No. 12 Oregon keeps playoff hopes alive with comeback win over No. 25 Washington

Oregon quarterback <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/263243/" data-ylk="slk:Justin Herbert">Justin Herbert</a> passes against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert passes against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Oregon is in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 North, and its College Football Playoff hopes are still alive.

The 12th-ranked Ducks trailed No. 25 Washington 31-21 late in the third quarter, but staged a fourth-quarter comeback and pulled out a 35-31 victory in Seattle.

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Oregon first cut Washington’s lead to 31-28 by pulling out an awesome play call on fourth down. It was the final play of the third quarter, and Oregon kept its offense on the field on fourth-and-3 from Washington’s 36-yard line.

Just before the clock for the quarter expired, Mycah Pittman came in motion, but stopped on a dime and returned to his original side of the field as Justin Herbert faked a handoff. That’s when Herbert looked Pittman’s way and hit him in stride. Not only did the Ducks pick up the first down, but Pittman took it to the house.

From there, the Oregon defense — which had allowed only 25 points combined over its previous five games — forced consecutive punts to put the ball back in the hands of Herbert and the offense.

With the Washington defense keying in on Herbert, the Ducks were able to gash the Huskies with big runs by Travis Dye and Cyrus Habibi-Likio. Those runs got the Ducks inside the 10, but it was Herbert’s arm — a five-yard strike to Jaylon Redd on third down — that put them ahead 35-31 with 5:10 to play.

Washington would get one last chance on offense, but a sack by Oregon’s Popo Aumavae ultimately doomed Jacob Eason and the Huskies. Eason’s final throw came on fourth-and-3 from the Oregon 35, but the pass fell incomplete and the Ducks held on for a crucial victory.

Oregon has commanding lead in Pac-12 North

Oregon opened its season with a dramatic loss to Auburn on Aug. 31. Since then, the Ducks have won six straight and taken a firm hold atop the Pac-12 North standings. Now 6-1 overall, Oregon is also 4-0 in conference play and has put itself in great position to win the division for the first time since 2014.

The North has been controlled by Washington and Stanford in recent years, but both teams have scuffled so far in 2019. Stanford has been plagued by injuries, but even at full strength the Cardinal was in for a down year with the overall drop-off in talent on the roster. Washington’s full has been more surprising. The Huskies are now 5-3 with three conference losses to Oregon, Cal and Stanford.

In fact, Oregon State — yes that Oregon State — now is in second place in the division after knocking off Cal earlier Saturday. The Beavers are 3-4 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play.

College Football Playoff possible?

Oregon has no room for error the rest of the way if it wants to find its way into the final four of college football. The Ducks are going to need Auburn to pull out some upsets as the season progresses, too. Auburn, ranked No. 11, is 6-1 on the year with just a loss to No. 9 Florida under its belt.

After a 51-10 win over Arkansas on Saturday, the Tigers still have No. 2 LSU, No. 10 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama remaining on its schedule. Auburn has the chance to make Oregon — the teams played down to the wire — look even better.

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