If there have been two issues with the young tenure of Mario Cristobal at Oregon, it’s been winning on the road and closing out games in the second half.
On Saturday afternoon in Seattle against their bitter rivals, the No. 12 Ducks accomplished both in a thrilling 35-31 victory over No. 25 Washington that has huge national and conference implications down the road.
Not surprisingly, QB Justin Herbert came up big in the passing game and finished with 280 yards and four touchdown passes to pace a 14-point second half comeback. Jaylon Redd caught two of those scoring passes on nifty plays out of the backfield while freshman Mycah Pittman came up huge on a fourth down call to score from 36 out. Cyrus Habibi-Likio notched 81 yards and a touchdown on the ground, finding a little success despite how tough it was to run the football against a talented front seven for the Huskies.
Speaking of defense, it was an uncharacteristic effort from the Ducks on that side of the ball after being exemplary all season long. The group allowed more points than their last five games combined and gave up four touchdowns on the day after having allowed just four all year coming into the contest. Some injuries to a few starters may have played a role but the group stiffened down the stretch to prevent a UW comeback of their own on the final drive.
Much of the success Washington was able to find came via the long ball from signal-caller Jacob Eason, who looked like a top NFL prospect himself in throwing for 289 yards and three TD’s. However he took the only sack of the game in the final few seconds to end the upset bid and trailed off a bit as things wore on. Salvon Ahmed did rush for 140 yards and a trip to the end zone but it was otherwise an offensive effort powered by Eason and his young receiving corps.
The end result is that the Huskies remain a puzzling case of high preseason expectations falling flat on their face once again with their third conference loss of 2019 already and a disappointing 5-3 record before we’re even to Halloween. There’s little question that Chris Petersen has a talented team but putting it all together for four quarters remains an issue no matter if they’re playing a rival or not.
The flip side to the result is that Oregon is all but assured of the Pac-12 North title this season given that they’re two games up in the league standings and have tie-breakers over everybody in the division sans Washington State (0-3 coming into the day) and in-state foe Oregon State. They remain the conference’s lone hope to make the College Football Playoff given that they have just one loss and efforts like Saturday afternoon’s might go a long ways in convincing others that there’s something different — and special — about this team this season.