ARLINGTON, Texas — Confusion reigned when Justin Herbert went down with 5 minutes, 34 seconds to play in the game.
Oregon was clinging tightly to a 21-20 lead, the ball was just past midfield in Auburn territory and the Ducks were facing a fourth-and-one.
As trainers tended to the star quarterback, backup Tyler Shough warmed up along the sideline.
It was a critical moment in the game for Oregon and coach Mario Cristobal, who sent the redshirt freshman Shough into the game and then quickly called timeout as the Ducks lined up to get off a play.
Oregon and Shough soon returned to the field and again were lining up when Cristobal called another timeout.
When Oregon finally got the ball snapped, running back CJ Verdell took the handoff from Shough and was swarmed behind the line of scrimmage by the Auburn defense for a 1-yard loss and loss of possession.
“The wrong personnel was in,” explained Cristobal on why he took back-to-back timeouts. “And when we got the personnel straightened out, they weren’t sure as to who was going to do what.”
Adding to the confusion was Herbert trying to get back into the game after the timeout, leading to referee Reggie Smith announcing Oregon couldn’t use a timeout to “buy” Herbert’s way back into the game. When a player leaves with an injury he has to sit out one play.
“There was (confusion) for a second, and then we knew he couldn’t,” Cristobal said. “But he just, he happened to get back in there and we had to pull him out.”
Moments that chaotic were few and far between for the No. 11 Ducks on Saturday in their 27-21 loss to the No. 16 Tigers, but Oregon certainly had its fair share of miscues and missed opportunities.
Most notably was a dropped pass in the end zone, a missed field goal, a fumble in the red zone and an inability to get any offense in the second half.
The dropped pass came on the Ducks’ second possession of the game as Herbert zipped a throw between defenders into the back of the end zone on third and goal from the Tigers’ 2-yard line that went through the hands of freshman receiver Bryan Addison (one of maybe only two drops in the game by a receiving corp credited with 52 drops in 2018). Camden Lewis followed with a 20-yard field-goal attempt that went wide right preventing Oregon from building on its 7-0 lead.
Later in the first half, after Oregon’s Jevon Holland put the ball at the Auburn 9 after returning a punt 81 yards, Herbert and Verdell botched a handoff and the Tigers took the fumble all the way to the Ducks’ 3-yard line.
“I dropped it, and someone picked it up and we tried our best to get back,” Herbert said when asked what happened on the play.
Cristobal was a little bit more specific.
“The mesh point between the quarterback and the running back got too tight,” he said. “They bumped into each other and the ball came out.”
Those two lost opportunities to score in first half prevented the Ducks from expanding on their 14-6 lead at halftime.
In the second half, they just couldn't move the ball as the Ducks netted 133 yards on offense.
“It comes back to those details that, you know, if there’s one thing in the play that’s a miscue, then the play is not going to be effective,” offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton said. “So again, correcting those little mistakes and making sure we’re on point next week.”