Jaylon Redd

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No. 12 Oregon mounts comeback to beat No. 25 Washington, all but clinching Pac-12 North

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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.

QB Justin Herbert sharp as No. 13 Oregon routs Colorado but injuries pile up for the Ducks

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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.

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.

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.