Cyrus Habibi-Likio recorded a football version of the Gordie Howe hat trick.
The NHL’s “Mr. Hockey” was known to score a goal, tally an assist and get in a fight all in one game.
During a bizarre night for the Oregon backfield, Habibi-Likio returned from injury and had his number called after an injury to CJ Verdell and two turnovers by Travis Dye.
Habibi-Likio also assisted the Eugene Police Department with an arrest during a timeout and then scored the game-changing touchdown for the Ducks.
No. 13 Oregon survived a sloppy defensive slugfest with a 17-7 victory over California on Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.
The loudest roar from the crowd of 54,776 came when Habibi-Likio tackled a fan who ran out onto the field and was eluding security guards like Keystone Cops.
“Honestly, I had no intention to hurt him,” Habibi-Likio said. “We were just down, and the momentum was slipping away. He was taking a while, he was going up and down the field, and I just decided to help the fellas in security out.”
Moments later, Habibi-Likio was celebrating a 1-yard touchdown run that gave Oregon its first lead, 10-7, with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.
The 6-foot-1, 222-pound sophomore finished with 37 yards on nine carries.
“He runs tough and he runs hard and he’s got great eyes, great vision,” coach Mario Cristobal said of Habibi-Likio’s performance. “I thought he did an excellent job today.”
And the vigilante takedown?
“It’s definitely not a part of practice,” Cristobal said.
Verdell suffered a right ankle injury in the first half after rushing 10 times for 46 yards and catching two passes for 17 yards.
Dye finished with 15 carries for 81 yards but coughed the ball up twice, which led to Habibi-Likio getting an opportunity to calm the waters.
Cristobal consoled Dye on the sideline, even though the miscues contributed to the Ducks getting shut out in the first half.
“Look, I played the game and I’ve been on that side when you get yanked because you miss a block,” Cristobal said. “Don’t tear down your players, build them up. Travis has won a lot of football games for us. He’s tough, he’s determined, it means a lot to him.
“I saw how much that hurt him over there.”
Habibi-Likio, who is from Palo Alto, Calif., was unable to play in his homecoming — Oregon’s 21-6 win at Stanford — due to back spasms.
During that critical road win, his grandfather suffered heatstroke at Stanford Stadium. Fortunately, he was healthy enough to make his first trip to Eugene to witness Habibi-Likio’s heroics on Saturday.
“It was really special for me to be able to show him around and for him to be able to experience Eugene and Autzen in general,” Habibi-Likio said.
Oregon’s defense, which has held four consecutive opponents to single digits for the first time since 1960, was spectacular in the second half.
The Ducks (4-1, 2-0) forced four consecutive three-and-outs and seven total on Cal’s 13 drives.
Senior linebacker Troy Dye intercepted a Devon Modster pass, which was tipped by safety Jevon Holland, to end another drive by the Bears (4-2, 1-2).
“All of us feel we keep elevating the standard for that defense, and it’s exciting to watch,” Cristobal said. “I mean, anyone the last month that has watched us play football on defense can tell it’s coming and it’s coming strong.”
Justin Herbert, who suffered a fractured clavicle during a costly home win over Cal in 2017, was hit out of bounds after a 26-yard run.
After getting untangled from the equipment he slammed against as the officials tacked on the 15-yard penalty against Cal, Herbert completed the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd to make the score 17-7 with 7:14 remaining.
Herbert was 20-for-33 passing for 214 yards with one touchdown and his first interception of the season.
“I think Justin played a good football game,” Cristobal said. “I’m sure there are some throws he’d like to have back. He’s always going to be hard on himself, and we’re always going to be constructively critical of our guys with feedback to make sure we help them get better. …
“I’m proud of the way he bounced and led the team to the win.”
Cal lined up for a 41-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, but after a false start, Greg Thomas missed the 46-yard attempt with 2:59 remaining.
In the third quarter, Oregon outgained Call 119-8 in total yards.
Herbert completed an 18-yard pass to Redd, a 10-yard pass to Mycah Pittman and 11-yard pass to Jacob Breeland to get the Ducks in the red zone.
After an incompletion in the end zone on third-and-7, true freshman Camden Lewis made a 28-yard field goal, the first of his career after missing his first three attempts.
“I love our team,” said Justin Wilcox, the former Oregon defensive back from Junction City, who fell to 0-3 against the Ducks as Cal’s coach. “They were competing like crazy. We just didn’t quite get it done.”
The Ducks had possession of the ball for 10 minutes, 27 seconds in the first quarter but trailed 7-0 after turning the ball over twice in the red zone.
Jordon Scott and Bryson Young stuffed a rushing attempt in the backfield on third-and-1 to end Cal’s first drive.
Verdell had an 11-yard reception, an 11-yard run and a 4-yard run on third-and-1 to get Oregon on the move.
But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against wide receiver Johnny Johnson turned a second-and-4 at Cal 10 into a second-and-19.
On the next snap, Herbert was picked off by safety Ashtyn Davis.
“We’ve got to get out of our own way sometimes,” Cristobal lamented.
Modster delivered a gorgeous pass to Jordan Duncan for 36 yards to convert a third-and-10. The UCLA transfer completed the drive with 22-yard touchdown to running back Christopher Brown Jr. to give the visitors a 7-0 lead with 6:58 remaining in the first quarter.
Verdell went down in agonizing pain on the next series. On third-and-2 at the Cal 12, Travis Dye was credited for a 2-yard gain but lost a fumble recovered by linebacker Kuony Deng.
Oregon’s defense didn’t allow the Bears to cash the turnover in for points and bailed Dye out again after his second fumble.
The Ducks were still trailing late in the third quarter when Habibi-Likio chased down the rogue runner from behind. Then he put his team in front for good.
And that fan may have a new friend when he gets out of police custody.
“If he has Instagram or Twitter, you can follow me and message me and we can go get ice cream," Habibi-Likio said. “He was having fun, but we had to go. We had to get going.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email podcast mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.