There’s no doubt 2019 was a special year for Oregon football. Most expected the Ducks to be Pac-12 title contenders, but not many foresaw a 12-win season and a victory in one of the wildest Rose Bowls in recent memory.
But as great as the ending to Oregon’s season was, we can’t forget the journey. The 2019 Ducks never failed to entertain, giving fans many memorable games and performances. From shootouts, to upsets, to vintage “Pac-12 After Dark,” to last-second wins over arch rivals, Oregon played in just about every type of game imaginable.
So, which one was the best?
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, and recall some of the best Oregon games of 2019 to determine which one stands above the rest.
Oregon Beats Washington 35-31
Any time that Oregon is able to stick it to the Washington Huskies, it’s a good feeling. But when the Ducks are able to do so on the road, and in the most humiliating way possible … that’s just icing on the cake.
Oregon’s 35-31 win in Seattle had everything a Duck fan could ask for. The game was full of momentum swings, big plays, drama, and most importantly, a Washington loss!
The Huskies showed more offensive firepower than they had all season, which caught a dominant Oregon defense off guard. But once the Duck defense settled down and Oregon’s veteran offensive line began paving its way through the Washington defensive front, it was “game over” for the Huskies.
This was the second straight year that Mario Cristobal and the Ducks stole victory right from underneath the jaws of their bitter rivals. After the game ended, it seemed unlikely that any game would top it as Oregon’s best win of the season. But then, the Ducks got an unexpected challenge from the Pirate of the Palouse.
Oregon Outlasts Washington State 37-35
What did the University of Oregon ever do to Mike Leach? The always colorful head coach has had a knack for beating the Ducks in recent years, and it took everything for Oregon to hold off his Washington State Cougars in 2019.
As usual, not many fans across the country expected the game to be competitive, as Oregon was riding a six-game winning streak, while the Cougars were barely above .500. But in typical Cougar fashion, that didn’t seem to matter much when toe hit leather.
The Cougars came out swinging offensively, shredding through what had been an extremely stingy Oregon defense. Anthony Gordon became the latest in a growing list of Cougar quarterbacks to give the Duck defense trouble. He threw for over 400 yards and orchestrated a 90-yard, go-ahead touchdown drive with just a minute left in regulation.
But the Ducks had some late-game heroics of their own. Justin Herbert calmly guided his team down the field, utilizing newly introduced receiver Juwan Johnson in the screen game. A quick 53-yard drive in less than a minute led to the biggest field goal of young kicker Camden Lewis‘ career. Luckily, Lewis delivered and kept the Ducks’ playoff hopes alive.
This game was a prototypical “Pac-12 After Dark” barn-burner. It had crazy stat lines (like CJ Verdell accounting for over 300 yards from scrimmage), a defensive score and of course, a controversial penalty on the Cougars’ final offensive possession. From start to finish, this may well have been Oregon’s most entertaining game of the season.
Oregon Upsets Utah 37-15
It’s crazy how quickly things can change in college football. Just as soon as Oregon found itself in the thick of the race for the College Football Playoff, it became an afterthought after playing its worst game of the season in a loss to Arizona State.
But the Ducks didn’t remain an afterthought for long. Just a few weeks after the defeat in the desert, Cristobal rallied the troops and pounded then fifth-ranked Utah into submission in a shocking Pac-12 Championship upset.
Oregon wasn’t a massive underdog, but with a playoff berth on the line for the Utes, not many were expecting the Ducks to win. Even those that did surely didn’t see them winning as convincingly as they did.
The Ducks absolutely dominated a Utah team that entered the game on a hot streak. The Utes’ well-respected defensive line was no match for Penei Sewell and the Oregon offensive front, as the Ducks made one of the best defenses in the country look ordinary.
Defensively, Kayvon Thibodeaux introduced himself to the rest of the country with a ridiculous, three-sack game. He and the rest of the Oregon front seven made life miserable for Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley, who looked decidedly average despite what had been a stellar season to that point.
This game was special for a couple of reasons. First, the win gave them a Pac-12 title and sent them to the Rose Bowl, both happening for the first time since 2014. But it also symbolized a changing of the guard. The Pac-12 had been up for grabs, and Oregon’s convincing victory in the championship game cemented its status as the undisputed team to beat in the conference.
Oregon Wins the Rose Bowl 28-27
The Ducks may have saved their best game for last. It doesn’t get much better than winning “The Granddaddy of Them All”!
In an era when many teams and players throw in the towel for non-playoff bowl games, neither Oregon nor Wisconsin seemed to take the Rose Bowl lightly. The game had a playoff atmosphere. It was clear both programs understood the magnitude of the game.
Oregon wasn’t its sharpest on offense; a stout Wisconsin defense made life difficult on the Ducks for most of the game. But a beautifully designed opening drive and timely runs by Herbert were just enough to keep the Ducks in the game.
While the Ducks didn’t bring their A-game on offense, they sure did on defense. Superstar running back Jonathan Taylor couldn’t find any daylight against a ferocious Oregon front, and the Ducks’ secondary smothered the Badgers’ receivers all game long. To make matters worse for Wisconsin, Oregon forced four turnovers, which gave a struggling Duck offense opportunities to put points on the board.
A tight contest throughout, the game came down to No. 10 and the Oregon offense to seal the deal. Herbert and the Ducks had the ball with a one-point lead and less than three minutes remaining. Trusting the homegrown superstar to put the game on his shoulders, Oregon threw the ball on a crucial third down, and Herbert connected with Johnson to end the game, sending off a group of seniors, who started their careers with a 4-8 record, as Rose Bowl champions.
All of these games were instant classics, and Oregon fans will undoubtedly be talking about them for years to come. Which one takes the cake in your eyes? What was your favorite Oregon football game of 2019?
Morgantown, West Virginia Top Photo by Tom Corno
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
Joshua is an adopted Duck fanatic, originally hailing from southwestern Pennsylvania. His love for the University of Oregon began as a young child when he became mesmerized by the flashy uniforms and explosive offenses of the Chip Kelly era, and now, he follows the team religiously. His fondest memory of the team is seeing De’Anthony Thomas race past Wisconsin defenders back in the 2012 Rose Bowl. A true football enthusiast, Joshua loves studying the intricacies of the game, and he aspires to become a professional sports journalist. Joshua now resides in Morgantown, West Virginia where he works in customer service. When he’s not watching Oregon replays, Joshua loves reading, writing, and spending time with his family. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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