SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Justin Herbert shook off a sluggish day and threw a touchdown pass to Dillon Mitchell in the fourth quarter, and Oregon held on after Michigan State botched a field goal attempt for a 7-6 victory in the Redbox Bowl on Monday.
Herbert passed for 166 yards and extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 28 on a day when the Ducks’ offense mostly sputtered.
Oregon (9-4) crossed midfield only three times and couldn’t get into the end zone until Herbert found Mitchell in the right front of the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown. The Ducks’ defense held up from there but got some help from Michigan State’s special teams.
The Spartans were lined up for a 50-yard field goal attempt when quarterback Brian Lewerke, who doubles as the holder, bobbled the snap, then attempted to run before hurriedly throwing an incompletion near the sideline.
After Michigan State’s defense forced a three-and-out on the following possession, the Spartans took over at their own 42, but Lewerke’s long pass on 4th-and-12 was knocked down by Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham.
Lewerke completed 22 of 40 passes for 172 yards with one interception. It’s the third time in four games that Michigan State (7-6) has failed to score a touchdown.
Running back LJ Scott ran for 84 yards on 24 carries, ending his injury-riddled season with the Spartans on a high note after being limited to five games. The senior running back declined to redshirt this year and declared for the NFL draft in early December.
Matt Goghlin kicked a pair of 34-yard field goals but he also missed one from 50.
It was Oregon’s first bowl victory since beating Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl.
Michigan State: The Spartans had more than enough on defense but as has been the case all season, the offense simply couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Lewerke tried to get the passing game going and took several deep shots, but it was his scrambling that was most effective. The memory of the mistake on the field goal try in the fourth quarter will linger, but the Spartans’ inability to get a sustained attack on offense was what ultimately did in coach Mark Dantonio’s team.
Oregon: Getting first-year coach Mario Cristobal a bowl win was big and should be a nice lift for the Ducks program. That they won when their offense was held to 25 points below its scoring average is also big. The victory is Oregon’s third straight, which should build some momentum heading into the offseason.
Michigan State: The Spartans will have to find someone to take over for Scott, who went into the day 10th in school history for rushing yards. The good news is that a majority of the starters on both sides are returning, including Lewerke. Michigan State begins 2019 with a home game against Tulsa on Aug. 31.
Oregon: Herbert recently announced his decision to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season, so that settles one big issue for Cristobal’s team. Nearly the entire defense is back as well, so the foundation is set for the Ducks, who open next season at Auburn on Aug. 31.
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