Football seasons often come down to a series of defining games that can shape a team's fortunes. Here are five key moments each from Oregon's and Michigan State's seasons:
1. Sept. 22, Autzen Stadium, Eugene — The 20th-ranked Ducks thought they were about to have a 31-7 lead over Stanford, but the officials overturned a Jaylon Redd touchdown when video replay showed his foot hit the pylon before he crossed the goal line. A fumble return for a touchdown by Stanford linebacker Joey Alfieri in the third quarter and a lost fumble by Oregon running back CJ Verdell with a chance to run out the clock in the fourth quarter also contributed to the collapse in Mario Cristobal’s first Pac-12 game as head coach. Justin Herbert tossed an interception in the end zone to seal the 38-31 overtime loss to the Cardinal.
2. Oct. 13, Autzen Stadium, Eugene — Denver Broncos general manager John Elway showed up to scout Herbert. But on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line, offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo called a run. Verdell burst through a gaping hole created by the offensive line for a walk-off touchdown to cap Oregon’s dramatic 30-27 overtime victory over rival Washington. Peyton Henry missed a 37-yard field goal at the end of regulation, which prevented the eventual Pac-12 champions from beating Oregon for a third consecutive season. Chris Petersen’s Huskies had pummeled Mark Helfrich’s team 70-21 in 2016 and Willie Taggart’s team 38-3 in 2017.
3. Oct. 20, Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash. — With ESPN’s College GameDay visiting the Palouse for the first time, No. 25 Washington State delivered a 34-20 victory over No. 12 Oregon after jumping out to a 27-0 halftime lead. The Ducks battled back to within 27-20, but Gardner Minshew threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dezmon Patmon with 3:40 remaining to seal the win and set the tone for a surprising 11-2 season. Oregon, which was held to 55 yards rushing by Washington State’s defense, has now lost four consecutive games to Mike Leach and the Cougars.
4. Nov. 3, Autzen Stadium, Eugene — Chip Kelly made a not-so triumphant return to Oregon for the first time since leaving the program for the NFL after the 2012 season. Herbert, who was in concussion protocol early in the week after taking a shot to the helmet during a loss at Arizona, passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Ducks to a 42-21 win. Kelly, who posted a 46-7 record over four seasons at Oregon, flew back to Los Angeles with a 2-7 record in his first season rebuilding the Bruins. The victory made the Ducks bowl eligible in Cristobal’s first season at Oregon.
5. Nov. 23, Reser Stadium, Corvallis — Herbert was knocked out of the latest edition of the Civil War after suffering a shoulder injury in the first half, but Cristobal leaned on his offensive line and the running game during a 55-15 statement win over Oregon State. Verdell ran for 187 yards and scored five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) and Travis Dye added 199 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Ducks went 3-1 in November to finish the regular season 8-4 overall and 5-4 in Pac-12 play. The Beavers finished 2-10 overall and 1-8 in conference during Jonathan Smith’s first season as coach.
1. Sept. 8, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz. — After opening the season with what proved to be a quality win over Utah State in the opener, No. 15 Michigan State coughed up a 10-point lead at Arizona State. Brandon Ruiz’s 28-yard field goal as time expired delivered a signature 16-13 nonconference victory for ASU's Herm Edwards. Manny Wilkins connected with N’Keal Harry for a 27-yard touchdown to get the fourth-quarter comeback started. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke passed for 314 yards and a touchdown but it wasn’t enough for the Phoenix export to enjoy a happy homecoming.
2. Oct. 13, Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa. — Lewerke threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Felton Davis with 19 seconds left to lead the Spartans to their most impressive victory of the season, a 21-17 upset of No. 8 Penn State in front of a stunned crowd of 106,685 in Happy Valley. Michigan State’s defense held the Nittany Lions to 14 first downs, 3-for-14 on third-down conversions and only three points in the second half. Lewerke (259 yards passing, two touchdowns) outplayed Penn State counterpart Trace McSorley (192 passing yards, one touchdown).
3. Oct. 20, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich. — The rivalry game started with a pregame spat between the players and ended with a postgame war of words between Jim Harbaugh and Mike Dantonio. On the field, No. 6 Michigan’s 21-7 victory over No. 24 Michigan State knocked the Spartans out of the Big Ten title race. The Wolverines had lost their previous 17 road games against ranked teams. Michigan State running back LJ Scott returned from a leg injury but was held to 25 yards on 10 carries. Lewerke tried to play through a shoulder injury and was 5-for-25 passing for 66 yards.
4. Nov. 3, Maryland Stadium, College Park, Md. — Dantonio leaned on his dominant defense and the running game during Michigan State’s 24-3 smothering of Maryland. The Spartans held the Terrapins to 100 yards and nine first downs. Connor Heyward ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard score in the fourth quarter, as Michigan State became bowl eligible for the 11th time in 12 years. The quarterback position continued to be an issue for the Spartans. Lewerke passed for 87 yards and a touchdown before being replaced by redshirt freshman Rocky Lombardi, who was 0-for-2 with an interception.
5. Nov. 24, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich. — After not scoring a touchdown in back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Nebraska, the Spartans were in danger of suffering a humiliating home loss to Rutgers. But Cody White scored on a 22-yard end-around with 3:57 remaining to give Michigan State a 14-10 victory over the Scarlett Knights, who finished the season 0-9 in Big Ten play and on an 11-game losing streak. Cornerback Josiah Scott’s interception at the 3-yard line with 1:32 remaining sealed the injury-plagued Spartans’ seventh win of the season.