The following is a thorough recap of the entire game. If you want the AP’s 4-minute headline-churner, you won’t find it here. This is for those who want to rewatch the game without a recording. If you’re like me, a memorable game does not exist for the storylines; it simply exists as a perfect whole.
Ready? Let’s dive in. Feel free to follow along with the full game here.
My thought process regarding this game begins with a flashback. Way back in Week 8 (Hate Week), I came across Tom Fornelli’s Six Pack, where he said the wrong team was favored (Oregon by 3). The Ducks won and covered in Seattle.
Although Fornelli was wrong, I couldn’t help but feel the same way about this game at kickoff. Even though we wouldn’t have Jaylon Redd for the game, Oregon’s Pac-12 Championship win over Utah was so dominant! We’re wearing 2012 tribute helmets! How could the Badgers be favored?!? The wrong team is favored.
- Side note: Fornelli still predicted a 1-point Oregon victory in his Week 8 article. Spooky…
Onto the game, which began with three Oregon runs for 15 yards. This opened up a 16-yard pass to Juwan Johnson. On 3rd & 4 at the Wisconsin 38 yard-line, Mycah Pittman caught his first pass for 9 yards. Hunter Kampmoyer atoned for his dropped pass earlier in the drive with catches of 9 and 15, putting the Ducks at the 4. Justin Herbert punched it in on a QB-keeper that Oregon fans have been waiting for all year, capping a near-flawless opening drive by the Eugenian.
Needless to say, I was fully convinced we would win this game after the opening drive. Herbert’s poise and confident score made it look like we were unbeatable. I had zero doubt in our ability to exploit Wisconsin’s defense.
Then disaster struck. Wisconsin did one of the only things I thought they wouldn’t: break off a big play. Aron Cruickshank’s return gave me a serious case of the jitters.
Those jitters didn’t cease when Herbert opened the next drive with an improbable interception that gifted the ball to the Badgers with a short field ahead of them.
I highlighted this series because Wisconsin could have easily taken complete command of this game within the first eighth of it. This was also the first three plays for Wisconsin’s offense and Oregon’s defense. The stellar defensive effort was enough to calm my jitters, but only temporarily. (Side note: I genuinely thought this kick went wide when I first saw it.)
Shades of De’Anthony Thomas appeared on the ensuing kickoff return, but not in a good way. Mykael Wright wanted to return it, then stopped, then wanted to go again, then stopped again. Thomas did this in almost the exact same spot seven years ago, except his indecision ended up costing Wisconsin a second-half timeout. As you probably already know, the quirky parallels between this game and the last against Wisconsin did not end there—but more on that later.
Oregon’s drive consisted of a failed check-down to Cyrus Habibi-Likio, a dropped pass by Sean Dollars, and a failed misdirection screen to Juwan Johnson after Wisconsin’s encroachment. At least Blake Maimone’s punt put Wisconsin back at their own 24.
The Ducks forced a nice six-yard 3-and-out of their own and retained possession 78 yards from glory, even though KT was probably millimeters away from blocking another punt.
A four-play drive ended with another great job by the punt team. Wisconsin got the ball at their own 18.
This marked one of the many points in the game where I was on the edge of my seat for no conceivable reason. The only phase of the game that we’d looked dominant in was on defense, and I guess I was just eager to make sure the Ducks continued that trend.
At first glance, they did not. Wisconsin picked up two seemingly effortless first downs as they moved across midfield in just a few plays.
Wisconsin has the ball on the Oregon 29. The score is still 10-7 and the Badgers are looking to extend their lead at the beginning of the second quarter.
- 1st & 10: Jonathan Taylor rips a first down run down the right, but the play is called back for offensive holding.
- 1st & 20: Coan throws his receiver the wrong way on a drag and Isaac Slade-Matautia makes a great open-field tackle.
- 2nd & 16: Screen pass to the open right side of the field is sniffed out by Thomas Graham Jr., who makes a great tackle for a loss of 3.
- 3rd & 19: Coan checks down to his running back, who is corralled by Troy Dye at the series’ original line of scrimmage.
These three defensive plays may not seem like much at first glance. I didn’t think much of them until a second watch, assuming the penalty had simply killed the drive. In reality, though, these were three incredibly important clinical open-field tackles that highlight Oregon’s yearlong theme of team defense. Great teams make these routine plays every single time, and the consistency paid off.
Dye’s final tackle set up a 47-yard field goal that was missed by Wisconsin. A yard closer and that one might go in. One missed tackle out of the three, and It’s almost a guaranteed three points—if not a first down to continue the drive.
