No one in the press box seemed to care that Oregon State’s (OSU) marching band was playing an ABBA tribute halftime show. I seemed to be the only concerned if the band was playing “Lay All Your Love On Me.” Instead, everyone seemed focused on their hamburgers, bathroom visits or the fact that Oregon’s Justin Herbert was possibly out of the game with an injury.
The 2018 Civil War game between Oregon and OSU didn’t come close to being an upset. The game ended 55-15. Oregon’s offense got hit hard without Herbert in the second half, essentially making the offense rely on their rushing game. Yet, Oregon didn’t fall apart when Herbert was standing on the sidelines. In fact, it gave Oregon’s running backs the spotlight they really deserve, especially CJ Verdell who has really carried the team all season.
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert not on field for second half per @Erik_Skopil and @Prehmmr247.
Took a shot late in the second quarter and came up grimacing with his hand on his throwing shoulder. pic.twitter.com/hJ9v2ulOY2
— Kevin Wade (@KwadeSays) November 23, 2018
Herbert seemed fine when he walked off the field at the end of the second quarter. With four minutes left in the second quarter, Herbert got sacked by two OSU defenders. It was a sack that left him clutching his right shoulder. It looked like a classic sign of a heart attack, which I’m sure many Oregon fans were having when they saw Herbert was out.
In the post-game press conference, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said he doesn’t know the severity of Herbert’s injury; he’ll know after Herbert undergoes medical tests back in Eugene.
Herbert came back to the sidelines dressed in a hoodie, sweats and a pair of casual running shoes to watch as his backup — and Oregon fans’ worst nightmare — Braxton Burmeister took the field.
Hopefully, when Burmeister was giving thanks over Thanksgiving, he acknowledged Oregon’s rushing because the running backs — Verdell and Travis Dye — made sure that Braxton wouldn’t need to pass the ball.
Thanks to Verdell and Dye, Burmeister only had to make two passes during the game and only one was a completion.
Oregon had nearly 400 yards in rushing and 250 of those yards was from the second half. The playcalling was so paranoid about Burmeister passing that Oregon had 35 rush attempts.
Compare that to Herbert’s first half. Herbert had nine completed passes and the offense ran the ball 27 times.
Bad news aside, Verdell had one of the best games of his career so far. The redshirt freshman proved to fans that the team is safe as long as he can burst through a defense that can’t stop a run play. Thanks to today’s game, Verdell also almost brought in enough rushing yards to break more than 1,000 rushing yards this season — he ended up being a little more than 20 yards short.
For Verdell’s first Civil War game, he raked in four touchdowns. The last Oregon player to do that was Royce Freeman in 2017. Freeman now, of course, plays for the Denver Broncos, so Verdell has a bright future if his next three years at Oregon remain constant.
True freshman Travis Dye likewise had a great game — and kept Burmeister from throwing the ball. Dye ran for 199 yards overall and during the second half had two touchdowns.
Without Herbert at quarterback, it seemed at first that OSU would have one helluva break. With Oregon grounded, it cut down the likelihood of passing. So OSU could freeze Oregon’s offense, force turnovers and get some points on the scoreboard.
The opposite happened.
During the second half, OSU had four turnovers. Three were interceptions, but one was a turnover that will haunt OSU for years to come. Like Icarus, OSU went too far, as evident in their attempt to pull off a trick play in the torrential rain, which ended up trending on Twitter — in a bad way.
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) November 23, 2018
Oregon will go on to a bowl game. With Herbert on the sidelines, Oregon demonstrated their rushing can not only “win the day” but also “save the day.”
However, if Herbert is truly injured (or if he wants to keep himself healthy for the NFL draft and skip the upcoming bowl game like Freeman did last year), the team will need a miracle to bring home a bowl game win because whoever they play won’t have a defense as full of holes as OSU.