CORVALLIS — Oregon coach Mario Cristobal says redshirt freshman running back CJ Verdell is just “scratching the surface” for what he can become.
Verdell ran for 187 yards and four touchdowns, and also caught a scoring pass as Oregon defeated Oregon State 55-15 Friday in a Civil War victory that was marred by quarterback Justin Herbert’s first-half injury.
Herbert threw for 102 yards and a touchdown before he appeared to injure his shoulder or upper arm on a sack and left the field on a cart. The Ducks (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) now await bowl selection having already been eliminated from contention for a berth in the conference championship game.
Verdell’s five touchdowns were the most for a Duck since 2012. Travis Dye ran for 199 yards and two additional touchdowns for Oregon.
“He just keeps on getting better and better,” Cristobal said about Verdell.
The loss ended the season for the Beavers (2-10, 1-8) in coach Jonathan Smith’s first year as coach.
“The game itself, you can look at it from a lot of different reasons for it not going our way — in the run game, both sides of the ball, rough. Opportunity to finish some drives, we didn’t do it. Momentum, never really came on our side,” Smith said. “So that is not the standard. We are going to continue to work and look forward to building on this thing.”
It may have been the final Civil War for Herbert, who could forgo his senior year to declare for the NFL draft. He is widely considered one of the top prospects at the position, but could opt to stay at Oregon for the chance to play with his younger brother Patrick, a four-star tight end who has committed to the Ducks.
Herbert was replaced by backup Braxton Burmeister for the second half. Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said afterward he would not have an update on Herbert’s condition until the junior QB got back to Eugene for additional tests.
“It didn’t seem like it was too big of a shot, but enough where we had to keep him out,” Cristobal said.
Ducks running back Tony Brooks-James was also injured on the opening kickoff of the second half and returned to the sidelines on crutches with what looked to be a left knee injury.
It also might have been the final game for Beavers quarterback Jake Luton, who threw for 282 yards and two scores. Luton has been beset by injuries during his Oregon State career including a thoracic spine fracture last season and a high ankle sprain this season. There’s a possibility that Oregon State could petition for a sixth year of eligibility for Luton because of medical hardship.
Oregon State true freshman running back Jermar Jefferson ran for 64 yards in the loss. Jefferson ranked seventh nationally with 119.6 yards rushing per game going into the Civil War. Isaiah Hodgins had eight catches for 133 yards for the Beavers.
The Beavers gave up 510 total offensive yards to the Ducks, including 392 yards rushing.
“Four-hundred yards rushing is something you don’t want, obviously. Definitely we didn’t execute as well, as we should have, as well as we could have, as well as we’re able to,” Oregon State linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray said.
The Ducks went up 21-0 in the first quarter on a trio of touchdowns from Verdell, the first on a 21-yard pass from Herbert and then two 1-yard runs.
The Beavers got as close as the Oregon 3 but Jack Colletto’s jump pass was intercepted by Oregon’s Nick Pickett in the endzone. Jordan Choukair’s 45-yard field goal with 33 seconds left narrowed it to 21-3 for Oregon State at halftime.
After Dye’s 15-yard scoring run for Oregon, the Beavers closed the gap with Luton’s 22-yard scoring pass in the midst of a downpour to Timmy Hernandez. Hernandez was initially ruled out of bounds on the pass, but video review overturned the call. Choukair missed the extra point to make it 28-9.
Verdell added a 14-yard scoring run in the third quarter. Thomas Graham had a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown to give the Ducks a 41-9 lead in the fourth before Dye’s 39-yard scoring run and Verdell’s last 1-yard TD.
Luton found Hernandez with a 31-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left for the final margin.
Verdell credited the offensive line for his success.
“We said all week that we wanted to pound the ball,” he said. “That was definitely the plan.”
Oregon: Oregon won last season’s Civil War 69-10. Herbert passed for 251 yards and three scores in the final game of a one-year stint as head coach for Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State in early December.
Oregon State: Choukair also missed a 40-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter.
Oregon wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, who went into the game ranked ninth in the nation with an average of 100.2 per game, needed just 36 yards to break Josh Huff’s single-season school record for receiving yards. But he didn’t start the game and finished with just nine yards.
Cristobal revealed afterward that Mitchell sat out the first quarter because he was late to a team meeting.
Oregon will await bowl selection.
Oregon State’s season is over.