I’m gonna speed through this part: Oregon ball on the 29…two yards in two Verdell runs…Herbert misses Johnny Johnson high…Maimone barely gets the punt off…Wisconsin ball from their 28…Taylor runs for 10 yards…Taylor up the middle for four yards and TROY DYE STRIPS THE BALL RIGHT OUT OF TAYLOR’S ARMS! LENOIR PICKS IT UP!!
Oregon ball, and the Ducks are in business in Wisconsin territory. We’ve gotta score now, right? This is where we use our momentum to take back the lead and swing the game in our favor before halftime, right? Quick 7-yard strike to Johnny Johnson; this is where we open up the playbook and get a big play, right? Right?
Herbert keeps it for 1 yard, Verdell gets half a yard on 3rd down and is stuffed on 4th and 1. Welp. This drive could have been huge for Oregon, but a golden opportunity is wasted.
But Wisconsin’s offense wasn’t done giving the Ducks big gifts. Coan was pressured by KT again (yes, it’s still the second quarter) and threw the ball right to Thomas Graham. Just like that, the offense lit up. From the Wisconsin 32, it was BANG, 15 yards to Juwan; BANG, Verdell for 13 yards; BANG, Herbert stiff-arming his way into the end zone on 1st and Goal. 14-10 Ducks and feeling good.
Oregon controlled the lead with 3 minutes remaining in the half, but the Badgers still had a chance to drive, especially after Cruickshank returned the kickoff three yards shy of midfield. Gains of 3, 7, 9, 0, and 2 followed; and with 33 yards and 52 seconds to go, it looked like the Badgers’ drive might fizzle out.
Then, out of nowhere, Coan’s deep ball found Quintez Cephus. In the heat of the moment, I took severe issue with the defensive pass interference call on this play; in hindsight, I still think it’s a harsh call, but there is pushing both ways. I think letting them play would have been the best call there. Regardless, what looked like a catch wasn’t a catch, but Cephus struck again on 3rd & 3 from the 11 to cap the drive and give Wisconsin the 17-14 lead going into the half.
Ah, halftime. Time for bathroom breaks, Twitter overreactions, band performances, and switching bars to get away from the dude who bet on Wisconsin and is already drunk. At this point, I wasn’t feeling great, but I knew this was a game we could still definitely win.
The second half began with an odd possession for Wisconsin. The Badgers rushed the ball once, followed by two completions to Cephus netting 21 yards, then three straight incompletions. On the ensuing punt, Badgers punter Anthony Liotti inexplicably dropped the ball, handing safety (and former Central Catholic Ram) Brady Breeze a touchdown.
This play was so mind-bendingly random that it almost felt like the Ducks had to go on and win. We were gifted a touchdown; now we had to make it count. But what I felt most after this strange, strange play was not joy or confusion; it was a relief. I could finally get my mind off Quintez Cephus extending the lead for five seconds, and it felt just dandy.
Wisconsin’s next drive began at their own 35. They methodically spat their way down the field with several single-digit yardage gains, interrupted only by a 34-yard flick outside to Jonathan Taylor on 4th & 1. Wisconsin proceeded to cap-off a very Wisconsin-like drive with a very Wisconsin-like touchdown: a fullback dive to Mason Stokke from less than 2 yards out. 24-21 Badgers.
Oregon’s 3-and-out really got my blood pumping. Wisconsin had another chance to extend their lead and it appeared likely that they would go up two scores.
As the fourth quarter appeared, Wisconsin had marched 39 yards in five plays and held the ball at the cusp of the red zone. A few plays later they faced 2nd & 5 from the Oregon 11.
At this point, I want to highlight the next play as one of the most important in the entire game. This 1-yard gain didn’t look like much on the surface, but let’s take a closer look:
Wisconsin sets up in a 4-wide single back set, looking more like something Oregon might have used a few years ago. Even though it’s only 2nd 5, this isn’t too uncommon of a look.
[Screenshots from Matthew Loves Ball on Youtube]
Before this play, the Ducks had been getting torched on jet sweeps, giving up gains of 7, 15, 3, and 4 (the latter on a crucial 4th & 1) on this drive alone. The near-side slot receiver, #20 Isaac Guerendo, motions and receives the ball on yet another sweep.
The defensive line gets a great push, forcing Guerendo all the way back behind the 15 before he can cut.
