Oregon and Wisconsin faced off in this year’s Rose Bowl, and it was a game that turned out to be an instant classic. It was a game that featured five turnovers, two non-offensive touchdowns, and several lead changes. However, at the end of the day, Oregon prevailed, winning 28-27.
It was the perfect way for Oregon to end its season. A 12-2 record in year two under Mario Cristobal is huge. Not only that but now the coaching staff, which has done a great job on the recruiting trail, has more to sell. The coaching staff has a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl championship.
This is also a perfect way for this senior class to go out. They came in and the program went 4-8 their freshman season. After that, Willie Taggart was hired, and the program appeared to be on the right trajectory. Recruiting was improved in a big way, and the team won seven games, despite Justin Herbert missing significant time.
However, Taggart bolted for Florida State after just one season. This was putting the program in the position of having three head coaches in three seasons.
Most would have folded under that. But not this class. This class instead was fully bought into Mario Cristobal and the coaching staff he put together. They started off last season 5-1, but things didn’t go as well down the stretch.
Now, here they are. Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champions and they have left the program in a much better position than they found it.
Oregon Beats Wisconsin in a Classic Rose Bowl
Justin Herbert Gets it Done With His Legs
It was far from Justin Herbert’s best night in the passing game. While the passing game did have its moments and ended up icing the game with Herbert’s third-down completion to Juwan Johnson, it lacked rhythm most of the night.
However, Herbert found a way to get it done. He did that by doing the thing a lot of fans have been clamoring for, run the ball.
He only ended up with 29 rushing yards for the game, but sacks are taken into account for rushing yards in college football. The most important part was that every offensive touchdown that Oregon scored in their Rose Bowl victory was a Herbert touchdown run.
This was somewhat of a carryover from the Pac-12 title game against Utah where Hebert used his legs early and it seemed to make the Utah defense hesitant. But it’s not something he’s done most of his career. However, he showed that he is a more than capable runner and is going to do what it takes to win.
Doing a Great Job on Taylor
Now doing a good job on Taylor is different than most running backs. Only two teams coming into the game had held him under 100 yards. In this one, Oregon became the third. On the night, Taylor finished with “just” 94 yards on 21 carries.
This was big because it made the Wisconsin play-action less dangerous. That’s why Jack Coan only threw for 186 yards on 23 completions.
Overall the defense was the main reason for this win. When the defense had defended three plays and only given up one yard, Wisconsin had 10 points. That happened because of a kick return for a touchdown and then a Herbert interception set the Badgers up in field goal range.
Outside of that, the defense gave up one long touchdown drive and held the Badgers to a field goal when things were in the balance and the Badgers were trying to make it a 10-point lead.
The defense also forced three of the four turnovers, the other one being the play where the Wisconsin punter dropped the ball and Brady Breeze ran it in for a score.
Of those three turnovers, they set up two Oregon touchdowns.
This defense took huge strides in year two under Mario Cristobal and year one under Andy Avalos. The best part? They are likely going to keep getting better. But for now, this was a great way to cap off a great year for this unit.
How cool was it for Breeze and Herbert to win offensive and defensive MVP? Not only have they been part of a tumultuous era of Oregon football, but they have also been ultimate team players.
Herbert has shown time and time again what this program means to him and that he just wants to win. But last season Breeze moved to outside linebacker at one point because of injuries. He also came into this season with hopes of starting. However, he didn’t start the Auburn game. Even with that, he has kept his nose down and continued to work and with each week he became a bigger part of the rotation.
That seemed to culminate with his performance in the Pac-12 championship game, but now he is a defensive MVP of a Rose Bowl.
He not only scored the touchdown, but he made countless plays on defense and had a huge pass breakup when the Badgers took a shot downfield and nearly came away with an interception.
Also, both of these players are from Oregon. Oregon winning a Rose Bowl and the two MVP’s are Oregonians? Just awesome stuff.
Oregon Wins the Rose Bowl
As mentioned, this is a great way to go into the offseason. A 12-2 season with a Pac-12 championship and now a Rose Bowl title isn’t going to do much to slow down the recruiting efforts.
It also shows the returning players what it takes to win a game like this. It also shows that the coaching staff can make the adjustments needed to win a game of this magnitude.
This program is on a clear upward trajectory, and now the coaching staff needs to have a strong finish on the recruiting trail.
There will also be a lot of key players to replace next season. But for now, enjoy this moment Oregon fans.
Top Photo: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports