EUGENE — After both cleared concussion protocol this week, Justin Herbert and Dillon Mitchell found a groove for the Oregon Ducks.
Herbert passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns and Oregon defeated UCLA 42-21 on Saturday in Bruins coach Chip Kelly’s first game at Autzen Stadium since he left the Ducks following the 2012 season.
Mitchell caught eight passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns for the Ducks (6-3, 3-3 Pac-12), who became bowl eligible. The victory also snapped a two-game losing streak that had dropped the Ducks out of the rankings.
“He’s a guy that pushes me and I try to push him as much as I can,” Herbert said about his chemistry with Mitchell. “He’s made me a ton better. It’s great to have a guy like that in the locker room.”
With the loss, UCLA (2-7, 2-4) is guaranteed to finish below .500 in Kelly’s first season with the Bruins.
During Kelly’s four-year tenure Oregon made four straight BCS bowl appearances and he was lauded as the architect of the Ducks’ up-tempo “blur offense.” He was greeted with a warm ovation when he was introduced prior to the coin flip.
But he didn’t get nostalgic.
“This wasn’t about me. This was about a young team that’s learning from their mistakes. A lot of teachable moments from this game,” he said afterward. “I don’t think that way. I’m a forward thinking guy. To me it’s about the journey, it’s not about thinking about memories or thinking about moments, it’s about what’s next.”
Oregon is on its third coach since Kelly’s departure. The Ducks let go of Mark Helfrich following the 2016 season, then Willie Taggart stayed for less than a year en route to Florida State, and now Mario Cristobal leads the Ducks.