The gloom and doom of the dark clouds and rain hung over Husky Stadium on a late Saturday in October like the ominous slasher in a cheesy teenage Halloween horror movie. And when the blood finally dried, it was the Huskies who were one of the teenagers who got slashed, while the Ducks were the lucky one who barely escaped with their life.
Saturday was a gut check for the Ducks — the kind of game they needed to win in order to be taken seriously nationally, and of course, continue to control their destiny in the Pac-12 North.
The Ducks couldn’t rely on their defense alone to win this game as they did against Cal and Stanford. Unlike those two teams, the Huskies have a competent offense and an NFL quarterback prospect of their own in Jacob Eason. Nope, the Ducks were going to have to put up some points against Washington.
First Half: Uneven
After an impressive opening drive of the game that went for 75 yards on 12 plays, it looked as though the Ducks offense might just continue its impressive play from last week’s high-octane affair against Colorado. But it didn’t last.
For almost the remainder of the second half, the Oregon offense was completely out of rhythm, reminding us of the sub-par outputs they had against Stanford and Cal. It appears UW Defensive Coordinator Jimmy Lake had Marcus Arroyo’s number for a majority of the first half. That was until Ducks finally scored again with 2:59 in the half on a 16-yard Jaylon Redd touchdown catch.
At this juncture, the game was tied 14-14, and it looked as though it would go into halftime as a stalemate. But the Ducks couldn’t stop the Huskies after the ensuing kickoff as Eason drove the Huskies down the field for 69 yards in eight plays in just over a minute. This capped off a first half in which Eason was an impressive 15 for 19 for 168 yards and two touchdowns, while Justin Herbert was 14 of 24 for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
Second Half: Gut Check and Close Out
After the Huskies scored in four plays to start the second half, the Ducks found themselves trailing 28-14. At this point, it was clearly gut check time for the Ducks.
And they answered the call.
The Huskies wouldn’t see the end-zone again. Cyrus Habibi-Likio scored on a 14-yard run midway through the third. Washington did score a field goal on their next possession, but from there on out it was all Ducks.
Mycah Pittman scored on a 4 and 3 from the Husky 36 as the third quarter expired, pulling the Ducks to within 31-28. From there the Oregon defense shut out the Huskies in the fourth quarter as the Ducks scored the go ahead 5-yard touchdown reception by Redd with 5:10 left.
And we all know how the Huskies fared on their final offensive snap of the game; their own 4-and-3 pass attempt fell short, and the Ducks lined up in victory formation … Yes, like that one teenager in a slasher movie, Oregon had escaped from sure doom.
- What this game showed, what we hadn’t seen yet this year from the Ducks, was the offense and defense complementing each other and both coming up big when the game was on the line.
- By closing out the Huskies, this helps Cristobal put some distance between himself and the Auburn game and the perception that he’s a coach who can’t win the close ones.
- Does this game count as Herbert’s signature moment that many are clamoring for? Probably not, which is just fine. It was a team effort that won this game, and not a team just riding on the heroics of any one single player.
What They Were Saying
Huskies starting center, Nick Harris, “We didn’t do enough to finish this game … we didn’t make enough plays.” He repeated this theme in several different ways throughout his interview. This really pays tribute to the fact that the Ducks did make plays and did finish the game.
As the Ducks took over the game in the second half, they were running the ball well and controlling the line of scrimmage. In other words, being the team that Cristobal wants them to be. Coach Petersen complimented the Ducks offensive line several times over:
“They did a great job running the ball, we couldn’t get off blocks.”
“Getting off blocks, it comes down to that (we couldn’t) … that’s a good offensive line we played”
“They (Oregon) did a nice job of double-teaming guys, staying on guys into the second level”
On the Huskies inability to get to Herbert, “That offensive line is good … mixing up blitzes … we were good in coverage … we just couldn’t get there.”
When asked if he worries about his team being all but eliminated from playing for the conference title, Petersen emphatically replied, “I don’t. We just keep playing.”
And he’s right, the Huskies will keep playing, most likely for a lower bowl tier bowl game. While their most hated rival, the Oregon Ducks, will continue to play for a Pac-12 championship with an eye on the College Football Playoff.
Spokane, Washington Top Photo Credit: Truong Nguyen
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