Ducks rally to beat Huskies, 35-31
SEATTLE — Barring a complete collapse, the Oregon Ducks and their fans can probably make plans to play in the Pac-12 title game.
Making clutch plays on offense and defense, and led by QB Justin Herbert, the Ducks rallied from two scores down to beat Washington 35-31 Saturday before 70,867 at Husky Stadium.
Herbert threw four touchdown passes in his QB duel with Washington's Jacob Eason, including a 5-yard TD pass to Jaylon Redd with 5:10 left that put the Ducks ahead.
And, the defense, which gave up four touchdowns, the total it had given up in the first six games, stopped Eason and the Huskies on the final UW possession. The Ducks sacked Eason for a big loss and, later on fourth-and-3, Mykael Wright defended UW receiver Puka Nacua — and officials didn't call a pass interference — to effectively seal the win.
The Ducks (6-1, 4-0) hold a two-game lead in the Pac-12 North — over Oregon State, of all teams — and three games over everybody else. It's a commanding lead with five regular-season games remaining, including Washington State at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 at Autzen Stadium. The Cougars have beaten Oregon in four consecutive seasons.
Oregon has beaten Washington two seasons in a row now, after being blitzed by the Chris Petersen-coached team in 2016 and '17, which came after a 12-game UO win streak in the series.
"We always talk about the harder it gets, the tougher it gets, the better we play, and that's what happened," an emotional UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "Words cannot describe how proud we all are of these players and this organization. "
Washington led 28-14 early in the second half. But Oregon stormed back, running the ball better and making more stops on defense.
With Oregon trailing 31-28, the game-winning, 70-yard drive included a 20-yard Herbert-to-Johnny Johnson III pass and 21-yard Travis Dye run and ended with Herbert's fourth TD pass. The senior QB went 24 of 38 for 280 yards and the four scores, giving him 21 TDs and only one interception this season and TD passes in an FBS-high 35 consecutive games.
Eason, who went 23 of 30 for 289 yards and three scores, connected on some passes to move the Huskies (5-3, 2-3) into UO territory. But, linebacker Troy Dye, who played with a broken thumb suffered in the first quarter, pressured Eason on a second-down play and Popo Aumuvae sacked the quarterback. After a UW false-start penalty, a long pass play set up the fourth-and-3 play in which Wright appeared to bump Nacua, but officials refrained from throwing the flag for pass interference.
"What did it look like to you guys?" Petersen said to reporters. "I think we know."
It was such a clutch win for the Ducks in a hostile environment against the defending Pac-12 champs.
"We were in better shape than Washington and equipped for a fourth-quarter finish," Troy Dye said. Despite giving up 28 points, after yielding only 25 in the previous five games, on UW's final possession "it was time to show the world we're a defense school and not just an offense school," he added.
"The defense really just got stout in a hurry. The offensive line took over. The running backs, all of them, took over," Cristobal said.
"The second half we said, 'You know what? Let's get behind our horses and let's knock some people off the ball.' They've got a really good defense and they play really well. But, our offensive line … they came out the second half and they started moving some people."
The Ducks played without star tight end Jacob Breeland, who's out for the season with a knee injury. And, defensive back Deommodore Lenoir went out with an injury — not to mention Dye playing with a broken thumb. But, the Huskies had their own injury issues, missing two running backs (Sean McGrew and Richard Newton) and two receivers, including its best receiver, Aaron Fuller.
Said Petersen: "(Fuller) wasn't 100 percent, he could have played had we needed him. Other guys were rolling pretty good."
The Ducks looked good on the opening drive, as they went 75 yards on 12 plays to score on Herbert's 12-yard TD pass to Spencer Webb, who switched back to tight end from receiver in the wake of Breeland's injury.
The Huskies tied it on Salvon Ahmed's 9-yard TD run. Ahmed rushed for 140 yards on 24 carries.
On the next possession, Eason connected with Jordan Chin on a 48-yard TD pass.
Herbert and the UO offense sputtered, but they got it going and the first of two Redd touchdown receptions, a 16-yarder from Herbert, made it 14-14.
But, Washington continued to score. Hunter Bryant made a great over-the-shoulder catch for 27 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown, Eason throwing to Andre Baccellia for a 21-14 UW lead at halftime. Then, to open the second half, the Huskies scored in four plays, including a 33-yard Eason-to-Nacua TD pass play. It was 28-14.
Showing great resilience, the Ducks responded with a 79-yard drive, highlighted by another Webb grab and Cyrus Habibi-Likio's 14-yard run. Habibi-Likio played in the second half — ahead of CJ Verdell — and had 81 yards on 14 carries, while Travis Dye added 51 yards on eight carries and Verdell 48 yards on 11 carries.
Then, the defense started to rise up. The Huskies had first down at the UO 13, but the UO defense forced third down and stopped the Huskies short. Peyton Henry, who missed a potential game-winning field goal attempt at Autzen last season, hit a 30-yard field goal that made it 31-21.
But, the Ducks marched 75 yards, with Herbert hitting Mycah Pittman on a fourth-down play for a 36-yard catch-and-run touchdown, making it 31-28.
Then, it was winning time, as the Ducks moved for Redd's touchdown and then made a big fourth-down stop — aided by a no-call on potential pass interference.
Troy Dye said the Ducks' defense needed to stay calm and relaxed and just play within the framework devised by coordinator Andy Avalos.
Said Petersen, of UW offense that failed to score in the fourth quarter: "The three-and-outs (in the fourth quarter) are tough to stomach."
As far as the offense, other than Herbert's arm and leadership, the running game got better and "there were a lot more open holes (late in the game). The O-line was really getting off the ball and showing that they're the best O-line in the Pac-12," Habibi-Likio said.
Petersen commended UO's offensive line, which also didn't give up a sack.
"That's a good offensive line, they did a nice job of double-teaming guys and staying on to the next level," he said. "You gotta get off blocks and defeat blocks, and we needed to tackle better.
"We could not get there (to Herbert), we were mixing up blitzes and other sorts of things, and he bought time and you can only cover so long."
OREGON 7 7 14 7 — 35
WASHINGTON 7 14 10 0 — 31
OREGON — Spencer Webb 12 pass from Justin Herbert (Camden Lewis kick), 9:44
WASHINGTON — Salvon Ahmed 9 run (Peyton Henry kick), 0:20
WASHINGTON — Jordan Chin 48 pass from Jacob Eason (Henry kick), 12:48
OREGON — Jaylon Redd 16 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 2:59
WASHINGTON — Andre Baccellia 5 pass from Eason (Henry kick), 0:58
WASHINGTON — Puka Nacua 33 pass from Eason (Henry kick), 13:16
OREGON — Cyrus Habibi-Likio 14 run (Lewis kick), 8:36
WASHINGTON — Henry 30 FG, 3:39
OREGON — Mycah Pittman 36 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 0:01
OREGON — Redd 5 pass from Herbert (Lewis kick), 5:10
A — 70,867
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)