 89 long - 3 TD
Cyrus Habibi-Likio: 12 car - 48 YDS - 17 long
Travis Dye: 3 car - 8 YDS - 3 long
Jaylon Redd: 1 car - 1 YD
Justin Herbert: 8 car - (-8) YDS - 12 long
CJ Verdell amassed more yards on the ground than Herbert had in the air. Verdell was by far the most important player on this Oregon offense, amassing a career high 257 yards and scoring three touchdowns. The sophomore running back had nine runs that reached double-digit yardage, including an 89-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, four carries that went further than 26 yards, and also ran 15 times for more than four yards. He was patient and made a handful of cuts for huge yardage; simply put, he was the best player on the field this game.
Cyrus Habibi-Likio was used mainly to give Verdell a break after particularly long runs. He amassed 48 yards and would have likely scored a short-yardage touchdown but in a twist of fate, after receiving five consecutive carries, Verdell was called back in to score the 1-yard touchdown that put the Ducks up 31 to 20. Seems fair as Habibi-Likio has seen more than his share of easy goal-line scores.
Travis Dye received three carries and performed his usual kickoff duties until a helmet to helmet hit took him out the game in the first half. Justin Herbert was much more mobile than in previous games and nearly picked up a first down before a questionable spot by the ref put him behind the line, just one of many questionable calls by the PAC-12 refs.
Juwan Johnson: 4 rec - 64 YDS - 24 long
CJ Verdell: 4 rec - 56 YDS - 27 long
Spencer Webb: 3 rec - 42 YDS - 18 long
Jaylon Redd: 4 rec - 25 YDS - 11 long
Cyrus Habibi-Likio: 3 rec - 15 YDS - 6 long
Bryan Addison: 1 rec - 11 YDS
Johnny Johnson III: 1 rec - 7 - YDS - 2PT conversion
Mycah Pittman: 1 rec - 2 YDS
As previously stated, no Duck receiver caught a touchdown in this game, but that doesn’t mean the passing was ineffective. CJ Verdell added to his already impressive night by catching four passes for 56 yards and signs of progress from Spencer Webb and Juwan Johnson could prove to be revelations in the near future.
On a night where go-to target Jaylon Redd seemed to disappear, Juwan Johnson caught four crucial passes making this his best game in a Duck uniform to date. After transferring from Penn State, the receiver was sidelined for most of the season, leaving some fans to wonder if he was the reincarnation of Tabari Hines. However, Johnson proved his doubters wrong by gaining 39 of Oregon’s 53 yards in the final game-winning drive, including a 24-yard reception which nearly went the distance.
Spencer Webb also made a big impression by helping to ease the transition to a post-Breeland season by catching three passes for 42 yards. If he can improve his blocking, the young tight end could be in line for an uptick in playing time.
Cyrus Habibi-Likio caught three balls but was not a huge factor in the passing game, while Bryan Addison, Johnny Johnson III, and Mycah Pittman each had one reception. Johnson III’s was an especially tough catch as a Wazzu defender smashed into him in midair as he caught a two-point conversion in the third quarter.
Anthony Gordon and the Wazzu offense looked unstoppable throughout the game, but a couple of miscues and a porous defense once again doomed the Cougars.
Anthony Gordon: 32/50 - 406 YDS - 3 TD - 2 INT
Max Borghi: 8 car - 54 YDS - 1 TD - 16 long - 8 rec - 70 YDS - 18 long
Brandon Arconado: 9 rec - 130 YDS - 2 TD - 28 long
Dezmon Patmon: 5 rec - 56 YDS - 19 long
Renard Bell: 2 rec - 26 YDS - 15 long - 1 TD
Jahad Woods: 13 tackles - 9 solo
Justus Rogers: 9 tackles - 6 solo
The Washington State offense exploited Oregon’s defense like no other team this season. Anthony Gordon put up a hell of an effort in a loss, a far too common occurrence this season if you’re a Cougar fan, and nearly delivered the upset in hellish Autzen.
Brandon Arconado had his best game of the season with nine receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Outside of his costly dropped touchdown pass, the receiver played an outstanding game and terrorized Oregon’s secondary all night.
