Oregon was far from their best Saturday, but they found a way to get a win over in-state rival Oregon State. In news that was kept quiet all week, Tristan Gebbia started for the Beavers for an injured Jake Luton. That was something the Oregon defense would take advantage of.
The team was also able to ride an early 17-3 lead, despite a rough offensive game, to a 24-10 win. It was Oregon’s 11th win in the last 12 games of the series.
Oregon Beats Oregon State
The Defense Dominates
Let’s focus on the positives first. It was a fantastic performance from this Oregon defense. Now, as mentioned, Oregon State was without Luton. Had they had Luton, they likely would’ve been more productive.
However, Oregon was able to do a good job keeping the ball from even being thrown the way of Isaiah Hodgins. That was especially true in the first half. While Hodgins did end up with a nice stat line of eight catches for 85 yards, he was never able to get loose for a big play.
On top of that, the front seven did a great job against the run. Jermar Jefferson only finished with 81 yards on 20 carries, while the Oregon defense only allowed 137 yards on 34 carries. That enabled play action to not be much of a threat and put more pressure on Gebbia, even though the pass-rush didn’t have its best game.
Playing against a backup quarterback will always make things easier. However, it is a changeup when you prepare for one quarterback and then it’s a different one come game time.
Ultimately, the defense was most responsible for this win.
Special Teams Comes Up Huge
While the defense was the main unit in this win, special teams also came up huge.
Of course, the Mykael Wright kick return for a touchdown is the standout play. It seemed to give a jolt of energy to the team at the time. It’s also clear that Wright is not going to lose his spot returning kickoffs anytime soon.
On top of that, Jevon Holland had a 25-yard punt return that set the offense up in great field position. It was field position the offense quickly took advantage of when Justin Herbert hit Johnny Johnson III for a 28-yard touchdown.
Also not to be overlooked were the efforts of punter Blake Maimone. Maimone punted six times, five of which were downed inside the 20-yard line. On top of that, two of those were downed inside the five-yard line. When the offense was struggling in the first half, this enabled Oregon to stay in front in the position battle by putting the Beavers back at their goal-line. And with the way the defense was playing, Oregon State scoring during that stretch was not even a thought.
A Rough Game For the Offense
This was the topic that had most fans frustrated after a rivalry win, and understandably so. This was a bad game for the offense. There’s no other way to put it.
Oregon State is a much-improved team, but they still don’t have a good defense. And for Oregon to only manage three offensive touchdowns, one of which came on a busted play when the Oregon State front was selling out to stop the run and Cyrus Habibi-Likio had an easy run up the middle when the game was essentially over following the Jefferson fumble.
The offense was able to score points on two of their first three drives, with the kick return mixed in, but after that, they seemed to go into a shell.
They were routinely set up with as good of field position as you can ask for, and they were simply doing nothing with it.
And this wasn’t for a lack of running game. There weren’t any really explosive runs of 50+ in this game. However, the backfield averaged 5.2 yards per attempt on the day, led by Travis Dye, who averaged 7.6 yards per attempt on 12 carries.
With that being said, they struggled to get yards when they needed them. There was a chance to put the game away earlier, but Darrian Felix was stuffed on an end-around on third down.
The Passing Game
However, the biggest part to blame is the passing game. The passing game looked good when they played with a sense of urgency in the comeback attempt last week. But before that, they looked bad, and today they looked bad. Herbert had the touchdown pass to Johnson. But outside of that, it wasn’t a lot.
On the day Herbert finished a mediocre 18/30 for 174 yards, and frankly, he was outplayed by a backup quarterback for the most part. Of course, everyone associated or rooting for the Oregon program will take the win. But this passing game needs to find its footing before the Pac-12 title game.
Herbert missed a wide-open touchdown to Juwan Johnson on a third-down and Camden Lewis promptly missed a chip shot field goal after that. He also took a couple of sacks from holding onto the ball too long.
Now it wasn’t all bad for Herbert. In the fourth quarter, he did make some plays. He pulled the ball on a read and was able to pick up a good gain. This is something fans have been wanting, as it’s been clear how open some running lanes would be for him if he pulled it. He also had a 24-yard scramble when the middle of the field opened up. That’s also something fans have been wanting. Too many times the middle of the field will open up and it doesn’t look like he considers running.
On that drive, Herbert also had a good throw on fourth-down the Bryan Addison to get the offense inside the ten. Unfortunately, that drive ended when Jaylon Redd fumbled through the endzone on a play that was originally called a touchdown. Of course, that’s not on Herbert though.
Oregon Takes Care of Oregon State: Overall Thoughts
This was a game Oregon should’ve won and that’s exactly what they did.
With that being said, fans who want to criticize the coaching staff, and specifically the offensive staff, aren’t exactly in the wrong. Jumping out to a 17-3 lead is good, but after that, it wasn’t much good, especially from the offense.
Most would’ve figured the team would’ve come out fired up and playing sharp after last week. However, that wasn’t the case. It was a largely lethargic performance. It was also a game the Ducks couldn’t seem to finish off until the defense finally forced a turnover that gave the offense too good of field position to mess up.
Up next is the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night against Utah. If you haven’t seen Utah play, just know that Oregon will need to be much sharper offensively than they have been since the USC game. The Utes have one of the top defenses in college football. On top of that, they get after the passer. So if Herbert holds onto the ball too long, he’s going to get beat up and it could be a long day for the offense.
With that being said, the passing game is likely what will need to get Oregon through that game. Utah just doesn’t give up much on the ground.
But for now, enjoy the 11th win in the last 12 Civil Wars against your in-state rival. Also, it’s the first ten-win season since 2014, and most fan bases would do anything for that.
Top Photo: Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports