TEMPE, ARIZONA- Wide receiver Johnny Johnson paced the Oregon sideline with his fists clenched as the clock winded down and the reality sank in. Despite the junior’s late heroics in front of his home crowd, including 40 family members and friends, Arizona State upset Oregon, 31-28.
The loss killed all hopes of a College Football Playoff berth and marked Oregon’s first loss in Pac-12 Conference play. It was ugly, even cringeworthy at times, displaying a Duck defense repeatedly getting burned, allowing long passing plays and an offense incapable of coming through in the clutch.
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert threw two interceptions. The Duck defense gave up the most passing yards allowed since 2015. Those are uncharacteristic anomalies, not the norm. There is still plenty to play for in 2019… but for the Ducks to find more success, what happened in Tempe must stay in Tempe.
In other words, one loss cannot turn into two losses like in did in 2018 when Oregon lost to Washington State and then Arizona the following week.
Senior linebacker Troy Dye added further perspective when giving advice to long-faced freshman after the defeat,
“You gotta keep moving forward. I mean, I lost seven straight my freshman year (2016), so it could be worse.”
The 2019 team is not the 2018 team and certainly not the 2016 team; they’ve already proven they can bounce back. After losing their season opener to Auburn, the Ducks rattled off nine-straight victories.
A bright spot, Johnson III set career-highs with 207 receiving yards, 10 catches and two touchdowns. Half of Herbert’s completions were to Johnson III, who became the first Duck to surpass 200 receiving yards this season. However, much of that production came in the fourth quarter, after Oregon trailed 24-7.
The sparks came too late for Oregon, ensuing literal fireworks of victory above Sun Devil Stadium as the fans stormed the field stomping on the Ducks’ highest goal.
The Ducks are confident they will let go of this loss to re-establish their mentality to go “1-0”. UO gets a chance to win the Pac-12 Title for the first time since 2014, which would earn an automatic berth to the Rose Bowl. Now that the national title is out of the picture, how important is it for Oregon to aim their ambitions to smell roses?
“It means everything,” Herbert said. “We are coming up on the end of our senior year and playing football here has been the best four years of my life. I’d do anything to have a couple more games. I know we are going to do everything we can this week to get better, learn from it and do our best to get ready for Oregon State.”
Looming is a date with rival Oregon State on senior night and an opportunity to prove Oregon can overcome adversity with a lot left to prove this season.