Oregon picked a bad time to play its worst three quarters of the year.
Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels played like a senior and not a true freshman as the Sun Devils upset the No. 6 Ducks 31-28. Oregon fell to 9-2 for the season and suffered its first Pac-12 loss, while Arizona State became bowl eligible with their sixth win of the season.
The loss erased all hopes of the Ducks being in College Football Playoff, but they still have a date in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship Game Dec. 6 and possibly a Rose Bowl berth.
Daniels was 22-for-32 passing for 408 yards and three touchdowns in what was his best game of his young career. His last touchdown was the absolute dagger as Oregon was trying to rally from a 24-7 deficit. The Ducks had scored two quick touchdowns to cut the deficit to 24-21 ASU and had the Sun Devils on the ropes with a third-and-16 with a hot Justin Herbert ready to complete the rally.
But the young freshman signal caller connected with Brandon Aiyuk for an 81-yard touchdown with just over four minutes left and that was all she wrote.
Herbert was able to lead the Ducks to one last scoring drive, their third touchdown in the fourth quarter, with a 17-yard screen pass to Johnny Johnson III to make it 31-28 with 2:04 left. Oregon had two timeouts at their disposal, so it had to try for the onside kick, which was recovered by the Sun Devils and that was it.
Just coming to within a field goal might be considered a minor miracle with the way Oregon played for the first three quarters. The Ducks scored a touchdown on their second possession of the game and then the offense went completely dormant until the fourth quarter.
Herbert threw two costly interceptions deep in his own territory that directly led to 10 fourth quarter points for the Sun Devils. Oregon mustered up 90 total yards in the second and third quarter and found itself in a 24-7 hole. But then the real Justin Herbert showed up for the remaining eight minutes and the Ducks almost completed a rally that would have been talked about for years to come.
He completed just 10 passes for 127 yards in the first 45 minutes, but in the fourth, Herbert was 10-of-16 for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
Cyrus Habibi-Likio ended a quick three-play, 75-yard drive that lasted just 59 seconds with a 10-yard touchdown run to make it 24-14. The Duck defense held and got Herbert the ball back and the senior went to work. Oregon scored with 5:24 left when Herbert found Johnson for a 24-yard touchdown to make it 24-21.
Oregon needed one more stop, but that was when Daniels hit Aiyuk for the 81-yard bomb. To make it worse, the play was on a third-and-16 where the very last thing a cornerback can do is to let the receiver get behind him and get beat deep. That’s what happened to Deommodore Lenoir and he learned a tough lesson that the junior will come back from.
Despite the defensive mistake, Herbert found Johnson for another touchdown to end what was a banner day for the junior. Johnson caught 10 passes for 207 yards and two scores.
A lot of the Duck offense in the early portion of the game came on the ground. CJ Verdell ran for a tough 99 yards on 18 carries.
With the playoffs out of the picture and the title game all set in two weeks, Oregon will have to turn its attention to the Civil War against what may be the biggest Pac-12 surprise of the season in the Beavers. No one figured Oregon State would even sniff a bowl game this year, but with a win in Eugene, OSU will be bowl eligible.
~ Don Smalley