Saturday night, Oregon football coach Mario Cristobal could sit back and savor a hard-earned 24-10 Civil War win over archrival Oregon State. But after he watches the films, he’ll find plenty that needs to improve before the Ducks play in the Pac-12 Conference championship game Friday against Utah.

After the teams traded field goals on their first possession in the first quarter, Duck kick returner Mykael Wright ran back the Beavers' kickoff 98 yards to put Oregon in front 10-7, and provide a lead they would never relinquish. Wright ran away from everybody, just as he did for 100 yards against USC three weeks ago. Both returns as it turned out were decisive turning points for the Duck victories.

In his last game at Autzen Stadium, Eugene native and all-around good guy quarterback Justin Herbert guided the offense through some bumps and long periods of sleepiness to get just enough points to fend off the pesky Beavers, who played bravely without their outstanding quarterback Jake Luton, who was injured earlier in the week.

Herbert, still seeming off target at times as he was in Tempe, Ariz., last week, completed 18-of-30 passes for only 174 yards and one touchdown, a 28-yard strike that Johnny Johnson III dove for in the end zone to go up 17-7 over their rivals from across the Benton County line.

Later, in the fourth quarter, Herbert converted a fourth down on a play that was a repeat of a circle screen pass to a wide receiver going in motion one way, stopping and then going the other before the back covering him could react. Bryan Addison was the lucky recipient of this 17-yard completion — the same play that resulted in scores in different games this season.

With the ball on OSU’s 8-yard line on the next play, Jaylon Redd fumbled while extending the ball toward the pylon, trying to go into the Beavers’ end zone. The result was a touchback, no points and OSU in possession at their 20-yard line.

The Duck defense bulled its neck and stopped Jermar Jefferson on a fourth-and-5 pass completion at midfield with a jarring tackle by Thomas Graham Jr. The offense could not get a first down and punted, leaving OSU on its 15-yard line. Graham then finished the Beavers for good two plays later, launching Jefferson rear over tea kettle after a 10-yard completion and forcing the fumble.

From there, Cyrus Habibi-Likio had three rushes, the last for a 20-yard touchdown that put some certainty to the Oregon victory. His running mate, Travis Dye, picked up 91 yards on 12 carries and the Ducks were able to rush for 191, which is a good night’s work.

Herbert threw more than a couple of poor passes and, like last week, threw some in tight windows that were shut — he was lucky to avoid an interception. There were several throws that were a too hot to handle and this quarterback has to settle down some if he intends on being successful against a much better defense and secondary that Utah throws out on the field.

On the other side, backup quarterback Tristan Gebbia did a nice job filling in for Luton, completing 26-of-40 passes for 243 yards but was kept off the scoreboard by the Duck secondary.

OSU’s great receiver, Isaiah Hodgins, was prevented from any of his customary big plays. Gebbia did not target him at all in the first half. He ended up with eight catches for 85 yards and it did not seem that OSU coaches did a lot with formations or motion to try to set Hodgins up with more catching opportunities.

The Beavers’ all-conference tight end, Noah Togiai, was not zeroed in either, in the first part of the game, but as the clocked ticked down, was able to make several outstanding catches. For OSU, it was too little, too late.

Oregon’s ground game was, well, like it always is, effective at times, but certainly not the dominant force that steamrolled the Beavers last year for more than 400 yards rushing. Oregon State came in the game with a porous run defense, 10th in the Pac-12. But the Beavers hung in with Oregon’s predictable play-calling and forced third-down situations, of which the Ducks could convert only 3 of 14, allowing the Beavs to hang around until the last two minutes of the game.

Halftime at Autzen Stadium and the mood was, in two words, “who cares?” The score was 17-3 and if it weren’t for a 98-yard kickoff return by Wright after the Beavers tied the game at three, the crowd might have dozed off. The Duck offense ground out 163 yards in 32 plays while the Beavs got 159 in 34 plays. The main problem for OSU that five of their drives started inside their own 20-yard line.

Herbert was a pedestrian 8-of-17 passing for only 82 yards, with a touchdown of 28 yards and the rest of his completions relatively short gains. In the first half, the Ducks ran the ball on first down eight times, while only throwing it three times — such was the bravado of Cristobal’s game plan; maybe save Herbert for the Pac-12 championship game next week.

Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith was a bit on the reticent side as well, directing the ball only once to his all-conference receiver Isaiah Hodgins, a completion that was called back by penalty. If it was the plan of Smith and Cristobal to put the crowd to sleep, it was effective.

Realistically, it was to Oregon State’s advantage to slow the game down, and to get the Ducks, Herbert and Cristobal into a state of frustration going into the second half. As long as the game was close, the Beavers had a chance and the kickoff to start the second half.

The Beavers labored throughout, dealing with poor field position, having to start drives inside their 21-yard line nine times, which suited Cristobal just fine, especially with OSU having to go with its backup field general. Duck punter Blake Maimone continued his strategic punting, with five kicks downed inside the enemy 20-yard line.

On the negative side, after knocking a 32-yard try through the crossbars for a first-quarter field goal, freshman kicker Camden Lewis missed a chip shot 24-yarder that will make Cristobal think a little longer next time about trying another one inside the 20-yard line.

Besides Wright’s exciting kickoff return, Javon Holland was able to return two punts for 26 yards and his explosive ability is worth the effort of the return team to do a better job holding up covering players. Oregon has some gems in those two players who are able spice things up when the offense is struggling, as it has the past two weeks.

Smith, a definite candidate for coach of the year in the Pac-12, is famous for his tricks on offense, but there weren’t any observed as he chose to make this game mano a mano. The Beavers showed that they have come a great distance improving their overall game in only his second year at the helm and will be a much tougher Civil War opponent next year.

The Ducks, as Cristobal stated after the game, still have not reached the level of competence and excellence that they feel they are capable of. It would be a good idea to get to that level by Friday against a Utah team that doesn’t fool around on offense or defense and has an excellent kicking game.

Former Oregon player Ken Woody coached college football for 18 years. His weekly coach's corner will be from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the 6th Street Grill.