CORVALLIS — In what may have been his final Civil War, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert ended the afternoon in street clothes.
Herbert, a projected early-round pick if he chooses to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, was forced to leave Friday’s rivalry game due to a shoulder injury sustained on a second-quarter sack. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal did not have an update on Herbert following Friday’s runaway 55-15 victory over Oregon State at soggy Reser Stadium.
“He took a shot on the sack, we won’t know until we get back and run some tests on him,” Cristobal said. “It didn’t seem like too big of a shot, but enough where we had to keep him out and check on him a little bit more extensively.”
When asked if a healthy Herbert would play in whichever bowl game the Ducks’ (8-4, 5-4) land, Cristobal said, “I don’t see why not.”
A season ago, running back Royce Freeman, now a member of the Denver Broncos, opted to skip the Las Vegas Bowl to avoid injury. Freeman, Oregon’s all-time leading rusher, was selected in the third round.
Herbert staked the Ducks to an early 21-0 lead in the 122nd Civil War, completing 9 of 12 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. The Eugene native and Sheldon High School graduate extended his nation-leading streak of games with a touchdown pass to 27.
Late in the second quarter, Herbert landed awkwardly as he was thrown to the turf by Shermar Smith and Doug Taumoelau. The 6-foot-6, 233-pound junior quarterback didn’t return and was replaced by Braxton Burmeister for the second half.
“It was real tough,” running back Travis Dye said of watching Herbert leave the game. “That’s my guy and you always want to see him succeed. He went down, unfortunately, but Braxton stepped up, did his job and we got it done.”
In 11 starts this year, Herbert has passed for 2,985 yards with 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He is 15 yards away from joining Marcus Mariota, Akili Smith, Danny O’Neil and Bill Musgrave as the only Ducks to throw for 3,000 yards in a season.
Herbert missed five starts last fall with a fractured collarbone. The Ducks went 1-4 in those games.
“A year ago when we didn’t have him, it seemed like we fell apart,” Cristobal said. “And today everybody just kind of rose to the occasion.”
HISTORIC GROUND ATTACK: The Ducks didn’t need to throw the ball Friday, gashing a porous Oregon State defense for a season-high 392 rushing yards on 62 attempts. The Beavers (2-10, 1-8) were giving up a Pac-12-worst 271.8 rush yards per game entering Friday.
Travis Dye ran it 33 times for 199 yards and a pair of scores while CJ Verdell added 187 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. Dye and Verdell are the first players in school history to amass 180 or more rushing yards in the same game.
“The coaches came in with a great game plan, and we just executed it,” said Verdell, who also had a 21-yard receiving touchdown. “That’s why the game was the way it was.”
Oregon completed just one pass in the second half and out-gained the Beavers 510-336 in total yardage.
As the rain picked up in the third quarter, Oregon’s offensive line and tight ends opened bigger and bigger holes for Dye and Verdell. The backs did the rest.
“All week we knew it was going to rain, and all week we knew we were going to pound the rock,” Dye said. “I’ve been telling people since the beginning: This one-two punch, you can’t stop it.”
DEFENSE STEPS UP: The Ducks were also strong defensively, forcing four turnovers while holding talented Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson to 64 yards on 21 carries. Jefferson wrapped up his true freshman season with 1,380 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
Thomas Graham returned an interception for a touchdown and added another pick in garbage time. Teammate Nick Pickett had a goal-line interception in the first half that ended a promising Oregon State drive.
“It was nice to see the offense and defense complement each other,” Cristobal said. “Good stops by the defense, the offense being able to control the line of scrimmage to keep the defense off the field. That really lends to a nice combination to be able to control a game on the road.”
DUCKS EMBRACE RAIN: Oregon, which cruised to a 69-10 romp in last year’s Civil War, has now won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Oregon State.
The lone loss came in 2016 when the Ducks blew a 10-point second-half lead in a downpour at Reser Stadium. Another storm hit Friday, but Oregon wasn’t going to give in.
“It was an amazing second half,” defensive lineman Gus Cumberlander said. “It started raining and all the guys were hyped about it because (two years ago), they made a big deal about the rain. So we wanted it to rain this game just to prove a point.”
MITCHELL’S DISAPPEARANCE: Star receiver Dillon Mitchell didn’t play in the first quarter and had just one catch for nine yards.
Cristobal said Mitchell, who needs 27 receiving yards to break Josh Huff’s single-season school record of 1,140, was suspended for being late to a meeting. He was used sparingly in the second half as Oregon went with a run-heavy attack.
INJURIES: Ducks senior defensive end Jalen Jelks didn’t play due to an undisclosed injury.
Jelks leads all Oregon defensive linemen with 54 tackles, including 7.5 for loss. His 3.5 sacks rank third on the team.
Veteran running back/special teams player Tony Brooks-James suffered a lower body injury during the game. Cristobal said Brooks-James will have an MRI soon.