The team gathered midway through the first half and collectively decided there was no reason to panic. Herbert led the effort by example, as he has time and again in his senior season. He is one cool customer.
“We knew that we’re a special group and we just needed to calm down and look at each other and say, ‘This is not us. We’ll do better’” he said.
And they did. The Ducks trailed 10-0 after the first quarter but went on to beat the Trojans 56-24 on Saturday. Herbert threw for 225 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score. Each of his touchdown passes came in the second half, and at one point he completed 14 straight passes, making 20 of his last 21 in the game.
He now has 87 scoring passes over the course of his Oregon career to rank ninth on the Pac-12’s all-time list. He ranks second in the Pac-12 this season with an average of 258.8 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, second only to Anthony Gordon of Washington State in both categories.
Over the course of Herbert’s career, the Ducks are averaging 38.2 points when he starts. Oregon is 23-7 in the last three seasons with him at QB.
Herbert has traditionally shied away from discussing his individual accomplishments.
To him, the most important stat is that the Ducks are winning. After the season-opening loss to Auburn, they’ve reeled off eight straight wins and are on course to win the Pac-12 North for a spot in the conference title game. Oregon even has a shot — albeit remote — of making the College Football Playoff. Herbert said that’s the least of his concerns.
“Pac-12 games are tough, any win you can get at this time of the year is tough, we’ll take it and we’ll move on, we’ll learn from it and we’ll get better,” he said.
One of Herbert’s key victories this season came against Washington, when he led Oregon back from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half for a 35-31 victory at Husky Stadium. He capped an eight-play, 70-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd for the winning margin.
“Justin is unfazed, a complete professional. He wasn’t flustered, he wasn’t upset,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “Everything out of him was positive and leadership oriented.”
There was speculation last year that Herbert might bolt for the NFL after his junior season, but he announced shortly before Oregon’s 7-6 victory over Michigan State in the RedBox Bowl that he would finish out his career with the Ducks.
He explained his decision at the start of this season.
“I think it’s a really special group of guys — all the guys sitting over there, they’re great to be around, they’re great teammates,” Herbert said at Oregon’s media day at the start of fall camp. “The coaching staff and all the staff, it’s really special. It’s really something I wanted to be around for another year.”
USC coach Clay Helton called Herbert the best quarterback in the country and a “Day 1” NFL draft pick this spring.
“This kid has been playing since he’s a freshman,” Helton said. “He’s a really, really experienced QB that has a lot of confidence in his decision-making and his arm strength. It’s evident on tape.”
Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) has this weekend off before hosting Arizona on Nov. 16.
Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami.
The redshirt freshman has been one of the bright spots on a Miami team that has not had a lot to celebrate this year. Rousseau is tied for second in the nation in sacks with 12 after putting together back-to-back big games. He had three sacks in a victory against Pitt and four last week against Florida State. Rousseau is one of the reasons the Hurricanes might still have a chance to salvage this season.
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State.
The junior started the season with the school pushing him as a Heisman contender after a breakout season in 2018. It has not gone well. Love has thrown 12 interceptions, tied for second-most in FBS and is coming off a three-pick game against BYU. Before that he had gone three straight weeks without cracking 200 yards passing.
Usually this space is reserved for players on the field at the same time — and there will be plenty of great head-to-head matchups in Tigers vs. Tide — but these quarterbacks are the leading Heisman contenders. Whichever one plays best Saturday will have the inside track to the Heisman and being a first-team All-American. Tagovailoa was a member of the AP preseason All-America team presented by Regions Bank.
AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo contributed to this report.