( GAME RECAP ) JUSTIN HERBERT RETURNS TO THE STARTING LINEUP – DUCKS PUNISH ARIZONA 48-28 – Royce Freeman Rushes for 135 yards and 4 Touchdowns
After five games without their star quarterback, Oregon ( 6-5 / 3-5 ) used the return of standout signal caller Justin Herbert to punish Arizona ( 7-4 / 5-3 ) 48-28 at Autzen Stadium Saturday evening. Oregon’s stingy defense held Arizona star QB Khalil Tate to just 32 rushing yards and 159 passing yards and just 1 passing score. Oregon on the other hand used a 4 touchdown performance by senior running back Royce Freeman to send the Cat’s back to Tucson with their 4th loss of the season. With the win, the Ducks are now bowl eligible.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The big news to begin the game was the return of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert returned to the Duck starting lineup and picked up where he left off when he broke his collarbone on September 30th.
Arizona opened the scoring first with an 18 yard run by tailback Nick Wilson at the 7:41 mark of the 1st quarter giving the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead.
On the next possession, Herbert drove the Ducks 75 yards in 7 plays and ended the drive with a 40 yard scoring run. On a 3rd and 5 Herbert dropped back to pass but was unable to find an open receiver and decided to run finding the end zone down the left side tying the score at 7 with 5:20 to play in the 1st.
Oregon would strike again two minutes later after the Duck defense force a 3 and out and Arizona punt. At the 3:10 mark Herbert drove the Ducks inside of the Arizona 5 yard line where Royce Freeman scored on a 4 yard run up the middle pushing the Duck lead to 14-7.
Arizona appeared to tie the score at 14 after Herbert threw an interception to Dane Cruickshank at the 14:11 mark of the 2nd quarter who returned the pick into the end zone. That score however was negated because of a taunting penalty on the return. Just two plays later though the Cats would find the end zone to tie the score when quarterback Khalil Tate threw a 15 yard touchdown to receiver Tony Ellison.
After Herbert was sacked and the Ducks were forced to punt with just over 11 minutes to play in the half, the Wildcats would take a 21-14 lead when running back Nick Wilson scampered 23 yards up the middle after a 5 play – 59 yard drive.
The Ducks would once again tie the score at 21 at the 6:59 mark of the 2nd quarter after Herbert led the Oregon offense on a 7 play – 75 yard drive that ended with a 39 yard scoring strike from Herbert to TE Jacob Breeland. The scoring toss for Herbert was his 10th of the season and the 4th receiving score of the year for Breeland.
Oregon would get the ball back inside of the 3 minute mark after the Duck defense continued to shut down Tate and the Wildcat offense.
After taking the punt deep inside of the Oregon 20 yard line, Herbert found receiver Charles Nelson on a 46 yard pass play giving the Ducks the ball near the Arizona 40 with 2:35 to play in the half.
Ninety seconds later Freeman broke loose for a 28 yard scoring run extending Oregon’s lead to 28-21 with 1:32 to play before the break. Freeman would end the half with two scores while Herbert contributed one score through the air and one on the ground.
The Ducks would take a 28-21 lead into the break.
In the second half Oregon stepped up its defensive pressure holding the Cats to just 7 points while the Ducks scored 20.
Arizona would score its lone touchdown of the second half at the 3:48 mark of the 3rd quarter when Khalil Tate orchestrated an 8 play – 75 yard drive which culminated with a Zach Green 2 yard touchdown pulling the Cats within a single score 35-28.
The Ducks would end up scoring two second half rushing touchdowns – each by Royce Freeman.
In the 3rd quarter Freeman scored on an 11 yard carry and with 13:54 remaining in the 4th quarter Freeman found the end zone with a 1 yard score. Freeman ended his night with four rushing touchdowns carrying the ball 19 times for 135 yards.
Oregon placekicker Aiden Schneider booted two field goals, ( 40, 24 ) to give the Ducks the final margin of victory 48-28.
MOST VALUABLE PERFORMANCE
Royce Freeman was the games MVP scoring four rushing touchdowns pushing his career total to 58 setting an Oregon school record. This was also the third time in Freeman’s Oregon career where he rushed for 4 touchdowns in a single game.
If it weren’t for Freeman’s 4 rushing touchdowns, the Oregon defense would have been given the games Most Valuable Performance. Arizona came into Saturday’s game averaging 347 yards per game, but left rushing for just 171 yards.
Quarterback Khalil Tate came into Autzen Stadium averaging 258 rushing yards per contest but was held to just 32 on 14 carries. accumulate 330 against Oregon’s stingy defense.
Injured senior offensive lineman Doug Brenner announced the starting lineups, and had fun doing so. He announced his position mates as “The Yakima Moose” Shane Lemieux, Jake “The Machine” Hanson, “Dr.” Calvin Throckmorton and “Italian Stallion” Brady Aiello. Brenner referred to Tyrell Crosby simply as “the best left tackle in the country.” … Throckmorton started at right guard and Aiello entered the lineup at right tackle, given the absence of seasonlong starter at right guard Jake Pisarcik. … Defensive tackle Scott Pagano and linebacker Blake Rugraff each returned from a three-game absence. … Autzen Stadium PA announcer Don Essig missed the game due to illness, just the third game he’s missed since taking over PA duties. Athletics communication staffer Andy McNamara was on the mic for the game.