The last time the Oregon Ducks lost a home game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon was against the Stanford Cardinal in 2018.
The No. 20 Ducks had a 31-28 lead over the No. 7 Cardinal with 0:57 to go. On a 2nd and three from the Cardinal 43 yard line, Justin Herbert took the snap and handed the ball off to redshirt-freshman CJ Verdell on the left side. The Ducks could have taken a knee, forced Stanford to take their final timeout, and then taken one last knee to seal the deal.
This next moment was a game-changer not just for the Ducks but for the next two years of Verdell’s career as an Oregon running back.
He fumbled the ball and the rest is history. Stanford went on to win 38-31 in overtime. It would be Oregon’s only home loss of the season.
It was a play that Verdell would always remember and replay in his head countless times.
In 2019, Verdell rushed for 107 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown in Oregon’s win in Palo Alto, California. While that was on Stanford’s turf, there was just something about facing the Cardinal defense back in Eugene, Oregon.
On Saturday, Oregon once again opened up Pac-12 play against Stanford for the third season in a row. This time, the result was a little better.
Verdell scored Oregon’s first touchdown of the 2020 season to go along with this performance:
Also, no fumbles. Verdell had got his redemption.
The No. 12 Ducks (1-0) went on to win 35-14 over the Cardinal (0-1). Here’s what he had to say after the game:
“One of the best feelings. Ever since that thing happened two years ago - the fumble - it’s been on my mind and I’ve been waiting to get this chance, play these guys back at home.
“C.J. rushing for over a hundred yards. Sometimes we take that for granted, but -- I guess the outside world does, we don’t,” said head coach Mario Cristobal following Oregon’s win on Saturday. “We know C.J.'s a great player and feel he's one of the best in the country. He ran hard, really got behind his pads as the game went on and started to really feel just back at home.
“Started feeling how, and picking up where he left off in terms of just feeling where the blocks are, where the push is, how to set runs up like he's always done here. Then when he was running, just running really hard, running really hard and breaking tackles and getting contact plus two. All that stuff is critically important for down and distance situations.”
This was the first display of Oregon first-year offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s new system and Verdell looked right at home. Moorhead said he wanted to get the ball to his running backs out in space and especially utilize Verdell’s hands, which was accomplished on Saturday.
The Ducks will need a lot more of that next weekend.
Next up, the Ducks will hit the road and face the Washington State Cougars in Pullman, Washington on Saturday, November 14.