SEATTLE — As the clock struck zeroes at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Cyrus Habibi-Likio ran toward his team's bench, leapt over it and embraced Oregon fans in the stands.
Habibi-Likio hugged others including head coach Mario Cristobal, but Habibi-Likio had tears in his eyes as he celebrated Oregon’s 35-31 comeback win over Washington.
“It was pure emotion,” Habibi-Likio said. “Just seeing Cristobal and my teammates so emotional just made me emotional. It’s really unexplainable, the feeling, it still really hasn't hit me.”
As Oregon defeated then-No.7 Washington in its matchup last season, Habibi-Likio watched from the sidelines as his name was nowhere to be found on the statsheet. This year was different. Habibi-Likio’s name was not only on the statsheet, but he was the premier back.
“We have so much talent at the running back position, it’s always up in the air,” Habibi-Likio said.
The running back position is full of depth this year, as it was last year. Habibi-Likio went into the offseason last year being dubbed as Oregon’s goal-line back, but he wanted to prove this season that he was more than that. He got a chance to display his versatility in one of Oregon’s most important wins of the season.
“I don’t think people realize how agile he is,” Cristobal said. “He was able to jump-cut himself out of, what it looked like, sure tackles. Also broke several tackles at the second level...this team and this organization, this brotherhood is very important to Cyrus. When he has gotten his opportunities, he’s come through.”
After two quarters of play, Habibi-Likio only amassed 16 yards, which came from two receptions on Oregon’s last drive before halftime.
In Oregon’s first offensive drive after halftime, Habibi-Likio got his opportunity. He received two straight carries and gained 11 yards. On the third and final carry of the drive, he took the ball up the left side and made a small leap over a diving defender in the secondary for a 14-yard touchdown.
On the next offensive drive, he was called upon again. This time Habibi-Likio was tasked with converting a 4th and 1 to move the sticks. He delivered and rushed for eight yards, which gave Oregon a fresh set of downs. The fourth-down conversion led to a 36-yard touchdown by Mycah Pittman.
Along with fellow running back Travis Dye, Cristobal continued feeding Habibi-Likio.
“The other guys [Dye and Habibi-Likio] got hot,” Cristobal said. “Sometimes you want to go with the hot hand and certainly those two guys were playing really well.”
Habibi-Likio, on the team’s final game-clinching offensive drive, following a 21-yard carry by Dye, carried the ball four straight times to gain 22 yards and put Oregon in the red zone. That allowed Justin Herbert to find Jaylon Redd for the game-winning touchdown.
The most athletic play of the night came on a run in the third quarter. Habibi-Likio took a handoff from Herbert and cut back inside, where there was a gaping whole to run through. The next thing in his way was defensive back Asa Turner. He leapt right over Turner, who was diving at his legs, to gain substantial yardage for the offense.
“I never knew he could jump that high,” Cristobal said. “That was a phenomenal display of athleticism.”
Habibi-Likio had been studying Turner all week, so he knew what to do once the moment presented itself.
“I’ve been watching film on him all week, and some other defensive backs, but kind of planned it,” Habibi-Likio said. “They have a really good secondary, great tacklers, especially in the open field and it’s hard to get around them...I had to do it another way.”
Habibi-Likio finished the game with 14 carries for 81 yards and one touchdown. He also added three receptions for 15 yards.
“All my life growing up I’ve known about this rivalry,” he said. “I just really poured my heart out into this game, my heart and soul. It’s really hard not to when the man to the left and right of you is doing the same.”
Giving everything to someone is something that runs down Habibi-Likio’s lineage. His grandparents, on both sides of his family, immigrated from their respective countries with nothing when they landed in America. Habibi-Likio, in his own way, gives everything he’s got to his football family.
“They really came to America with nothing to give me, and my pops and my mom everything,” he said. “So that’s all I really know is just give everything I got, because that is what they gave me.”
Follow Gabriel on Twitter @gabe_ornelas