New low for Herbert-less Oregon
SEATTLE — The Oregon Ducks hit a low point in the era of quarterback Justin Herbert being injured and a nearly 10-year low point in the offense department Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Washington allowed a field goal on Oregon's first drive and then shut out the Ducks the rest of the way while using its big plays to win 38-3.
The Ducks (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) hadn't been held without a touchdown since a 16-0 loss to UCLA on Nov. 24, 2007, a stretch of 130 consecutive games with at least one TD.
The Huskies (8-1, 5-1) have whipped the Ducks in consecutive seasons now, after a 12-game losing streak to their rival, outscoring them 108-24.
Royce Freeman rushed for 122 yards on 24 carries to lead the Ducks, who again played without Herbert. He dressed for the game and had his helmet on at kickoff, only to stand on the sideline.
Even supported by a 247-yard team rushing output, true freshman Braxton Burmeister again had trouble throwing downfield — a big part of UO's offensive woes since Herbert suffered a broken collarbone on Sept. 30 against Cal. Burmeister went 7 of 13 for 31 yards, with a long throw of nine yards. He was sacked twice, threw an interception and fumbled two snaps on third down.
Meanwhile, the Huskies overcame a sluggish start against the competitive Oregon defense and made several big plays. A history-making big play got things started on special teams — a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown by Dante Pettis, the ninth of his career for the NCAA record.
A nifty 34-yard TD run by Myles Gaskin put Washington ahead 17-3 at halftime. The Huskies added three third-quarter touchdowns on big plays — a 47-yard Jake Browning-to-Pettis touchdown pass, a 31-yard Lavon Coleman catch-and-run touchdown — in which he managed to sit on would-be tackler Jimmie Swain and not hit the ground and get up and finish the score — and a 58-yard Salvon Ahmed TD run.
"That's what happens when you pound the ball and shake guys loose," said UW coach Chris Petersen, of the Huskies hitting on downfield passes to complement their own 247-yard rushing output on 39 carries. "Hats off to our defense playing at a really high level. Proud of them. November football is tough football."
The Ducks took solace in the fact they stopped Washington from scoring a touchdown on fourth down inside the UO 5 in the fourth quarter. But, clearly, the Huskies were trying to run out the clock, first and foremost, to get the game over.
Oregon lives to play another day, and maybe with Herbert back on Nov. 18 at Autzen Stadium against Arizona. The Ducks need one win for bowl eligibility; if they don't beat the Wildcats, maybe they can topple one-win Oregon State at Autzen on Nov. 25. Coach Willie Taggart said he wasn't close to playing Herbert, but added he hoped the sophomore QB could play against Arizona. "It'd be nice. Really nice," he said.
Taggart was pleased that his team didn't quit playing hard against the Huskies, even with the Ducks being shut out in the second half for the fifth time this season.
"Very impressed with our guys from that," he said.
"I feel like we're a lot better than that," Freeman said.
The passing-challenged offense had its issues, although Freeman's day helped the Ducks put up 247 yards on 55 carries, eclipsing 200 yards for the eighth time in 10 games — even with the Huskies expecting the run. The Ducks led early 3-0 and drove the field again, but Kani Benoit fumbled at the UW 16, and the Huskies recovered. "Big momentum change," Taggart said.
The Oregon defense played solidly at times, but missed tackles. Browning went 11 of 19 for 204 yards and two scores — with no sacks — but threw an interception (by Brady Breeze). Gaskin rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries, and Ahmed had 84 yards on six carries.
Pettis started the onslaught of big plays, breaking a 3-3 tie with his terrific punt return for a TD, his fourth of the season. Taggart had said that the Ducks would not punt away from Pettis, and Pettis made them pay on Adam Stack's first punt.
"It was a line drive," Taggart said. "Didn't get enough hang time to give the guys time to get down there (for coverage)."
Said Breeze: "He's a shifty guy. He knows how to read gaps. He definitely tries to bait people into going left and cuts it right. He sets up his blocks really well. Their special teams just did a really good job on that punt return. We have to do a better job of running the lane and containing the edge, too."
Pettis had four receptions for 87 yards, and Aaron Fuller had four catches for 76, including a 46-yard reception early (all for naught, as UW missed an early field-goal attempt).
The Ducks just didn't have enough offensive balance to stay in the game.
"We push the ball, we were moving the ball well, and turnovers (and mistakes) keep killing us," said tight end Jacob Breeland, who added that he didn't have a comment about the lack of a downfield passing game, but "we were running the ball and gashing them. When we do pass the ball, we just have to execute a lot better."
With a strong running game, the Ducks managed two wins without Herbert, against Cal and Utah at Autzen. In the four losses, they have been outscored 151-34.
"We're very capable," Freeman said. "We've just got to dial in on the details and polish some things up, and bring a better performance."
And, the return of a legitimate Pac-12 starting quarterback would help.
Burmeister is one of the toughest players on the team, Taggart said. He had 38 net yards on 14 carries, taking some shots from the hard-hitting UW defense.
"He works his butt off every day in practice," Breeze said of Burmeister, who isn't allowed to talk with media, as Taggart prohibits true freshmen from doing so. "He doesn't take crap from anyone. He's a good leader. Flushes everything."
Meanwhile, the Huskies have reclaimed their dominance in the series against Oregon. They won last year at Autzen and beat the Ducks at Husky Stadium for the first time since 2003.
"I feel bad because I've been part of the two losses," defensive back Tyree Robinson said. "I wanted to finish out on top against the Huskies.
"We're not going to just give up. You see our defense made stops in the fourth quarter. They got away with it last year (in a 70-21 win at Autzen), they tried to have fun and disrespect us and stuff. You see in the first half that we played with them (Saturday). If not for gadget plays, we would hang with them."
Said Breeze, the Central Catholic product: "I thought our defense fought really hard, especially with that last drive in the fourth quarter. It was tough for us to get that momentum going. We showed we weren't trying to give up."
NOTES: Freeman eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for the UO-record 29th time. ... Kicker Aidan Schneider, from Grant High, booted his 47th career field goal, putting him two behind all-time leader Jared Siegel (49). ... The Ducks have passed for 100 yards or fewer in four consecutive games.
OREGON 3 0 0 0 — 0
WASHINGTON 0 17 21 0 — 38
OREGON — Aidan Schneider 30 FG, 7:16
WASHINGTON — Tristan Vizcaino 34 FG, 12:04
WASHINGTON — Dante Pettis 64 punt return (Vizcaino kick), 10:05
WASHINGTON — Myles Gaskin 34 run (Vizcaino kick), 3:54
WASHINGTON — Pettis 47 pass from Jake Browning (Vizcaino kick), 13:42
WASHINGTON — Lavon Coleman 31 pass from Browning (Vizcaino kick), 5:59
WASHINGTON — Salvon Ahmed 58 run (Vizcaino kick), 2:17
Att. — 70,572