There are a wide variety of things you could call ‘tone-setting’ plays in college football and it’s safe to say that No. 6 Oregon scoring a long touchdown on the second offensive snap of the game would qualify as one as they look to clinch a division title on Saturday night.
The Ducks jumped out to a 21-6 halftime lead over visiting Arizona in a rather convincing effort at Autzen Stadium as they continue to look impressive in the beauty contest that is the College Football Playoff race at this point.
A Wildcats coverage bust led to that initial score, as Johnny Johnson III raced 73 yards to pay dirt to showcase right from the get-go that things were clicking on all cylinders offensively. Oregon QB Justin Herbert wound up at the break with 218 yards and tossed another touchdown off a nifty reverse flea-flicker right into the waiting arms of Juwan Johnson from 53 yards out.
The Ducks didn’t miss All-America-caliber left tackle Penei Sewell as a result with the mammoth offensive lineman sitting out the first two series for what school officials said was being late to a meeting. Given that the first of those drives lasted all of two plays and the second was a 3-and-out, he certainly lucked out despite the tardiness.
Things didn’t go so well for WR Mycah Pittman. The freshman has been one of the team’s top options since getting healthy but it sure looked like he might not return the rest of the regular season after suffering from a horrible looking injury to his wrist/forearm. He was carted off the field after being looked at by trainers and while he won’t be missed this game the way the two Johnsons are playing, is a long term injury worth monitoring for sure.
As for Arizona, Grant Gunnell started at quarterback (4-of-6, 28 yards) but was eventually replaced by Khalil Tate as things wore on in the second quarter. The latter did seem to provide some spark in helping move the ball down the field but the end result was just a pair of field goals and a decent deficit to overcome after the break.
Keep in mind that the Wildcats are hoping to even their record on the year at 5-5 and remain in the running for a bowl game while Oregon will no doubt be looking for style points in the second half to impress the Selection Committee and lock up the Pac-12 North title at the same time.
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.
It was expected that Mycah Pittman would contribute immediately to Oregon’s offense this coming season. Unfortunately for all involved, those contributions will have to wait.
It was confirmed over the weekend that Pittman had sustained a shoulder injury during the Ducks’ Saturday scrimmage. In a release Monday, the football program revealed that the wide receiver will miss 6-8 weeks because of the injury.
It’s unclear if Pittman will be forced to undergo surgery.
“Mycah suffered a shoulder injury while making a diving catch during Saturday’s scrimmage that will result in him missing the start of the 2019 season,” head coach Mario Cristobal said in a statement. “He is a relentless competitor who will come back stronger and ready to compete this season.”
At the short end of the timeline, Pittman will miss games against Auburn (Aug. 31), Nevada (Sept. 7), Montana (Sept. 14) and Stanford (Sept. 21). With a bye in Week 5, Pittman could also be sidelined for the Oct. 5 matchup with Cal if the rehab extends to through the long end of the timeline.
A four-star member of the Ducks’ 2019 recruiting class, Pittman was rated as the No. 15 receiver in the country; the No. 17 player at any position in the state of California; and the No. 94 player overall on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. Pittman was the highest-rated offensive signee for the Ducks this cycle.
Already looking to replace Dillion Mitchell, who set a single-season school record for receiving yards in 2018 (1,184), the Ducks have seen receivers JR Waters (HERE) and Brenden Schooler (HERE) go down with injuries in addition to Pittman. Both Waters and Schooler are dealing with foot injuries that will sideline them for 6-8 weeks as well.
It has been a rough few days for the Oregon wide receiver unit in camp. A pair of injuries to wide receivers have hampered the possible depth just a little bit to start the new college football season. Freshman wide receiver JR Waters underwent surgery for a foot injury and Mycah Pittman suffered a shoulder injury during a scrimmage this weekend, according to reports from The Oregonian.
Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal confirmed Waters will be out of action for the next four to six weeks. That timeline will keep Waters out of the mix for the season opener against Auburn in Arlington, Texas in Week 1. Being out for four weeks would make the earliest possible return for Waters come in Week 3 against Montana or the following week for the Pac-12 opener at Stanford. Being out for six weeks would mean Waters may be back for the beginning of October when Oregon hosts Cal on Oct. 5). Oregon has a bye week before facing Cal in Eugene.
Pittman’s status is unknown at this time. The Class of 2019 addition landed on his shoulder during the scrimmage while completing a catch, which Cristobal made sure to note when addressing the injury with the media. Whether he misses any practice time or game time once the season starts has not been discussed at this time.
Earlier this month, Oregon lost receiver Brenden Schooler for 6-8 weeks due to a foot injury. He is recovering from surgery to address the injury. With an NFL-hopeful quarterback in Justin Herbert leading the offense, the Ducks will hope to have their top targets on the field as quickly as possible before it potentially ends up costing them something on the field.