Dillon Mitchell

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Justin Herbert’s top option in passing game leaving Oregon for NFL

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Oregon got a huge boost heading into the offseason when Justin Herbert announced he would be returning to the Ducks for another season.  The quarterback, though, won’t have the most productive piece of UO’s passing attack at his disposal in 2019.

To the surprise of some, Dillon Mitchell announced Wednesday that he will be bypassing his remaining eligibility in order to enter his name into the 2019 NFL Draft pool.

“It has been great living a childhood dream these last 3 years,” the talented wide receiver wrote. “Ever since 7th grade, I wanted to be an Oregon Duck. I fell in love with the uniforms, the players, the fast spread offense, and the Nike brand.”

This past season, Mitchell led all Pac-12 receivers and set a school record with 1,184 yards.  His 69 receptions were more than double the number of the Ducks’ No. 2 pass-catcher (Jaylon Redd‘s 31), and his nine touchdown receptions were also tops on the team.

Mitchell, who was named second-team All-Pac-12 this season, finishes his time in Eugene with 1,710 yards and 14 touchdowns on 119 catches.

Oregon adds another ugly win to the Pac-12 win column with Redbox Bowl victory over Michigan State

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On a day that saw Stanford win an absolutely ugly game to get the Pac-12 a second bowl victory, Oregon added one more. The Ducks (9-4) held on to win a scrappy and ugly Redbox Bowl against Michigan State (7-6) by scoring just one touchdown in a 7-6 win.

Oregon did not score until early in the fourth quarter with a Justin Herbert 28-yard pass to Dillon Mitchell. Michigan State had a 6-0 lead on the strength of a pair of field goals, both of which came in the third quarter following a scoreless first half.

Oregon nearly cost themselves a win in the fourth quarter with a bizarre fake punt, in which the punter never even got off a pass on the fourth down call aimed to catch Michigan State off guard. It failed miserably.

Although Oregon’s gamble did not pay off, it ended up not hurting them either. Michigan State put themselves in position for a potential go-ahead field goal on the ensuing possession, but a botched handle of the snap forced Lewerke to try picking the ball up and getting the ball to any open receiver on a whim, and Oregon stayed in good coverage to prevent any miracle play from developing.

Oregon’s offense could not slam the door shut on the game, however, which led to one last offensive opportunity for the Spartans. But the defense for the Ducks held strong one final time as Brian Lewerke had a fourth-down pass fall incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Lewerke completed 21 of 39 passes for 174 yards and an interception. Herbert completed 19 of 33 passes for 166 yards and the game’s only touchdown. Oregon never got going on the ground but was able to keep the Spartans from posing much of a threat. LJ Scott rushed for a game-high 84 yards on 24 rushing attempts for the Spartans, who combined for 157 rushing yards. Michiagn State out-gained Oregon 331-203 but was unable to win the game where it counts the most.

This is the first bowl victory for Cristobal since the 2010 season as head coach of FIU, when his Panthers won the Little Caesars Bowl. With a record of 9-4, this is now Cristobal’s most successful season in terms of win total, topping the eight wins he previously had at FIU in 2011. His counterpart, Mark Dantonio, suffered his first defeat in a non-College Football Playoff bowl game since the 2010 season. Michigan State had won five straight bowl games in years they played a non-playoff bowl game. The Spartans lost in the Cotton Bowl to Alabama in the College Football Playoff in 2015 and the Spartans did not meet bowl eligibility requirement in 2016.

Next year should be pretty interesting for Oregon. The Ducks, with Herbert coming back and a large number of starters projected to return on top of a solid recruiting class just signed, will likely be one of the top contenders in the Pac-12 next fall. A race between Oregon and Washington could be fun, but the Ducks will start the 2019 season in Arlington, Texas against Auburn, the team Washington’s 2018 started out against. Will Oregon be able to get a win against an SEC team on a neutral field to start the year, unlike Washington? Expect some good preseason hype for Oregon to build in the offseason and a win over Auburn could really raise the bar for the Ducks early on next season.

Oregon QB Justin Herbert practices, WR Dillon Mitchell also close to returning from concussion protocol

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Oregon fans received some good news in Eugene on Wednesday ahead of the team’s game against UCLA (and the resulting return of Chip Kelly to town). Namely, it appears all signs are there for quarterback Justin Herbert to start on Saturday against the Bruins after dealing with the school’s concussion protocol earlier in the week after he took a big hit on a scramble in the final few minutes of the Ducks’ loss at Arizona.

Just as big is that his top target, wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, could be close to coming back for this week’s game as well.

Per head coach Mario Cristobal’s press conference after practice:

Backup QB’s Braxton Burmeister and Tyler Shough both took first team reps on Tuesday as Herbert sat out but the latter’s return to practice is a good indication that he’ll be good to go at Autzen Stadium on Saturday. Even if he doesn’t wind up practicing this week, it’s still possible that Mitchell returns for game action provided he’s given the all clear from doctors and trainers.

The return of either guy is big for a Ducks offense that has been slumping in recent weeks, with performances of under five yards per play the past three games and way less than that in their back-to-back losses on the road. That they will get to turn things around against Kelly and his new school of UCLA probably adds to the importance of a big game on Saturday afternoon.