This gives Guerendo a lot of downhill speed as he passes the line of scrimmage, but he’s met with a crash by both Jevon Holland and Troy Dye and is pushed out at the 9.
In the next five seconds, Guerendo will make one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
Stepping over Troy Dye just doesn’t seem like a good idea, does it? This act of dominance created a mild shoving match between the teams (which, unfortunately, cannot be found on YouTube right now). While it didn’t draw any flags, this dust-up gave Oregon’s defense a reason to be pissed off.
But the real idiocy in this small act of dominance lies in what it represents. Wisconsin felt like they were on top, that they truly had the upper hand, that they deserved to win. Keep in mind, this was Guerendo’s only carry of the game. One incompletion later, Wisconsin scored its final points of the game on a 27-yard Collin Larsh field goal.
The scuffling continued after Mykael Wright was tackled at the 32 on the kick return. Half of me wanted to join in and the other half was reluctant to talk while trailing six points. Oregon continued to trail six points as a drive fizzled out around midfield.
Any security provided by Maimone’s punt being downed by Daewood Davis inside the 5 was quickly erased with Taylor’s 18-yard carry that included five missed tackles and seven yards of Oregon going for the strip instead of tackling.
Remember that jet sweep to the right that Wisconsin kept pounding Oregon’s defense with? And do you remember when I said the parallels from the 2012 Rose Bowl weren’t done? Well, when Wisconsin ran a sweep from their own 26 with 8 minutes to go, it was Oregon’s Breeze that made the play. Breeze put his helmet on the ball, jarring it loose and giving Ducks fans a familiar memory.
Sometimes fate works in weird ways.
On the next play from scrimmage…
Camden Lewis‘ extra point gave the Ducks the thin 28-27 advantage midway through the 4th.
Wisconsin’s next drive went like this:
(7:41 on the clock)
- Taylor runs for 2
- False start on left tackle Cole Van Lanen goes uncalled, Coan overthrows Cephus
- Garrett Groshek converts a first down with 9 yards after the catch
- Dropped pass on an out route
- 3-yard run
- Danny Davis III, who fumbled earlier, slips at the break in his route and Coan’s pass is incomplete. Time to punt.
Then came Oregon’s:
- Verdell rushes for 7
- Herbert drops the snap, falls on it
- Kampmoyer drops a 1st down
- Haki Woods lays out the punt returner at the 24
Not a great job of clock-killing with this 3-and-out. I suddenly had to pee for the fourth time in as many commercial breaks.
- Pass breakup by Graham
- 4-yd rush for Taylor
- Offensive pass interference creates 3rd & 20
- Coan deep ball nearly picked by Nick Pickett, incomplete
So close, and yet so very, very far from glory.
- Verdell 1-yd run
- Ducks go 5-wide, Herbert delivers to Pittman for 12
- Verdell 6-yd run
- Verdell 1-yd run
- Herbert throws on 3rd & 3 to Juwan JOHNSON WHO GETS THE FIRST DOWN AND RUNS DOWN THE SIDELINE! NO MORE TIMEOUTS! THE GAME IS OVER! WE DIDN’T BLOW IT! WE ACTUALLY WON THIS GAME! WE WON THE ROSE BOWL!!!!!!
Oregon won the Rose Bowl with the least number of passing attempts (21), passing yards (138), first downs (13), and yards of total offense (204) all season. Go figure.
It wasn’t pretty; it was beautiful. How poetic that a season marked by unfortunate events late in games avenged itself with extremely fortunate events late in the game. The gaul by Cristobal & Co. to dial-up passes on the final drive; the relentless effort of Oregon players to secure the win; the sunset helmets; the rage of vertical-striped overall-wearers; it was all unbelievably satisfying.
On November 26th, 2016 I watched Oregon fall to Oregon State in what can only be described as a miserable day at Reser Stadium. It marked the end of the worst Oregon Football season of my lifetime. I hope it stays that way, and I’m glad some of the young men that endured that lowest low were able to bring the program back to the peak of the conference.
In a school that’s often jokingly referred to as “UC-Eugene,” I’m most proud of the Oregonians on this roster. Over the last four years, Justin Herbert and La’Mar Winston stick out to me as role models. I had the privilege of watching Winston and Breeze in high school, and I can’t wait to see what the latter grows into next season.
To all the practice squad guys whose names struggle to be seen outside an official roster, thank you. As my CYO football coach used to say—greatness requires the attitude and effort of an entire team.
I couldn’t be more excited to see the future of Oregon Football.