Justin Herbert, No. 13 Oregon Beat No. 5 Utah 37-15 to Win 2019 Pac-12 Title

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 7, 2019

Oregon running back CJ Verdell
Oregon running back CJ VerdellThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

No. 13 Oregon took a 20-0 lead en route to a 37-15 win over No. 5 Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Ducks running back CJ Verdell led the way with 208 rushing yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries. He scored on runs of 70 and 31 yards in the fourth quarter alone. The first one gave Oregon a 30-15 edge following the extra point, and the second put the nail in the coffin.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert took a backseat to the Verdell show but fared well with 193 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He found wideout Johnny Johnson III six times for 87 yards and a score.

Zack Moss did it all for Utah, leading the team in rushing (19 carries, 113 yards) and receiving (four catches, 57 yards, one touchdown).

The Ducks broke Utah's eight-game winning streak with the victory and entered bowl season as winners of 11 of their last 12 games.


Notable Performances

Oregon QB Justin Herbert: 14-of-26, 193 yards, 1 TD

Oregon RB CJ Verdell: 18 carries, 208 yards, 3 TD

Oregon WR Johnny Johnson III: 6 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD

Utah QB Tyler Huntley: 17-of-29, 193 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT

Utah RB Zack Moss: 19 carries, 113 yards; 4 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD

Utah WR Samson Nacua: 2 catches, 39 yards, 1 TD


Herbert Gets the Job Done in Pac-12 Title Game

NFL-bound Herbert won't wow anyone with his stats from Friday, but he did his part as the Oregon running game and the defense were the stars.

The signal-caller swung momentum toward the Ducks early on a nine-play, 67-yard touchdown drive in which he accounted for 46 yards (20 passing, 26 rushing). His 3rd-and-2 toss to Jaylon Redd from Utah's 15-yard line enabled Verdell to punch it in from three yards out.

Herbert saved his best pass of the day for a 50-yard strike to Juwan Johnson. The quarterback rolled out to his right and tossed a perfect dime deep down the field inside the Utah 5-yard line. A touchdown-saving tackle eventually led to a field goal.

Herbert got his touchdown pass later on, however, when he found Johnson for a 45-yard score early in the second quarter.

ESPN @espn

OREGON CAME TO PLAY! Up 17-0 in the 2nd quarter of the Pac-12 Championship 💪 https://t.co/60LHVVPNHD

Granted, Johnson ran an incredible route that enabled him to get wide-open:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

This route is straight filth 🤧 https://t.co/2YZNBnE3ha

The Ducks had a 17-0 lead at that point, an unexpected result. For context, Utah was a 6.5-point favorite entering the night, per B/R Betting.

Verdell took over going forward, rushing for 155 yards in the second half alone. 

Herbert didn't need to put the team on his back with the Ducks firing on all cylinders, but he did what he needed to do with timely throws and mistake-free football.


Utah's CFP Chances Evaporate in Defeat

Utah will be left out of the College Football Playoff field for two reasons: an inability to stop Verdell and its lack of offensive firepower outside of Moss.

The Utes came into Friday allowing the fewest yards per carry (2.26) and rushing yards per game (56.3) in the FBS. To put that dominance into context, Georgia is second on both lists but a sizable margin behind with 2.54 and 71.0, respectively .

Utah also allowed just four rushing touchdowns, good for a second-place tie nationally.

On Friday, the Utes allowed more than two times their yards-per-carry average (5.8) and more than three times their rushing yards average (239). 

Jeremiah Jensen of KSL-TV put the performance in context:

Jeremiah Jensen @JJSportsBeat

Oregon had 43 yards rushing on that scoring drive against the Utah defense. Utah allowed less than 43 yards rushing for an entire game three times this season. (Idaho State, USC, Cal)

Credit goes to Verdell for an excellent game at a great time, with his 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter all but sealing the win:

ESPN @espn

Oregon continues to hit the gas 🔥 https://t.co/96bp3xslck

Matt Miller of Bleacher Report also shouted out some praise:

Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

CJ Verdell runs SO hard

The Utes run defense left a lot to be desired, but no pass-catcher outside of Moss had more than two receptions or 39 receiving yards, and the team was unable to take advantage of the fact that Oregon committed 12 penalties for 95 yards. The Utes also went 4-of-14 on third downs and 0-of-4 on fourth downs.

Josh Furlong of KSL.com pointed out some issues:

Josh Furlong @JFurKSL

Utah hasn't necessarily had a problem crossing midfield, but then everything fails after that. Play-calling seems vanilla, but then the O-line is getting blown up.

Credit goes to Utah for an excellent season overall and earning a No. 5 CFP ranking, but it got outclassed Friday.


What's Next?

The 11-2 Ducks are headed to the Rose Bowl Game against a to-be-determined Big Ten opponent. The 11-2 Utes' College Football Playoff hopes have been dashed with the defeat.