Palouse Power: No. 25 Washington State’s magical Saturday continues with upset of No. 12 Oregon

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From GameDay to game time, dawn until dusk — and well afterward, no doubt — a magical Saturday in Pullman is now complete and the western hills of Washington may never be the same for it.

Though it wasn’t easy at times, No. 25 Washington State held the lead from start to finish of a 34-20 upset over No. 12 Oregon to set off a raucous celebration for the Cougars across Martin Stadium as Mike Leach’s band of underdogs temporarily took control atop the Pac-12 North and capped off a historic day for the school.

Following up a historic visit from ESPN’s College GameDay in the morning for the first time ever in the show’s history, the Palouse was rocking for one of the biggest games in years and the Cougars didn’t disappoint outside of an early interception on their first drive. Aside from that mistake though, QB Gardner Minshew was phenomenal running the Air Raid under the primetime lights and introduced the rest of the country to his amazing ‘stache and quick release with a 323 yard effort with four touchdowns and a final tally of two picks. While his opposite number came in as the darling of NFL scouts, it was the East Carolina graduate transfer who took center stage and was able to spread the ball around quite effectively with nine different players recording a catch.

His two teammates in the backfield also played a big role too as Max Borghi had 91 total yards (one receiving score) and starter James Williams added 95 more with a touchdown on the ground where he missed a good six tackles before diving past the pylon. All-in-all, an incredible effort for Wazzu on both sides of the ball even if things slipped a bit in the second half after heading into the locker room at the break up 27 points.

While the Cougars celebrated amid a full on field storming after the game, their opponents have to rue another missed opportunity to make a move in the conference just a week after celebrating a massive win of their own against Washington. QB Justin Herbert threw for only 270 yards and a touchdown (along with one on the ground) but essentially was the entire offense for the Ducks and was unable to lean at all on any sort of run game. CJ Verdell rushed for only 55 yards and star receiver Dillon Mitchell had one of his quietest nights of the year with just seven catches for 47 yards.

Factor in the loss to Stanford earlier on and the result likely ended any hopes of making it to Santa Clara for the conference title game for Mario Cristobal’s club and certainly put to bed that faint talk of the team being a College Football Playoff sleeper.

While it’s too early to start dreaming of a visit to Levi’s Stadium just yet for Leach’s squad, the team will make the trek to the Bay Area next weekend in a big test to see just how well they can handle this kind of success. The Cougars have now won four straight over Oregon and that Apple Cup to end the regular season is looming larger and larger both in the Pac-12 and nationally given the way October has shook up the standings in one of the wilder divisions in college football.

Coug fans can ponder all that later — Saturday night in Pullman was all about celebrating a day that will be fondly remembered in school history for years to come.

No. 17 Oregon upsets No. 7 Washington in OT to deal Pac-12’s College Football Playoff hopes another blow

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A few weeks ago, No. 17 Oregon let a second half lead slip through their hands and lost in overtime against Pac-12 North rival Stanford.

Thanks to a few clutch plays down the stretch and the luck of a missed kick as time expired, the Ducks did not have history repeat itself as they upset No. 7 Washington 30-27 in overtime to just about knock out the Pac-12 from the College Football Playoff by mid-October.

Quarterback Justin Herbert had all eyes on him with a throng of NFL scouts in attendance but wasn’t quite as sharp as he was coming in. Even though the numbers weren’t great however — 18-of-32, 202 yards and two touchdowns — the lanky signal-caller was still able to come up with some clutch throws when his team needed and most importantly did not turn the ball over against one of the nation’s best defenses.

The story of the game might have been the guy he was sharing the backfield with as tailback CJ Verdell redeemed himself from that loss to the Cardinal by rushing for 111 yards and two touchdowns, the latter of which set off a wild celebration at Autzen Stadium in the extra period. Dillon Mitchell also impressed among the Ducks’ offensive skill position players with 119 yards receiving and a touchdown but it was teammate Jaylon Redd who turned in the highlight of the day with a tip-toe catch in the end zone with 14 seconds left in the first half.

Just as big of a development for the program going forward is the continued toughness up front and improved defensive play in delivering Mario Cristobal his first signature win since taking over in Eugene.

Washington, meanwhile, spoiled their head coach’s birthday on Saturday with a series of regrets and offensive struggles. Peyton Henry missed a 37 yard field goal as time expired that would have won the game and the team scored on just one of their four second half drives.

It was another ugly game numbers-wise for Huskies quarterback Jake Browning as the signal-caller finished just 15-of-25 for 243 yards and a touchdown.  Things got off to a rough start with an interception on the second play of the game before eventually improving as the second half wore on but his limitations once again popped up for the team as they struggled to finish when the moment required.

Tailback Myles Gaskin recorded a nice 69 yards on the ground but missed the bulk of action with an injury and mostly gave way to backup Salvon Ahmed, who had 61 yards and two scores.

The result will almost surely knock the Huskies out of the running to reach the College Football Playoff with their second loss and may have done the same for the Pac-12 as a whole. It also makes the Pac-12 North a bit of a toss up going forward given Oregon’s earlier loss to Stanford and Washington State lurking with a surprising 5-1 start to the season before they host the Ducks next week.

Undefeated Colorado may wind up being Larry Scott’s only hope of reaching the playoff if they win out but the Buffs have a tough test ahead with USC later on Saturday night and a trip to Montlake to face what will surely be an angry Washington team next week.