After another blowout at Autzen Stadium last weekend (losing 52-27 to Stanford), the Oregon Ducks came into Utah with the intention of upsetting the 12th ranked Utes and receive their first road win of the season. And that they did, as the outcome of the game turned out to be much different than earlier predicted.
And even though Oregon seemed to start off slow again in the first quarter on both offense and defense, the Ducks eventually came to life and were only down seven to three going into the second quarter.
Impressively, Oregon’s first quarter momentum would continue into the second quarter, making big defensive plays (including a fumble recovery inside their own 25 yard line). To everyone’s disbelief, by the end of the first half, the Ducks were only down 7-3 to the 12 ranked Utah Utes.
In the second half, the Ducks continued to put the pedal to the medal, coming back to take their first lead of the game with nine minutes left.
However, after controversial call on a muffed punt (which resulted in a touchdown), and a 30 yard field goal with 2:14 left, Utah looked like they were going to close out the game, giving Oregon their eighth loss of the season.
However, Oregon had a much different plan, as freshman quarterback Justin Herbert led the Ducks all the way down the field, finding Darren Carrington in the back of the end zone with two seconds remaining. And in shocking fashion, the Ducks fought back to come away with the win, upsetting the 12 ranked Utes by a score of 30-28.
After the game, Oregon Head Coach Mark Helfrich said, “I thought Herbert responded great, I thought that the O-Line competed all day, and just had a next-play mentality, better than the last couple of weeks against some very good fronts, so obviously it’s good to see that response.” Helfrich also said “the big play got us, and just to stick with how the year has gone, and how this game went a lot of ways with some of the injuries, that’s a big time effort to close that one out.”
Although the Oregon defense gave up 13 plays that resulted in a gain of more than ten yards, they kept the team in the game and looked like a whole different unit (forcing Utah to punt six times). The Ducks’ defense also met their goal, keeping the Utes under 30 points and 500 yards. This is a major accomplishment for this Oregon team as they prepare for next weekend’s Civil War game.
The Ducks’ Defensive Coordinator Brady Hoke touched on the defensive injuries, saying, “It looks like we lost Rex Manu” (after he left the field favoring his right leg). In addition, Hoke commented on the defensive play, saying, “I don’t sleep at night before games, but I just think there’s a lot of improvement across the board.”
Even though Oregon found their offense in the second half, they still continue to struggle on producing effectively on third down situations (converting only 9-18) and avoiding costly offensive penalties.
Oregon freshman quarterback, Justin Herbert, also took some major hits, but still managed to have a great game. Herbert completed 30-43 passes, throwing for 324 yards, scoring three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In addition, he scrambled away from pressure 13 times, gaining 44 yards, and scored one rushing touchdown.
After the game Herbert, summed up the victory by saying, “It’s a lot of momentum going into next week, Utah is a great team, a win in the Pac-12 is a good win, and we will start working for next week.” Herbert summed up by saying, “I had some good wins at Sheldon, but this one tops it.”
The Oregon Ducks’ running game led by Royce Freeman, had another strong outing. Freeman rushed 20 times, gaining 129 yards, but did not find the end zone. Furthermore, running back Tony Brooks-James had another stand out game, rushing nine times, gaining 78 yards.
Oregon receivers such as Jalen Brown, Darren Carrington, Evan Baylis, and Johnny Mundt also had a solid outing, combining for 18 receptions, gaining 250 yards, and scoring two touchdowns. In addition, Royce Freeman was also used eight times in passing situations, gaining 36 yards, and scoring one touchdown.
For Utah, even though quarterback Troy Williams took some major hits, he still completed 20-30 passes, throwing for 235 yards, and scoring one touchdowns. In addition, Williams scrambled away from pressure ten times, gaining 40 yards.
Utah’s running back, Joe Williams also had quite a game, rushing 23 times, gaining 149 yards, and one touchdown. Even though Williams had a great game, the Ducks’ defense bottled him up extremely well.
In addition to their strong running game, Utah also made use of wide receivers Tim Patrick, Harrison Handley, and Evan Moeai (who combined for ten receptions, gaining 136 yards, and one touchdown). Joe Williams also took some plays as a wide receiver, hauling in three receptions, gaining 37 yards.
Overall, this is a key win for the Oregon Ducks’ program and for Head Coach Mark Helfrich (who’s been on the hot seat). In addition, it gives the Ducks major momentum heading into their last game and rivalry week and gives the team an outside possibility of receiving a Bowl Game Bid if they win next weekend (similar to Nebraska’s 5-7 record last year, who received a bid to the Foster Farms Bowl Game).
Next week, Oregon (4-7) will head to Corvallis, Oregon to play the Oregon State Beavers in the Civil War game, which dates back 122 years as one of the biggest college football rivalry games in the Nation.