IN DEFENSIVE STRUGGLE, OREGON SQUEAKS OUT 7-6 REDBOX BOWL WIN OVER MICHIGAN STATE – Herbert Finds Mitchell in the Fourth Quarter for Game Winning Score
It wasn’t pretty, but Oregon got their first bowl win in the Mario Cristobal era. While rushing for just 37 yards in the game, the Ducks were able to squeak out a 7-6 win over Michigan State in a defensive struggle. In front of 30,212 at Levi’s Stadium, the Ducks grabbed the winning score early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Justin Herbert found Dillon Mitchell on a 28 yard pitch and catch. Oregon was held scoreless in the first three quarters of play until the winning touchdown at the 11:29 mark of the fourth.
HOW IT HAPPENED
In the weeks lead up to the Redbox Bowl, much of the talk revolved around the health of the Ducks and their return to full strength on both sides of the football.
In the first half, the Ducks may have been healthy but it appeared they left their skills and focus in the locker room. In the first 30 minutes of the game, both the Ducks and Spartans left the field scoreless in an extremely unwatchable and unbecoming first half of play.
The Ducks had eight first half possessions and punted on five of them.
Of those eight possessions the Ducks offense had four 3 and outs. For the Spartans, they had the ball seven times and punted on all seven. Michigan State did have their scoring opportunities though. Late in the 2nd quarter the Spartans drove to the Oregon 23 yard line and found themselves with a 4th and 1. Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio elected to attempt the 4th down however quarterback Brian Lewerke bobbled the snap, then rolled the ball on the ground for several yards and eventually picked it up and threw an ugly interception to Oregon safety Jevon Holland.
Oregon was able to cross midfield just once in the first half on a Herbert to Jacob Breeland pass play at the 13:34 mark of the second quarter. On the ensuing play Herbert targeted receiver Dillon Mitchell coming across the end zone who dropped a perfectly thrown ball forcing the Ducks to punt back to the Spartans.
Dropped passes in key situations and poor offensive execution caused much of the Ducks offensive woes. In the first 30 minutes of play, Oregon tallied just 90 yards on 31 plays. 18 of those yards came on the ground.
In the second half, the offensive execution wasn’t much better.
That said, it was the Oregon defense that was the games MVP. The Ducks held the Michigan State offense to just six points which they were able to convert by kicking two field goals.
The first score of the game came at the 9:57 mark of the third quarter when placekicker Matt Coghlin drilled a 34 yarder to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead.
Much of the third quarter for the Oregon offense was played deep in their own territory. In all, the Ducks punted 11 times in the game and was simply unable to put any kind of drive together.
Late in the third quarter the Spartans would add another field goal to their score when Coghlin hit another 34 yard attempt. With 1:17 to play in the third Michigan State led the Ducks 6-0.
It wasn’t until the 11:59 mark of the fourth quarter that Oregon would find the end zone.
Duck QB Justin Herbert led the offense on a 6 play – 77 yard drive that ended with a 28 yard strike to Dillon Mitchell in the corner of the end zone near the front pylon. The touchdown pass not only gave the Ducks their first lead of the game, but it also extended Herbert’s touchdown passing streak to 28 consecutive games. It was also Herbert’s 29th scoring toss of the season and 10th touchdown catch of the year for Mitchell.
Mitchell also etched his name in the Oregon record books by breaking the single season receiving yard mark held by Josh Huff from 2013 when he ended the season with 1,140 yards. Mitchell eclipsed that mark in the Redbox Bowl by adding 70 yards to his season total giving him 1,184 yards on the year. For the game, Mitchell caught 6 balls for 70 yards and a touchdown. For the season Mitchell caught 75 passes and 10 touchdowns.
Oregon would go on to win the game 7-6 and end their season at 9-4.
For the game, Oregon’s stats were extremely paltry. The Ducks generated just 203 total yards. On the ground, a staple of the Oregon offense, the Ducks managed just 37 yards led by CJ Verdell who carried the ball 14 times for 43 yards. Because Oregon lost 6 yards during the game, their final total was 37.
Through the air, Herbert connected on 19 of 33 passes for 166 yards and the single score.
Defensively Oregon was able to generate 3 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. Where the defense really shined was in the secondary where they broke up a total of 9 passes.