SEATTLE - By far the best reality to take away from Oregon's 38-3 loss Saturday at Washington is that the nightmare is most likely over.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert will likely return the next time the Ducks take the field in two weeks against Arizona. And, Oregon (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) has come out of the five-game stretch without him still in position to not only reach a bowl game but to realistically end the season at 8-5.
All things considered, that's not bad given that UO went 4-8 last season and just lost four out of five in blowout fashion without Herbert.
Believe it. So, don't dwell on the fact that Oregon were devoured by the hated Huskies (8-1, 5-1) for a second consecutive season. That result was a forgone conclusion once it became clear that Herbert wasn't ready to return from a broken collarbone and that freshman Braxton Burmeister would make his fifth start against the best defense the Pac-12 has to offer.
When asked if Herbert would return for the Arizona game at home on Nov. 18, Taggart responded: "I hope so," he said. "It would be nice."
As much as Taggart has tried to put a positive spin on life without Herbert in order to not impact his team, the reality is that the Ducks have to have him back. Taggart expressed that on Saturday.
"If he comes back I'm sure everyone will be excited," he said. "You guys will be excited. We'll be excited. Our fan base will be excited. We all know what it is. We need the kid back. He will be great for our football team."
The despondent Ducks who made it to the post-game press conference didn't appear to be a group that expected to lose. That's a good sign. But the reality is that they had to play a near perfect ball game in every area to compensate for the 31 yards passing they got from the quarterback. It wasn't going to happen.
Speaking of Burmeister, for all of his faults as a clearly overwhelmed freshman quarterback, it can't be said that the kid isn't tough. He can take a hit and he keeps coming back for more. However, he doesn't possess the passing skills needed to compete at this level. At least, not yet.
Oregon was able to defeat Utah last week because the rest of the team bought into the fact that they all were responsible for a three-game losing streak without Herbert and not just Burmeister. That created a more focused team that through accountability ironed out some issues.
"I think early everybody felt sorry for themselves," Taggart said. "I felt that once he started practicing again they felt a little better."
That wasn't evident in the team's play against Washington only because the Huskies are simply too good to defeat with a one-dimensional offense. Taggart, who said he was never close to playing Herbert in this game, gave his team credit for not quitting and still fighting despite the fact they were clearly outmatched.
Come Nov. 18, the Ducks will return to being an offense capable of scoring 40 points in a half. Match that with a much improved defense and the Ducks have a the makings of a squad that could run the table the rest of the way.
So, throw away this game. Forget it ever happened. Take a week off the clear your mind while the Ducks rest their bodies. Then, come back ready to find the Ducks ready to play their best football of the season.
"We still have a lot to play for," Taggart said.
Pride. A winning season. Taggart's first bowl victory. And, the seniors who haven't won a bowl game since the 2014 Rose Bowl.
"Were just going to fight for any way to win a game," center Jake Hanson said, "and get our seniors to a bowl game."
Doing so and winning would make all that this team has endured worth it in the end.