Ducks found way to stop bleeding late

November 6, 2017

SEATTLE — Most of Saturday’s announced crowd of 70,572 was stuck in a sea of taillights exiting Husky Stadium during the fourth quarter.

The rain-soaked fans seeking relief inside warm cars missed Jake Browning’s final snap of the game, which didn’t have any bearing on Oregon’s 38-3 loss to Washington but meant a lot to the visitors.

On fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, Browning hurried to the line of scrimmage and handed off to running back Salvon Ahmed to put the exclamation point on another dominant win for the Huskies over their rivals.

But instead of another touchdown celebration, Ahmed was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by Jimmie Swain, a senior linebacker who led Oregon with a career-high 13 tackles.

The stop prevented Washington from taking advantage of a short field after Braxton Burmeister’s interception and piling on another late score.

“We definitely showed that we weren’t trying to give up and let them stuff it in our face,” safety Brady Breeze said in a cluttered storage area in the bowels of the stadium where the Ducks conducted postgame interviews. “In that last drive we came together as a defense.”

Despite dropping four of the last five games without starting quarterback Justin Herbert, Jim Leavitt’s defense has continued to play hard and demonstrated dramatic improvement from last season.

Browning passed for six touchdowns and ran for two more during Washington’s 70-21 win at Autzen Stadium. But the junior quarterback hit on only 11 of 19 passes for 204 yards with two touchdowns on Saturday with no rushing yards.

Both teams gained 247 yards on the ground, but Burmeister completed only seven passes for 31 yards. Tight end Jacob Breeland’s nine-yard reception was Oregon’s longest pass play.

The Ducks refused to point fingers after being held without a touchdown for the first time in a decade.

“We worry about our job, and we can play better as a defense,” safety Tyree Robinson said. “We don’t worry about the offense scoring and stuff. That’s what happened last year — hoping that they’re going to score and get a drive for us. …

“We’re not really worried about the offense. Eventually they’re going to get going, and we’ve just got to be ready to help them out.”

Willie Taggart said he never actually considered playing Herbert, who took some snaps with the first team during practice last week after suffering a fractured collarbone on Sept. 30 against California.

Oregon’s first-year coach gathered the players on the sideline at the end of the third quarter and challenged them to keep competing.

“I was just telling them to have pride,” Taggart said. “Have pride in themselves, have pride in this football team and make sure we finish. We’re not going to quit no matter what. Don’t worry about the score, just keep fighting.”

Oregon didn’t score after Aidan Schneider’s 30-yard field goal in the first quarter, but the defense shut out Washington during the fourth quarter after the Huskies had racked up 108 points in the previous seven quarters played in the series.

“We hate Oregon. They hate us,” Browning said. “It feels good to win.”

The Ducks (5-5, 2-5) will lick their wounds during a bye week before finishing the regular season with home games against Arizona (Nov. 18) and Oregon State (Nov. 25).

Oregon could still double its 2016 win total by taking care of business at Autzen Stadium and in a bowl game.

“The bye week is much needed by our football team right now,” Taggart said. “We still have a lot to play for, and we’ve got to make sure we play our tails off for these seniors. It’s a good thing we’ve got two home games.”