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Oregon’s Loss to Arizona State Highlights Weaknesses Ahead of Civil War

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On to the Civil War!

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

TEMPE, ARIZONA

SUN DEVILS 31 - OREGON 28

The #6 Oregon Ducks (9-2, 7-1) were upset by the Arizona State Sun Devils (6-5, 3-5) by a score of 31 to 28. The Ducks were effectively eliminated from the playoff conversation after a fourth quarter comeback fell just short of preserving Oregon’s perfect record in conference play.

An 81-yard pass to Brandon Aiyuk was the final blow to Oregon’s playoff hopes as the Arizona State Sun Devils played their best football of the season against the heavily favored Ducks. Jayden Daniels may be a freshman, but his decision making and deep-ball accuracy made him appear like a four-year starter, unlike Oregon’s actual four-year starter who regressed to a freshman level of play.

The mistakes made by the Ducks in this game have been present throughout the season, but credit is due to the Sun Devils and head coach Herm Edwards who were able to take advantage of Oregon’s weaknesses for the win. The season is far from lost for the Ducks, who still have rival Oregon State ahead as well as a PAC-12 championship game and a potential Rose Bowl appearance, but another performance like this could sour what could be a dream season.

OREGON PASSING

Justin Herbert: 20/36 - 304 YDS - 2 INT - 2 TD

Justin Herbert’s career record against the Sun Devils is two wins in Eugene and two losses in Tempe: In his freshman year, Herbert tied a program-high 489 passing yards against the Sun Devils for his first victory as a starting quarterback for the Ducks, but a season later Manny Wilkins and N’Keal Harry picked on the Oregon secondary to upset the 3-0 Ducks and deliver Willie Taggart his first loss at Oregon. Herbert delivered a heart-breaker to the Sun Devils when the Ducks knocked them out of the PAC-12 Championship game with a 31-29 victory at Autzen, but the Devils got their revenge this year when Brandon Aiyuk and Jayden Daniels picked on the Oregon secondary to knock the Ducks out of the playoffs and earn their bowl bid.

The last time Herbert had a game in which he threw multiple interceptions was last season against, you guessed it, the Sun Devils. A few factors that added to the senior quarterback’s off night was the absence of wide receiver Jaylon Redd, Oregon’s leader in receptions who sat out due to an injury in the rib area, and starting center Jake Hanson who was injured in the first half and was replaced by right tackle Calvin Throckmorton.

However, Herbert’s poor performance can’t be chalked up to these injuries alone. Late in the game, Johnny Johnson III and Herbert established a rhythm that was reminiscent of Dillon Mitchell’s role last season. But before that final 8:42 stretch (in which Herbert picked up 177 yards, two touchdowns and connected on 10 of his 14 passes) he was 10 of 22 with two interceptions.

Oregon’s first pass of the game was to Juwan Johnson for a 25-yard gain, but after Herbert was sacked for a one-yard loss on the next play the quarterback was unable to keep the drive going when he threw an incompletion on 3rd-and-6. The Duck defense forced a three-and-out from the Sun Devils and then the offense produced their most successful drive of the first half by moving 80 yards in 11 plays for the game’s first touchdown. a five-yard Cyrus Habibi-Likio run.

The Ducks’ only scoring drive of the half was set up by a couple long passes to Johnson III (a small taste of what the receiver would do late in the game), but otherwise it was the work of CJ Verdell and CHL that got Oregon into the end zone first.

Oregon’s next possession traveled nine plays and 69 yards before dying at the ASU 6-yard line when Verdell failed to convert on 4th-and-1. Herbert only threw the ball three times in this pointless drive but connected with three different receivers, but his next outing was doomed from the start when Daewood Davis’ reverse lost nine yards on first down and Herbert failed to pass his way out of the deficit. And with 3:40 left in the half, down by three, Herbert led a three-and-out that finished with an incompletion to Johnson III on 3rd-and-3.

Things didn’t get much better for the QB when he returned for the third quarter; Herbert threw three consecutive incompletions to end his first drive of the second half, then took an eight-yard sack from Khaylan Kearse-Thomas on 3rd-and-8.

Going into the final quarter, Arizona State had a 13-7 lead. The Ducks were on their own 31-yard line when Herbert threw an interception to Jack Jones on the first play of the quarter, the Sun Devils scored a touchdown four plays later. Then, on his next throw Herbert was picked off again, this time by Khaylan Kearse-Thomas at the Oregon 32. Once more, Arizona State took advantage of the turnover by scoring and suddenly the Sun Devils had a 17-point lead with less than nine minutes left in the game.

The late game heroics on offense were nearly enough for another Oregon comeback, but three quarters of off-target passes, interceptions and near-interceptions proved too much to overcome.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

OREGON RECEIVING

Johnny Johnson III: 10 rec - 207 YDS - 39 long - 2 TD

Juwan Johnson: 3 rec - 41 YDS - 25 long

Spencer Webb: 2 rec - 28 YDS - 17 long

Travis Dye: 2 rec - 20 YDS - 14 long

Brian Addison: 1 rec - 5 YDS

Josh Delgado: 1 rec - 3 YDS

Cyrus Habibi-Likio: 1 rec - 0 YDS

Unfortunately, Johnny Johnson III’s best game of his career came in a heartbreaking loss; this was the first time the junior recorded double-digit receptions or triple-digit yardage. Oregon’s 3-play, 43-second, 66-yard touchdown drive to cut the Sun Devil lead to three consisted of 19, 23, and 24-yard passes to Johnson III. And unlike the rest of the passing game, the wide receiver was successful throughout the night, finishing with nine catches in the double digits and five plays of over 20 yards.

Outside of the first play of the game in which Juwan Johnson caught a ball for 25 yards, the recently red-hot receiver went cold, tallying just two more catches for a combined 16 yards. Spencer Webb and Travis Dye each caught a couple of passes but were ultimately ineffective in the passing game. Brian Addison and Josh Delgado were also unable to make much of an impression with only a single reception apiece and Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s lone catch came on the final Duck drive of the game and failed to earn a yard.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

OREGON RUSHING

CJ Verdell: 18 car - 99 YDS - 13 long

Travis Dye: 5 car - 58 YDS - 23 long

Cyrus Habibi-Likio: 2 car - 15 YDS - 2 TDS

Justin Herbert: 2 car - (-9) YDS

Daewood Davis: 1 car - (-9) YDS

Oregon’s running backs put in an admirable effort and could have likely benefited with a few more touches considering the play of Justin Herbert. CJ Verdell fell just one-yard shy of 100 and failed to finish the game after an undisclosed injury. Coach Mario Cristobal assured the press that it was nothing serious, but concern over the fact that injury has now benched Verdell in five of Oregon’s 11 games is valid.

Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio also found success in the running game, though in their own way; Dye averaged more than 11 yards with five carries and CHL scored two touchdowns despite only carrying the ball twice. The success of the run game has aided Herbert in the past, but even when the QB was put in a promising position he failed to connect on a handful of crucial plays that would have kept the momentum on the Ducks’ side.

Arizona State takes advantage of Oregon’s season-long deficiencies through the fantastic play of true-freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels.

Oregon v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

NOTABLE SUN DEVILS

Jayden Daniels: 22/32 FG - 408 YDS - 3 TD - 8 car - 10 YDS

Eno Benjamin: 31 car - 114 YDS - 5 rec - 54 YDS

Brandon Aiyuk: 7 rec - 161 YDS - 81 long - 1 TD

Frank Darby: 4 rec - 125 YDS - 57 long - 2 TD

Cam Phillips: 10 tackles - 6 solo

Khaylan Kearse-Thomas: 7 tackles - 4 solo - 1 sack - 1 TFL - 1 INT

Jack Jones: 2 tackles - 2 solo - 1 INT

In many ways, Arizona State was everything that Oregon was not. Behind a porous offensive line, freshman Jayden Daniels used his mobility to extend plays and even drives by comfortably picking up yardage on the ground when the Duck defense gave him an opportunity. It was the polar opposite of Justin Herbert, who looked uncomfortable for three quarters and was not a threat in the run game.

Daniels was also able to take advantage of Oregon’s stacked box by challenging the secondary with on-target bombs downfield, a feat that Herbert is capable of but is only occasionally able to realize. Brandon Aiyuk and Frank Darby had a combined 286 yards through the air and accounted for three touchdowns, while running back Eno Benjamin came up big in a handful of crucial plays.

The Sun Devil defense tallied two crucial takeaways (and, honestly, should have had a couple more) that resulted in ten points. They were able to survive a fourth quarter Duck rally by trusting their two best playmakers to win them the game, and they did so in spectacular fashion. Perhaps the most valuable lesson that the Ducks can take away from this loss is the value of a good kicker; Sun Devils field goal kicker Christian Zendejas was a perfect 3-of-3, and ASU’s ability to rely on him for points was crucial when you consider Oregon was unable/unwilling to trust their own.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

OREGON DEFENSE

SUN DEVIL PASSING: 22/33 - 408 YDS - 81 long - 3 TD

SUN DEVIL RUSHING: 41 CAR - 127 YDS - 14 long

SUN DEVIL 3RD DOWN: 5 of 16

TURNOVERS FORCED: Ducks 0 - Sun Devil 2

Deommodore Lenoir being burned by Brandon Aiyuk on the game-winning 81-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-16 is what the defense will be remembered for when fans talk about this game in the future, but the Duck defense as a whole did a remarkable job keeping this game within striking distance before Herbert’s consecutive picks on the Duck side of the field let them down.

Arizona State was forced to punt on their first drive of the game, but after the Ducks went up 7-0 Jayden Daniels responded with a beautiful 57-yard pass to Frank Darby in the end zone. The Duck D tightened up on the Sun Devils’ next possession and forced a punt, but after Oregon’s offense went three-and-out Arizona State was able to move 69 yard in 11 before finally being stopped at the Oregon 7 and settling for a field goal.

The Ducks were lucky to be down 10 to 7 at the half, and when the Sun Devils returned to the field in the third quarter Daniels connected with Kyle Williams for a 46-yard gain that was spotted an extra nine yards due to a face mask. To Oregon’s credit, despite Arizona State reaching 1st-and-goal, the Duck defense once again held their opponent to a field goal.

The score was 13-7 in favor of ASU when Oregon forced them into consecutive punts, but Herbert’s turnovers gave the Sun Devils fields of 32 and 20 yards, resulting in 11 straight points for the home team.

Johnny Johnson’s pair of touchdowns sandwiched a three-and-out from Arizona State and suddenly the momentum was on Oregon’s side. With five minutes left on the clock, Bryson Young and Austin Faoliu were finally able to wrangle Jayden Daniels for a sack, setting up 3rd-and-16 at the ASU 19 with plenty of time to take the lead. However, Lenoir bit hard on Aiyuk’s fake cut and the rest is history.

The Ducks were able to score quick enough to give the defense a glimmer of hope, but after a failed on-side kick, Arizona State was able to pick up the necessary first down to run out the clock. The conclusion was made extra bitter with an injury to Kayvon Thibodeaux on the penultimate play.

This young defense is Oregon’s best shot at a successful 2020 campaign, but they are not yet at a level where they can remain competitive when the offense stalls and even detracts from the overall progress of the team. Their final test of the season looks much more challenging than it did at the beginning of the year as Oregon State’s offense has drastically improved in Jonathan Smith’s second year as head coach.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

ALL-GANG GREEN TEAM

  • Troy Dye: 13 tackles - 10 solo - 1 TFL
  • Jordon Scott: 6 tackles - 3 solo - .5 TFL
  • Austin Faoliu: 6 tackles - 2 solo - 1.5 sack - 1.5 TFL
  • Kayvon Thibodeaux: 6 tackles - 2 solo - 1.5 TFL

NEXT UP: Oregon State

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