Max Borghi continued to be Wazzu’s version of Christian McCaffrey, picking up 70 yards on eight receptions and 54 yards and one touchdown on eight carries. Renard bell also scored on a 15-yard touchdown reception and contributed to the Cougars big day through the air.
But the problem for Washington State wasn’t scoring points, it was stopping them. A solid first half performance was sullied by Gordon’s costly decision to throw deep from his own end zone resulting in Jevon Holland’s pick six. Pressure from Ron Stone Jr and Will Rodgers III forced the Duck offense into some bad spots, but after forcing a punt to set up Gordon’s last minute touchdown the Cougs were unable to keep Oregon out of Camden Lewis field goal range.
COUGAR PASSING: 32/50 - 406 YDS - 3 TD - 2 INT
COUGAR RUSHING: 15 car - 40 YDS - 1 TD
COUGAR 3RD DOWN: 1 of 9
TURNOVERS FORCED: Ducks 2 - Cougars 0
After building a reputation on keeping opposing offenses out of the end zone, Andy Avalos’ squad has had back-to-back weeks allowing more than 30 points against PAC-12 foes. Just like Jacob Eason the game before, Anthony Gordon picked apart the Duck defense who sat in zone and rarely rushed more than three.
The absence of Troy Dye played a significant part in Oregon’s lax coverage, but credit should also be given to Mike Leach, Anthony Gordon, Brandon Arconado, and Max Borghi for executing an effective game plan. Looking at Wazzu’s stats after the Oregon game, the Cougars are averaging 521.9 yards (6th in the nation) and 41.8 points per game (8th in the nation).
This Duck defense held their last five opponents to less than 300 yards, but the Huskies were able to tally 433 in Seattle and the Cougs 446 in Eugene. Oregon was very fortunate to hold Washington State to just three points on their first three drive. Wazzu’s opening drive was able to reach the Oregon 3-yard line, but back to back holds forced them to settle for a 36-yard field goal. The Ducks stopped their next drive in four plays, but Anthony Gordon drove his team down the field and put the ball in the hands of Arconado in the end zone who in turn put the ball in the hands of Verone McKinley.
The gift from the Cougs was certainly one of the defensive highlights for the Ducks, the other two that will be remembered is Mase Funa’s 10-yard sack on 1st-and-15 and then Jevon Holland’s 19-yard pick six two plays later. As impressive as Holland’s touchdown was, and it certainly was mighty impressive, the 17-10 lead lasted for only one minute and four seconds as the productive Wazzu offense (and the puzzling PAC-12 refs, who struggled to make quick, accurate calls) tied it up with a 3-play, 59-yard drive.
After allowing 17 points in the first half, Oregon was gifted a three-and-out when a bad snap flew to the side of Gordon and lost Washington State 15 yards on first down. On the next Cougar drive, three different receivers had double-digit receptions, but a couple incompletions held them to a field goal.
Oregon built on their lead with CJ Verdell’s touchdown early in the fourth quarter. however, Washington State met little resistance when they marched down the filed for 78 yards in 7 plays thanks in large part to the impressive play of Brandon Arconado.
The Ducks forced a three-and-out with 5:56 left in the game, but after a decision by Cristobal to punt on 4th-and-6 at the Wazzu 33, the defense was right back on the field with the opportunity to win the game.
However, unlike against Washington, the Duck defense wasn’t able to hold strong in the fourth quarter, allowing Wazzu to move the ball 90 yards in 8 plays (aided by the most puzzling of pass interference calls on Deommodore Lenoir who attempted to make a play on the ball with a receivers hand on his neck) for what could have been the game-winning touchdown.
Thank goodness for Camden Lewis, who missed a point-after in this game but made the kick of his short career for the win.
ALL-GANG GREEN TEAM
- Verone McKinley III: 7 tackles - 5 solo - 1 INT
- Jevon Holland: 6 tackles - 4 solo - 1 INT - 1 TD
- Mase Funa: 2 tackles - 1 solo - 1 TFL - 1 sack