Oregon Wins Late-Night Thriller To Cap Major Shakeup Saturday

Chris Dufresne

By my count Oregon won a football game that was hard to describe but kudos to Ducks' quarterback Justin Herbert for giving it the old college try.

"That's a brutal win," he said on ESPN moments after Oregon's 37-35 win over Washington State in Eugene. "But we pulled it out and that's the biggest thing."

I would have only changed "brutal" to "ugly" and "biggest" to "hugest" and reiterated how truly drunk-at-the-wheel Pac 12 officiating continues to be despite all the reforms that have been instituted.

By my count four minutes of game time should not take 30 minutes of real time because of communication breakdowns on the field and in the replay both.

But that's just me and 10 million other people. Between the stoppages, though, what excitement.

Oregon's snapping of a four-game losing streak to Wazzu had all kinds of college football ramifications.

Seconds from being officially eliminated from the College Football Playoff race (note: Oregon had been eliminated weeks ago by the pundits), ​the Ducks raced down field and put the game in the hands of a fleshy freshman kicker who had already shanked an extra point.

But not this time. Camden Lewis put his foot through squarely on a 26-yard game winner to keep Oregon alive, in the playoff race, for at least another week.

In fact, Oregon AND Utah, AP ranking buddies at No. 11 and No. 12, both came through in the clutch for a Pac 12 historically known for rarely taking advantage of opportunities.

Boy was this one, though, on a day when three teams in the top 10 lost and two others were idle.

Utah, in fact, may be worthy of a leap-frog over Oregon after the Utes' emphatic, 35-0 win over Cal in Salt Lake City.

It really doesn't matter at this point as long as Oregon (North) and Utah (South) keep winning on a possible collision course in the Pac 12 title game.

One slight problem is that Utah, despite probably moving into the top 10, doesn't control its path in the division thanks to a loss at USC. And get this: UCLA DOES control its path in the South.

By my count that's just nuts...

By my count Oregon is still alive for the playoff despite shaky performances at the two key positions: starting quarterback and head coach.

Herbert, despite his NFL-projection hype, got outplayed by the opposing quarterback for a second straight game. Last week it was Jacob Eason of Washington and Saturday it was Anthony Gordon of Washington State.

Herbert, in both games, made enough plays to win but Saturday he mostly had to lean on an incredible night from tailback C.J. Verdell, who rushed for 257 yards and three touchdowns.

Head Coach Mario Cristobal is a great recruiter and has brought a toughness Oregon football desperately needed. He has also proven to be a less-than-trustworthy game manager. He bungled chunks of Oregon's season-opening loss to Auburn and wasn't stellar Saturday against Field General Mike Leach.

Cristobal's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty helped Washington State to an easy touchdown. But that wasn't his biggest blunder. Nursing a late, six-point lead, Oregon faced fourth-and-six at the WSU 33-yard line. Instead of trusting his offense to make six yards and cinch the game, Cristobal decided to punt the ball back to the Cougars.

That punt netted 23 yards of field position to a team that was chewing up Oregon's defense like a bag of Skittles.

I have never personally seen Leach laugh but I bet he must have come close when Oregon gave WSU the ball at the 10 and said "here you go."

And there Wazzu went, driving 90 yards in two minutes to take a one-point lead with a minute left.

Thank goodness for Oregon that, if there is one thing Washington State is good at this season, it's blowing leads. It led UCLA by 32 points, remember, at home.

By my count Michigan 45, Notre Dame 14 was Jim Harbaugh's biggest victory since winning the NFC Championship with San Francisco. "I saw it coming," Harbaugh said after the game. Oh, you were the one. By my count Cal was shut out for the first time in 20 years and Kansas State and Kansas won Big 12 games, on the same day, for the first time in three years (thanks to Ivan Maisel for that note).

By my count Baylor, not Oklahoma, is the only unbeaten team left in the Big 12 and neither should be making plans for the College Football Playoff.

Baylor rose to the fore, on an open week and not so much on the power of its own play which has been shockingly impressive.

Baylor is in the news thanks to the failures of conference stake-holders Oklahoma and Texas, who now have four combined losses after the Sooners lost at Kansas State and the Longhorns lost at Texas Christian.

Baylor, at No. 14 in the AP this week, is basically being treated like an undefeated Group of 5 team, ranked No. 14. You know, Boise State on a good day.

No. 14 ranking puts the Bears only two spots better than No. 16 Southern Methodist, a real Group of 5 school.

Look, Baylor wasn’t expecting any of this dissection and/or introspection. It entered 2019 still in scandal recovery, hoping to quietly build its way back with a non-conference schedule of Stephen. F. Austin, UTSA at Rice. Waco could not have conceived its name would come up in selection-committee hearings.

Baylor in playoff talk, what, are you kidding?

The Bears, with a No. 73 Sagarin SOS, still have Oklahoma and Texas left to play, but what does that mean anymore?

No. 5 Oklahoma’s stunning defeat at Kansas State severely complicates the Sooners’ playoff hopes.

Last week, the Boomer Schooner tipped over in Norman. This week, the OU defense went wheels up in Manhattan.

Giving up 48 points, in defeat, to Kansas State, going forward, is not a particularly strong negotiating position.

After talk of its defense being revamped and vastly improved under coordinator Alex Grinch, Oklahoma is back to answering the same old questions.

Oklahoma hasn’t completely reached the end of Playoff Road…but you can see it from here.

"We've been through this before," OU Coach Lincoln Riley said. "Everybody in the world's going to say you're done. We know how this works...there's everything left out there for us."

By my count Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw four interceptions at TCU, Rutgers DID cover the spread against Liberty, Auburn still hasn’t won at LSU since 1999 and USC ran its all-time record versus Colorado to 14-0…

Despite the usual USC fan whining, that was a pretty good Friday night win at Colorado. The Trojans rallied from a 10-point deficit for the first time since their Rose Bowl win over Penn State…USC was missing its top four tailbacks and several starters on defense. Quarterback Kedon Slovis, in his signature so-far moment of his freshman year, led his team on a 12-play, game-winning drive, capped by his fourth touchdown pass of the game. He delivered one critical third-down pass despite getting whacked as he threw. “Unbelievable poise,” USC Coach Clay Helton said. Slovis completed 30 of 44 passes for 406 yards with four TDs and one interception. USC is now 4-1 in the Pac 12 South with a tie-breaker over Utah.

By my count quarterback JT Daniels, injured in the opener and out for the season, might have played his last game for USC. Slovis has looked so solid in Graham Harrell’s offense Daniels might not be able to get his job back…

By my count classic pregame traditions are having a rough go of it. Last week, the Boomer Schooner keeled over at Oklahoma (thankfully no one was hurt) leading to news that wagon-wheel rides will be suspended the rest of this season…Friday, in Boulder, “Ralphie’s Run” was a late-minute scratch before Colorado’s game against USC.

By my count live-mascot “Ralphie” has made 296 pre-game runs onto the field since 1967 (stat courtesy of Dave Plati’s outstanding SID staff). Colorado said this was one of the “few times” Ralphie has not run. The reason given: “She did not run tonight because she wasn’t of the proper temperament…” Sounds like a good reason to us.


Chris Dufresne