On Friday in Corvallis, the 122nd meeting between Oregon and Oregon State had a little bit of everything. From trick plays to career highs to questionable calls and everything in between, mother nature did everything she could to control the game.
When her high winds and pounding rain appeared at halftime, Oregon freshman running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye then ran away with the game, literally.
Verdell finished with career-highs of 187 yards and five total touchdowns while Dye carried the ball 33 times for 199 yards and two scores — all career-highs — as Oregon ran right over its instate rival Oregon State, 55-15.
“Him (Verdell) and Travis, they had some open holes, but they ran hard — they broke tackles, they broke arm tackles, they created some stuff,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “CJ is another guy that is just scratching the surface. He's a freshman and he's getting better and better and so is Travis.”
When the rain and winds came, it made it difficult to air the ball out. Therefore, the Ducks relied on their physicality in the trenches to pound out the win, finishing 392 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
“We had made that a huge point of emphasis and from the get-go, wanted to start fast and we started fast… the momentum kept building and ended up playing more of a complete game, more of our style of football,” Cristobal said. “The offense be able to control the line of scrimmage and keep running the football to keep the defense off the field, that really lends to a really nice combination to be able to control a game on the road.”
It wasn’t all good news for Oregon as its two biggest stars, quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, were virtually non-existent in the win — but for different reasons.
Herbert, a potential top-five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, left the game late in the second quarter when he landed awkwardly on his right shoulder after being sacked. Precaution or not, Cristobal and the training staff elected to leave their star on the sidelines, where he watched the destruction in street clothes.
“He took a shot on the sack… we won't know until we get back and run some tests on him,” Cristobal said. “It doesn't seem like too big of a shot but enough where we had to keep him out and check on him a little bit more extensively.”
On the other hand, Mitchell missed the entire first quarter for disciplinary issues after he arrived late to a meeting this past week. While he saw action in the second quarter, Mitchell didn’t play in the second half as the Ducks went with a different personnel because of the elements. Even then, Mitchell sat on the bench and never joined the offense in team huddles on the sidelines, sitting down on the field with a towel over his head at one point.
“Dillon was held that first quarter because he was late to a meeting, but after that it was from a personnel grouping standpoint,” Cristobal said. “We were in ‘Tiger’ personnel a little bit more times than not, so it dictated for a couple of other guys to be in there as well."
Despite the issues, the stars of the war were the freshmen. Regardless if this was the last time Oregon fans see Herbert and Mitchell in a Ducks uniform, the future remains bright behind the two-handed monster in the backfield.