The formula for No. 13 Oregon is a simple one each week: play swarming, lockdown defense and let quarterback Justin Herbert cook in the passing game. When it works to perfection, as it did on Friday night in a 45-3 rout of visiting Colorado, it makes you think that all that talk about the Ducks being the Pac-12’s lone College Football Playoff hope has something to it.
Not everything went Oregon’s way with a host of key players going down along the way but it was still the team’s best overall effort of the season against a Power Five opponent and could carry a lot of weight going into a huge matchup against rival Washington next weekend in Seattle.
In front of a number of NFL general managers and over two dozen scouts, Herbert was sharp in throwing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers would have been better had there not been a few drops and the score not gotten out of hand early but he once again looked like the first round caliber signal-caller many expected to see this season. His strong start helped loosen the Buffs defense and allowed UO’s offensive line to take over the rest of the game, paving the way for a ground attack that rolled over their opponent as things wore on.
C.J. Verdell played a big role in that as the tailback racked up 171 yards on just 14 carries, looking quite healthy after leaving last week’s game against Cal with a minor injury. Cyrus Habibi-Likio vultured three touchdowns from his fellow tailback while Jaylon Redd scored on the ground and through the air (four catches, 75 yards and the score receiving).
Defensively, the Ducks were as good as they have been all season in posting four turnovers (leading to 21 points the other way) and limiting a pretty good Colorado offense to just 299 yards. There was some concern on the injury front however, as Herbert’s top target in TE Jacob Breeland was injured going out of bounds (later seen on crutches) and safety Jevon Holland (seen with a boot on in the second half) got hit by his own man and exited the field on a cart.
There was actually some good news for the Buffs despite the final score as they got back top receiver Laviska Shenault from injury. His impact was limited to just four catches for 70 yards in limited action though as the passing game was tough to watch at times. QB Steven Montez tossed a career-high four interceptions (on just nine throws over the 2nd and 3rd quarters) and finished with just 131 yards passing. The rushing attack did average close to five yards a carry at one point but the margin was so great that it didn’t really matter as the team dropped to. 500 on the year.
Oregon, meanwhile, improved to 5-1 on the season to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the Pac-12 North. They remain the league’s best hope of making a dint in the national radar, even if the injury report wound up being a little longer than Mario Cristobal would like coming out of an easy win over a conference rival.