After a dominating first half performance, Oregon held on to dear life to win 31-29 over Arizona State in front of 50,485 inside Autzen Stadium on Senior Night.
The Ducks scored 28 points and racked up 364 yards of total offense in the first half, but that all changed in the second half. Oregon scored three points, a 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and gained just 85 yards in the second half.
Meanwhile, ASU was methodically staying in the game with three field goals and when it scored with 11:01 left in the game on a 25-yard pass to Brandon Aiyuk, it was suddenly 28-23 Ducks.
That was when Oregon (7-4, 4-4) put together its lone scoring drive after halftime and that went just 29 yards after a 56-yard kickoff return from Tony-Brooks James.
Arizona State then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but recovered to save their own bacon for the time being. They fumbled the ball five times in the game and miraculously recovered four of them.
They went on to drive down 75 yards in 10 plays and brought itself to within 31-29 as Manny Wilkins called his own number for a one-yard plunge. Coach Herm Edwards went for the tie game with just 4:35 left. Wilkins threw the ball to Frank Darby in the back of the end zone, but his toe was out of bounds, preserving the Ducks’ slim lead.
Oregon’s job from that point was to somehow either score or even better than that, run out the remaining 4:35.
But that would be too easy.
Justin Herbert was picked off for the second time with 3:47 left. It capped off a miserable half for the Oregon signal caller who threw for a grand total of four yards in the last 30 minutes.
With a little over three minutes left, Arizona State had a chance to kick a field to goal win it and Brandon Ruiz had already hit three field goals. But ASU finally wasn’t able to recover its own fumble. Wilkins was stripped from behind and La’Mar Winston Jr. pounced on it with 3:02 left.
ASU had just two timeouts left and when Oregon faced a third-and-two with 2:02 left, the Sun Devils were out of timeouts. One first down and the game would be over.
And the Ducks didn’t even have to earn it themselves.
ASU tried the jump the snap, but instead was called for offsides, which was five yards, a first down and game over.
Despite the poor offensive showing in the second half, Oregon had 187 yards on the ground with Travis Dye racking up 102 of those yards and CJ Verdell gaining 70 more.
Dillon Mitchell led the receiving corps with 102 yards on four catches and a score. Jaylon Redd caught five balls for 69 yards.
Both teams went into the halftime locker room a bit frustrated, but for very different reasons.
The scoreboard read 28-13 Ducks, but Oregon probably felt like they should be up more and the Sun Devils could have felt like they should have a smaller deficit.
The Ducks absolutely dominated Arizona State in the first half, and were up 21-6 when Herbert threw an interception that was returned 55 yards to the Oregon 22-yard line.
Arizona State capitalized on the turnover on the very next play as Wilkins hit Frank Darby in the end zone for the touchdown. Even though Oregon controlled nearly facet of the game, it was a one-possession game with 50 seconds left.
Then it was the Sun Devils’ turn to feel some frustration.
Oregon could have easily sat on the ball and went to halftime looking to make some adjustments for the second half. Instead, Cristobal was aggressive.
Herbert completed a 33-yard pass to Mitchell and then a 22-yard pass to Justin Collins and in 32 seconds, Oregon was on the ASU 8-yard line.
Redd scored on the next play on a fly sweep to give the Ducks the 15-point halftime lead.
Oregon finished the half outgaining ASU 364-142. 405
It didn’t take long for the Duck offense to get rolling. They’ve had a hard time getting going in the past, but not on Senior Night. On mostly huge runs thanks to excellent line play, Oregon went 78 yards in 3:36 on nine plays, ending with Verdell’s six-yard touchdown run for the early 7-0 lead.
ASU answered with a 38-yard field goal, but Oregon was able to extend its lead on another nine-play drive. This time the Ducks went 83 yards with Verdell scoring his second touchdown of the night, a 18-yard pass and it was 14-3 Ducks early in the second quarter.
After yet another ASU field goal, a 30-yard chip shot to make it 14-6, Herbert found Mitchell streaking down the right sideline and hit him with a touch pass and a 57-yard touchdown.
The Oregon quarterback finished the half 16-of-23 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. What made his half satisfying was that Herbert was finding other receiver other than Mitchell. Red had four catches for 64 yards, Verdell had four out of the backfield and Johnny Johnson III had a trio of receptions at the half.
Now Oregon will have just five days to prepare for the Civil War and a 1 pm Friday game up in Corvallis. The Beavers have had a bad season at 2-9, but beating the Ducks in Jonathan Smith’s first year at the helm would ease the pain of what was the 2018 season.
~ Don Smalley