Remember when Justin Herbert gave Duck fans the best Christmas present of them all? On December 26, 2018, Herbert announced he would forgo the 2019 NFL Draft and return to Oregon for his senior season.
On January 10, the good news kept coming: Linebacker Troy Dye would also return to Oregon for his senior season.
What a difference it has been for Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) this season to have these two on the field.
Justin Herbert didn’t look like himself in the first quarter vs. USC last Saturday, but then went on a reign of terror over the Trojans to finish the game. You can’t get over that mental bump without experience, and Herbert has four years of it. The offense couldn’t get it together in weeks one and two of Pac-12 play, putting up just 21 points over Stanford and 17 on California, but now have found their groove.
The defense allowed just 25 points through five games before giving up 31 points to Washington, 35 to Washington State and 24 to USC. Those are a lot of points given up to good offenses, but the defense found a way to get it done.
Talkin’ Ducks host Jordan Kent said on the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast:
“I look at what this Oregon team has done, and don’t forget you had Troy Dye and Justin Herbert come back for their senior seasons because they felt there was unfinished business, and the issue with the team last year was you got to the second half of the season and this team wilted. You got to the second half of games and this team would wilt. That’s not the case this year.”
The Ducks are reaping the benefits of having the senior leadership of Herbert and Dye out on the field. Their leadership and talent (duh) is helping Oregon finish games: Herbert’s final minute drive to set up the game-winning field goal vs. Washington State and the defense coming up huge vs. Washington stopping a fourth down conversion.
In the last eight games, Oregon has outscored its opponents 170-41 in the second half.
Last season, the Ducks struggled on the road: A 14-point loss at Washington State followed by a blowout loss at Arizona, and then a one-touchdown loss at Utah. Take a breath. This season is a different story. A 3-0 record on the road with big wins in front of hostile crowds: Washington and USC.
And with just three conference games remaining, the Ducks must take care of business as their hopes and dreams of a College Football Playoff are slim, but exist.
Listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast below: