PASADENA, CA – Four years ago Justin Herbert and the Oregon Ducks were 4-8, and the University’s football program had a cloudy future coming off a string of National Championship contending seasons. Tonight, Herbert led the No. 6 Ducks (12-2) to a 28-27 victory over the No 8. Wisconsin Badgers (10-4) in the 106th Rose Bowl Game, and the program’s future looks brighter than ever.
Oregon started the game strong, marching 75 yards in 4:30 min to take an early 7-0 lead after Justin Herbert kept the ball on a read option for a 4-yard touchdown run, but Wisconsin quickly answered. Aron Cruickshank returned Oregon’s kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and sophomore linebacker Jack Sanborn intercepted Herbert the next play setting the Badgers up for a 44-yard field goal to take their first lead of the game at 10-7.
After the quick start Oregon’s offense stalled, finishing the night with only 204 total yards which is the least of any team in a Rose Bowl Game in the last 40 years, to Wisconsin’s 322. Despite the offensive struggles Oregon had plenty of opportunities to score thanks to their defense who forced 4 turnovers.
The biggest of which came when Wisconsin botched a punt, and junior safety Brady Breeze picked the ball up and ran 31 yards for a touchdown, regaining the lead for Oregon at 20-17. Breeze stepped up again late in the fourth quarter when he caused a fumble, which was recovered by Bryson Young giving the Ducks the ball on the Wisconsin 30-yard line.
Herbert capitalized on the opportunity the very next play, taking off for 30 yards after stiff arming a defender and scoring what would become the game winning touchdown giving the Ducks their final lead at 28-27. In total, Herbert rushed 9 times for 29 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Brady Breeze and Justin Herbert were named the Rose Bowl MVPs, a surreal moment for two kids who grew up in Oregon watching Rose Bowl games as fans, dreaming of playing for the Ducks themselves. “Now I’m scoring touchdowns in a Rose Bowl like a little kid always dreamed about” Breeze stated after the game.
Reflecting on the moment Mario Cristobal said “It’s hard to even script this kind of Hollywood story, right? Right down the road, born and raised, just like Brady, been watching Oregon Duck football forever. And they’re sitting here in front of you as Rose Bowl champions -not only as Rose Bowl champions but as MVPs of the Rose Bowl after winning the Pac-12 Championship.”
Mario Cristobal has rebuilt the Oregon football program in only two full seasons as a head coach, and with back to back top 10 recruiting classes things seem to only be getting started. The Ducks offense will look significantly different next season as Justin Herbert heads to the NFL, and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo takes over as the head coach at the UNLV, but the next chapter in Oregon history is ready to be written.