CJ Verdell isn’t viewed as the goat in the locker room.
More like the go-to running back.
Despite losing a fumble with 51 seconds left, which opened the door for Stanford’s improbable comeback victory at Autzen Stadium, Verdell will likely be featured in the backfield when No. 19 Oregon plays at No. 24 California on Saturday at Memorial Stadium (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1).
Justin Herbert passed for 346 yards and a touchdown, and Verdell balanced the offense with 115 yards rushing and a touchdown during the 38-31 overtime defeat to the Cardinal.
“I think we can run the ball well and that really opened up the passing game, too,” starting left guard Shane Lemieux said. “We haven’t really done that in a while. The first three games we really weren’t able to run the ball well, it was kind of the Justin Herbert show.
“Now we have a back, CJ, who really came out as our star guy who can really run the ball down hill in our offense.”
Tony Brooks-James scored Oregon’s first touchdown against Stanford but suffered an ankle injury during the game. The senior had to stop in the middle of drills Tuesday and have the ankle re-taped.
Verdell, who is averaging 5.3 yards per carry with a team-leading 314 yards this season, was not made available to the media after the Stanford game and declined interview requests following Tuesday’s practice.
The Ducks (3-1, 0-1) are hoping their play will do the talking during a bounce-back performance against the Bears (3-0, 0-0).
“The older you get, you forget how resilient youth is,” offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “I think our guys have been really good about responding. At times, we older heads take it worse than they do and have trouble getting over it.”
Back to Berkeley
Herbert will return to the site of his first road start when Oregon visits Cal.
As a true freshman, the former Sheldon High standout was 22-for-40 passing for 258 yards with six touchdowns in a 52-49 double-overtime loss.
After Cal kicked a field goal in the second overtime, the game ended when Jordan Kunaszyk intercepted Herbert.
“That was a tough game, but I thought we played pretty well,” Herbert recalled on Tuesday. “The offense picked it up late in the game, but unfortunately we came up short. It was a great learning experience. It was something I still remember and have learned from.”
Cal took a 21-0 lead in the second quarter before Herbert tossed a touchdown pass to Pharaoh Brown. Oregon trailed by 20 early in the third quarter before Evan Baylis caught a touchdown pass from Herbert.
The Ducks forced overtime at 42-42 when Herbert threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Charles Nelson with 3:15 left to play. He opened overtime with a 20-yard scoring pass to Jalen Brown before Cal scored the final 10 points.
“That was the first game Justin really broke out with six touchdowns,” recalled center Jake Hanson, who was a redshirt freshman that season. “That was when people realized he was going to be special.”
Starting defensive end Austin Faoliu (ankle) did not dress for Tuesday’s practice and is questionable to play at Cal.
Tight end Jacob Breeland (foot), quarterback Braxton Burmeister (knee) and running back Darrian Felix (foot) did not participate in the portion open to the media. Wide receiver Daewood Davis left practice early with a member of the training staff.
ABC’s broadcast of the Oregon-Stanford game delivered a total live audience of 4,259,000 viewers, which was the most-watched ABC/ESPN broadcast of a game involving a Pac-12 team since 2014.
“Nobody really talks smack to me,” said wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, who had 14 receptions for 239 yards against Stanford. “After the first couple plays when you play DB on me, and realize that I might not be known or as hyped as some other guys, but I am not the guy to press or to come and jam.”