Oregon beat Michigan State 7–6 at Levi’s Stadium in the bowl known for the first time this year as the Redbox Bowl. Given the quality of play in Santa Clara, Redbox may not exactly be thrilled with the brand exposure it got out of this deal.
Much was expected of a matchup of dynamic Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert, who announced he was returning to school this month and immediately became a contender for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, and Michigan State’s defense, which finished in the national top 15 in both points and yards allowed. Instead, we got one of the sloppiest (and most compelling) games of the year.
The madness began when Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke dropped a snap, recovered the ball after playing a few seconds of hot potato and immediately threw it away, only to have the wobbling pass intercepted by Oregon safety Jevon Holland.
The sloppiness continued in the second half, but no one found the end zone until the fourth quarter when Oregon receivers finally helped Herbert out with a couple nice catches, and a Dillon Mitchell touchdown gave the Ducks a 7–6 lead after two field goals by the Spartans in the third. Trying to melt down the clock and widen their lead with just over six minutes remaining in regulation, the Ducks attempted a punt fake that went horribly wrong and ended in a sack.
Looking to capitalize on that breakdown, Michigan State drove the ball 33 yards in 12 plays (not a typo) to set up a go-ahead 49-yard field goal attempt. But Lewerke mishandled a perfectly good snap, and his attempts at improvisation ended with the ball flung into the Oregon sideline.
Before they got one last shot (they lost two yards on their final, futile drive), the Spartans almost turned it over again when the punt return to set that drive up was fumbled–but thankfully recoverd another Michigan State player.
The game ended with stat lines (for both quarterbacks) that were almost as depressing as the 7–6 score. Lewerke finished 22-of-40 for 172 yards, zero touchdowns and that one interception. Herbert went 19-of-33 for just 166 yards and one touchdown. Luckily for him, that mess won’t be the final image of his college career.