PASADENA, Calif. -- Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert's arm is a primary reason he is likely to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. He was named the offensive MVP in Oregon's 28-27 win against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl because of his legs.
Herbert, who had just three rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons going into the game, stiff-armed his way to three scores, including a 30-yard, eventual game-winner with seven minutes, 41 seconds left to play Wednesday in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual.
Even he had to admit he never thought his legs would be the difference.
"Realistically, no," Herbert said. "I just hope that we put up more points than the opponent. Whether it's through the air or on the ground, doesn't matter who is scoring them as long as we have more points at the end of the game."
That part of Herbert's game has always been there, but it didn't make sense to expose the quarterback to additional injury risk during the regular season when the Ducks didn't have to -- especially after he put the NFL on hold and returned for his senior season to finish a four-year career for the program he grew up cheering for.
"I think he's pretty capable of making those plays with or without us calling plays," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. "No, again I'll always say this, I think he's the best college football quarterback and he's going to have an unbelievable NFL career as well."
After Herbert carried seven times against Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, Wisconsin knew to expect that aspect of the Oregon offense, but it ended up being one of the few things the Badgers weren't able to slow down. Oregon managed just 204 yards of total offense, which is the fewest for any team -- win or lose -- in the Rose Bowl since 1979.
"Yeah, he was effective," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "And obviously we knew he was really talented coming into the game, but he made some big plays, and certainly was a factor in him running the ball."
Herbert is the first quarterback to rush for three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl since Vince Young's memorable performance for Texas against USC to cap the 2005 season. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 138 yards and took advantage of a plus-three turnover margin created by the Oregon defense.
During the weeks leading to the game, Herbert said he and his teammates talked about going 4-8 in 2016 and how they hoped the legacy they leave is that the group went through tough times, stuck together and came out on the other side.
Adding a Rose Bowl title further cements Herbert as one of the greatest players in program history.
"I mess with [Herbert] all the time. I tell him [his legacy is] legendary," Cristobal said. "I think he's a guy that you can't -- it's hard to even script this kind of Hollywood story, right? Right down the road, born and raised, just like [defensive MVP Brady Breeze], been watching Oregon Duck football forever.
"And they're sitting here in front of you as Rose Bowl champions. Not only as Rose Bowl champions, but as MVPs of the Rose Bowl after winning the Pac-12 championship."