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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.

QB’s struggling as No. 7 Washington, No. 17 Oregon tied at halftime

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No. 17 Oregon is led by a potential No. 1 overall pick in QB Justin Herbert. No. 7 Washington is led by a record-setter under center in signal-caller Jake Browning.

Naturally, the two met in Eugene on Saturday afternoon and each struggled as the Huskies and Ducks were tied up at 17-all in a huge Pac-12 North rivalry game.

Browning was the first of the two quarterbacks to get off to a bad start, throwing an interception on the second play of the game. He did bounce back with a few nice throws and a handful of key scrambles as the half wore on but still went to the locker room 6-of-14 for 91 yards. Tailbacks Myles Gaskin (54 yards before leaving due to injury) and Salvon Ahmed (54 yards, two touchdowns) were a little better despite facing a physical front and loaded box in a battle between two programs usually more well known for their offenses.

Herbert and company were slightly sharper but not by much, with one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country going just 7-of-16 for 90 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. CJ Verdell did have 83 yards on the ground but Dillon Mitchell was the only other skill position player to get involved offensively on a consistent basis with four catches for 68 yards and a score.

One concern going forward for Oregon is the amount of players stuck in the locker room. Defensive lineman Drayton Carlberg was ejected for targeting in the first quarter while left tackle Penei Sewell had to be carried off with a knee injury. Guard Dallas Warmack also left with an injury in the second quarter.

The Ducks do get the ball to start the second half and the winner of this one is not only in the driver’s seat for the division and conference as a whole, but is perhaps the Pac-12’s only remaining hope in the College Football Playoff. This rivalry game has been heated over the years and you can bet that’s what will play out after the break.

No. 17 Oregon expects to have two starters back vs. No. 7 Washington

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Ahead of a huge Pac-12 North matchup, one of the combatants is expected to get a lot healthier.

Starting defensive end Austin Faoliu didn’t play in No. 17 Oregon’s Week 5 win over then-No. 24 Cal because of a foot injury.  With the Ducks off in Week 6, it was thought that the lineman would be a go this coming weekend; with a massive showdown against No. 7 Washington looming Saturday, Faoliu has been declared “good to go” by head coach Mario Cristobal.

Additionally, starting tight end Jacob Breeland (pictured), who missed the Cal game because of injury, is expected back as well.

“We feel good about our health; the bye week has helped,” Cristobal said by way of The Oregonian. “We’ve been banging it up pretty good, too. We practiced hard, we took some of the physical part of practice away from the guys that logged a lot of reps, but we also didn’t remove that completely.

“They did get their physical work good-on-good, making sure that technique and fundamentals were at the forefront of everything and that we are playing and elevating our level of effort as it relates to everything that we do.”

Faoliu had started the first four games of the 2018 season after starting two games as a true freshman in 2017.  In this season’s action, he has been credited with 15 tackles.

Breeland is currently third on the Ducks with two receiving touchdowns; fourth in receiving yards with 131; and fifth in receptions with seven.  He started 11 games as a redshirt sophomore last season, pulling in a team-high five receiving touchdowns.