As soon as Verdell scored in overtime to give the Ducks a 30-27 victory against rival Washington, players and fans stormed the field to revel in the moment.
“This is the first time I’ve seen people run onto the field like that,” Oregon receiver Dillon Mitchell said. “It was crazy.”
The victory for the Ducks ended a two-game losing streak to the Huskies.
For players like Mitchell, this was his first win against Washington.
“We knew we had to come out and win for our fanbase, for ourselves, and especially for two years ago and the way we lost at home,” said the junior, referencing the 70-21 loss at Autzen Stadium in 2016.
It was also the first win in the rivalry for Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who was an assistant last season when the Ducks lost in Seattle.
Cristobal was immediately engulfed in the celebration, so much so, he had to race up the visitors tunnel to find Washington coach Chris Peterson after the game for a handshake.
“That’s what a rivalry game is supposed to be like,” he said. “A back-and-forth dogfight. What a day. What a day.”
TOP TARGET: Mitchell has emerged as one of the top wide receivers in the Pac-12 Conference this season. Not even the best defense in the conference could slow him on Saturday.
The junior caught eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown against the Huskies who had been allowing just 174 yards per game through the air giving Mitchell 29 catches for 463 yards and two touchdowns in three Pac-12 games this year.
“I love to win and I hold myself to a high standard,” Mitchell said. “They definitely were trying to target me, trying to get into my head and talk to me and knock me off my rhythm.”
Three of Mitchell’s catches on Saturday resulted in third-down conversions for the Ducks, including on his final grab when he made a 17-yard play on third-and-11 in overtime to move the ball to the Washington 9-yard line, setting up the game-winning touchdown.
“I just sat in a hole and the No. 1 NFL draft pick found me,” said Mitchell, referring to quarterback Justin Herbert.
NEXT MAN UP: Oregon took a beating on its offensive line, losing starting left tackle Penei Sewell and right guard Dallas Warmack to injury, but it didn’t stop producing.
Warmack went down twice in the first half with an apparent left arm/shoulder injury and didn’t play in the second half.
Sewell appeared to injure his right ankle/foot late in the second quarter and needed teammates to help him hobble to the sideline. He returned briefly in the third quarter with his right foot heavily taped before leaving again for good.
Tackle Brady Aiello and guard Jacob Capra replaced Sewell and Warmack and helped the Ducks rush for 177 yards against a defense that had been allowing just 129.8 per game.
The last six yards of the game came on Verdell’s game-winning run that went right up the middle and into the end zone.
“We consider those guys co-starters because of the amount of repetition that they get,” Cristobal said.
PUT ON ICE: Cristobal said he doesn’t really have a strategy, per se, when it comes to icing a kicker. But if he has timeouts to burn, he’s going to burn them.
That’s what happened when the Ducks twice called timeout as Washington’s freshman kicker Peyton Henry lined up to attempt a 37-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
Oregon called back-to-back timeouts before Henry’s attempt went wide right to send the game into overtime.
“If we have a timeout, I’m going to keep doing that,” Cristobal said. “I mean, you don’t have any other plays. We just kept playing, just kept believing. We also felt we could get some good push too, try to get a block on that thing. But it worked out well for us.”
UNDER SCRUTINY: Saturday’s game brought out the NFL scouts, as 13 people from 10 different teams were credentialed to watch the game from the press box. Among them were four representatives from the Denver Broncos, including general manager John Elway, the NFL Hall of Famer who also played for Stanford.
EXTRA POINTS: Oregon has won 11 of its last 15 games against Top-10 opponents in Autzen Stadium The Ducks have won 24 of their last 27 games at home when nationally ranked, and are 90-18 all-time at Autzen Stadium when ranked Oregon has knocked off ranked teams in back-to-back games for the first time since 2014 when it beat Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game and Florida State in the Rose Bowl The Ducks have scored 30-plus points in each of their first six games. Coming into the week only two other teams (Alabama and Georgia) surpassed the 30-point mark in their first five games Seven true freshmen (Karsten Battles, Travis Dye, Kahlef Hailassie, Jevon Holland, Adrian Jackson, Sewell, Tom Snee) played in their sixth game of the season Herbert extended his streak with a TD pass to 21 consecutive games and passed Dan Fouts (5,871 yards) for ninth all-time in career total offense at Oregon.