After playing each other 110 times prior to Saturday, it’s hard to imagine that the 111th meeting would be one of the best of all time.
That’s exactly what happened as No. 17 Oregon came from behind to defeat No. 7 Washington 30-27 in overtime. Running back CJ Verdell scored from five yards out on third down to give the Ducks the victory over their hated rival to the North.
“It’s what a rivalry game is supposed to be like,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “We do feel like we’re just getting started.”
The touchdown was particularly redeeming for Verdell — who finished the game with 111 yards on 29 carries and two scores. He fumbled late in the Stanford game, allowing the Cardinal to score a touchdown late in the game and force OT, a game the Ducks would eventually lose.
"Very redeeming," Verdell said of his game-winning score. "I kind of put the Stanford thing behind me and went back to work."
Even with Washington stacking the box, Verdell churned out yards by using his quickness and running hard, making Oregon fans reminisce about the LaMichael James-led days.
The Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) found themselves needing a score to either win or extend the game after Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) made a 22-yard FG to begin overtime.
The Huskies appeared poised for the touchdown after their first play went for 19 yards. But the Ducks held tough on two running plays before Washington quarterback Jake Browning overthrew 6-foot-4 wide receiver Ty Jones in the endzone, settling for a field goal instead.
Oregon got into some trouble of its own in the extra period.
Facing 3rd-and-1 from the 16-yard line, Verdell appeared to get the first down but a holding penalty made it 3rd-and-11, knocking the Ducks out of field goal range.
But Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert wasn’t rattled. On the next play, he calmly stood in the pocket and delivered a perfect strike to wide receiver Dillon Mitchell for a 17-yard gain, setting up Verdell’s heroics.
“The No. 1 pick in the draft found me,” Mitchell said of Herbert’s completion.
Herbert finished 18-of-32 for 202 yards and two scores. Not as sharp as usual, he didn’t make any mistakes against Washington’s NFL-like secondary, often choosing to throw the ball away instead of into tight coverage.
"I've been involved in a lot of games here... that was one of the best games I've ever been a part of," Herbert said. "It was great to get the win and celebrate with these guys."
Mitchell continued his recent tear with eight catches for 119 yards and a score — his third game in a row with over 100 yards receiving. He now has 29 catches for 453 yards and two scores in his last two games.
Washington had a chance to win the game when kicker Peyton Henry had a 37-yard attempt with three seconds left. But Cristobal used two timeouts in an attempt to ice Henry. Henry then pushed the kick wide right, sending the game to overtime.
“If I have timeouts, then I’m going to keep doing that,” Cristobal said.
It was a back-and-forth game with both teams trading blows like heavyweight fighters.
Browning threw an interception on his first pass of the game, resulting in an Adam Stack 39-yard field goal.
Washington responded with 10 straight points to take the early lead. Herbert found Mitchell for a 12-yard touchdown near the end of the first quarter — Mitchell made multiple moves after the catch, forcing three Washington missed tackles.
After the Huskies took a 17-10 lead with 3:12 left in the half, Herbert led Oregon on a 13-play, 75-yard drive for the tying score with 14 seconds left. On the score, Herbert scrambled to his left and threw a dart to Jaylon Redd, who made a toe-tapping catch along the sideline in the endzone.
“I wasn’t even sure I was in… I was just trying to make a play,” Redd said.
Oregon and Washington exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter to make it 24-all entering the fourth.
The Ducks had a great chance early in the fourth quarter when they drove down to Washington’s 24, setting up a 41-yard field goal attempt for Stack. Stack missed wide right, giving the Huskies a chance.
On the ensuing drive, Washington drove down to Oregon’s 28-yard line, setting up a 3rd-and-3. After the Ducks stopped Washington running back Myles Gaskin a yard short, head coach Chris Petersen elected to go for it on 4th-and-1. But, a botched snap by Washington and Oregon took over, setting the stage for the end of the fourth and overtime.
Browning finished the game 15-of-25 for 243 yards and a score while Salvon Ahmed finished with two rushing scores.
With the win, Oregon now appears to be the front runner for the Pac-12 North, giving Washington it’s first Pac-12 loss on the season. Now the Ducks, Huskies and Stanford all have one loss in conference play, but Washington and Stanford play each other on November 3 in Seattle.