After dropping a double overtime thriller versus California last week (resulting in the fifth straight loss for Oregon), the Ducks came into Saturday’s game determined to get their first conference win and snap a five straight game losing streak.
Fortunately for Oregon, their game plan paid off, resulting in their best start of the season. The Ducks scored swiftly and often, minimizing penalties, capitalizing on turnovers, and playing off their home crowd. By the end of the first half, Oregon was up 30-14 and in a good spot to get their first conference win of the season.
In the second half, Arizona State started to turn on the pressure, and at one point making it a five-point game. However, from there it was all Oregon, as the Ducks would go on to grab two interceptions and score three touchdowns, to win their first conference game, and snap the five game losing streak by a score of 54-35.
After the game, Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich said, “When everyone tells you you’re great for five years, and then one year you get kicked in the butt, it is huge for these guys to get a win like that”, Helfrich also said “the game was good for us to grow up.”
Although Oregon still struggled at giving up big plays at times, which turned out to be key for the Sun Devils’ offensive drives, the Ducks’ defense played their hearts out. Oregon pushed Arizona State to third and fourth down situations 14 times, while capturing three key interceptions. In addition, the Ducks accomplished their goal in keeping the Sun Devils under 40 points and 500 yards.
After the game, Oregon Cornerback Ugo Amadi, commented on the defensive play, by saying, “now we are seeing what we can do when we make plays as a whole unit” and that it “when one player makes a play we all want to make a play, Tyree Robinson made a play, so I want to make a play, and as a unit we see that and we all want to make a play, so let’s go out there and turn it up.”
Oregon freshman quarterback, Justin Herbert, showed great promise and determination, by completing 31-42 passes for 489 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and gaining 23 yards rushing. Herbert also tied the Oregon school record for most passing yards thrown in a game (was previously held by Bill Musgrave, who in 1989 threw for 489 yards versus BYU).
After the game Herbert, summed up his performance saying, “Timing with receivers and lineman have really helped and made things for me a lot more comfortable.” When asked about tying Bill Musgrave’s record, Herbert explained, “I didn’t know I tied the record, and I don’t know much about Bill Musgrave, but I probably should.” All in all, Herbert said, “just glad we got the win, that’s what matters most.”
The Oregon Ducks’ workhorse, Royce Freeman accumulated 17 carries for 38 yards, and scored one touchdown. Freeman commented on his play tonight by saying “I felt good, it was rough they got pressure on the run game, but we busted a couple, so it was good.” In addition, running back Tony Brooks- James continued to showcase his speed and talent, rushing nine times gaining 132 yards, and scoring one touchdown.
Oregon offensive weapons Darren Carrington, Jalen Brown, Pharaoh Brown and Charles Nelson also shined, combining for 24 receptions, gaining 361 yards. And even though Carrington did not lead with receptions, Herbert progressed by making use of his other key receivers.
For Arizona State, the Sun Devils put up 329 passing yards and 139 rushing yards totaling 468 yards of offense.
With starting quarterback, Manny Wilkins was injured and not able to play, Dillon Sterling-Cole took the reins for Arizona State’s offense. Sterling-Cole completed 21-38 passes, for 302 yards, including one touchdown, and three interceptions. He also scrambled away from pressure eight times, while gaining 23 yards.
Arizona State’s running backs, Kalen Ballage and Nick Ralston were very well contained by the Oregon defense, only combining for 28 carries, rushing for 116 yards, and scored two touchdowns.
The Ducks defense had a considerable lapse of coverage against the Sun Devils’ top wide receivers and had difficulty stopping them from breaking out into the open field, as Kalen Ballage, Jalen Harvey, N’Keal Harry, and Frederick Gammage combined for 16 receptions, 271 yards of offense, and one touchdown.
All in all, this game was a huge win for Oregon, who seem to have regained their confidence and have some of their swagger back. The Ducks now contain three out of the much-needed six wins to become bowl eligible. With this win, there is no doubt that this Ducks’ team has heart and the full support of their fan base once more.
Next week, Oregon (3-5) will travel to the Coliseum to take on the USC Trojans (5-3), who got off with a rocky start, but have won 4 of their games at home this year.