When reporters leave the field after a football game, following the Ducks into the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, there’s a certain look of disappointment on the faces of fans waiting outside the tunnel. Instead of seeing a favorite player, they’re greeted with a convoy of exhausted, overworked reporters.
Their brief disappointment was how I felt throughout this game.
Neither team really shined throughout the whole game. Oregon’s (6-3) special teams was mostly responsible for getting momentum started with a 21-0 lead by the start of the second quarter. But UCLA (2-7) exposed some of Oregon’s flaws. UCLA showed that Oregon’s defense has troubles in containing rushes and still has a weak passing defense.
It’s a good thing that Oregon had its special teams since it was a hard week with Justin Herbert and his favorite wide receiver, Dillon Mitchell, in concussion protocol after suffering some hard hits during that embarrassing loss to Arizona last week.
Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said Herbert and Mitchell missed a lot of practice because of the concussion protocol, so it was tough for them to jump right into the game against UCLA.
“This is still college,” Cristobal said. “They need to practice to be at their very best.”
Cristobal added the team had to have heart-to-hearts through individual meetings the day after the loss to Arizona. What the coaching staff learned from these meetings is that the defense and offense feed momentum off each other and the team wanted to have a better performing special teams.
It’s a good thing that better-performing special teams laced up.
Oregon started the game off with a weak drive that pretty much relied on running back CJ Verdell. Herbert couldn’t connect with receivers and Verdell could only do so much.
Oregon had moments of brilliance from its special teams. Most notably, Oregon pulled off an amazing fake field goal play.
A great fake field goal leads to a one-yard TD run for CJ Verdell! Ducks lead UCLA, 14-0, with 4:23 left in the first. #GoDucks pic.twitter.com/YajWltghB4
— Oregon Football (@oregonfootball) November 4, 2018
Punter Blake Maimone could barely contain his excitement during the post-game press conference for pulling off that fake field goal.
“I’ve been waiting on that,” he said. “Really great to contribute. To throw a pass and make a huge contribution is something I’ll never forget.”
Maimone was responsible for getting Oregon to the one-yard line. Verdell then rushed into the end zone for a touchdown.
Before Oregon took that 14-0 lead, though, it all started with a special teams touchdown by Ugo Amadi — a 56-yard return — that got Oregon’s momentum started.
Let’s not forget Oregon’s Tony Brooks-James, either. He capitalized on UCLA dropping a punt, taking possession, allowing Oregon’s offense to start a drive that only took 11 yards to score a touchdown.
That being said, Oregon shows that it has a weak kicker in Adam Stack, which every fan in Autzen was reminded when he missed a 21-yard field goal.
Cristobal said the fans contributed to the win. UCLA was lined up for a 51-yard field goal. However, the loud crowd caused UCLA to have a false start. The five-yard penalty made UCLA go for a 57-yard attempt, which was too much of a stretch for kicker JJ Molson.
However, Oregon’s defense let UCLA get away with a lot.
Cristobal was aware of this. He said Oregon didn’t allow massive rushes, but UCLA’s Joshua Kelley was able to rush 164 yards, for an average of 6.2 yards each run. That’s basically the reason UCLA could grab more first downs than Oregon. UCLA got 29 first downs and Oregon had 20.
Oregon’s defense came in to make some plays, though. For example, Justin Hollins forced a fumble that led to Oregon essentially solidifying the win by killing UCLA’s momentum in the third quarter. And Jevon Holland intercepted a poorly thrown pass by UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the first quarter.
Despite those defensive wins by Oregon, UCLA, which played two quarterbacks, at the end of the day passed for 297 yards and had two passing touchdowns — more passing yards than Oregon.
If it weren’t for Oregon’s special teams, this would’ve been a different ball game.
With the win against UCLA, Oregon is now bowl eligible. With Herbert and Mitchell shaking off that field rust from being in concussion protocol, maybe tonight was a one-off — hopefully. Because if Oregon plays the way they did for the rest of the season, they might end up playing in the Lysol Toilet Bowl game.
- CJ Verdell had 25 rushes for 92 yards and one touchdown
- Tony Brooks-James had five rushes for 73 yards and one touchdown
- Justin Herbert passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns but had a completion rate of 56 percent
- Dillon Mitchell, targeted 13 times, had eight catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns