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Back-To-Back Champs!

Dec 18, 2020

FINAL STATS - Oregon 31, #13 USC 24 | Oregon Stats Through Pac 12 Championship | Boxscore

LOS ANGELES — The Oregon Ducks are back-to-back Pac-12 champions, thanks to a 31-24 victory Friday over No. 13 Southern California in the conference title game held at L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

A week that began with the Ducks preparing to face Colorado ended with Oregon celebrating a Pac-12 championship. The victory came one day after head coach Mario Cristobal signed a contract extension and two days after the program signed the highest-rated recruiting class in its history.

Elevated into Friday's game because Washington couldn't participate due to COVID-19 protocols, the Ducks (4-2) secured the Pac-12's spot in the New Year's Six bowls, and likely a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

"They managed to find a way to stay healthy, make it to every single game and sure enough found ourselves here in the Pac-12 Championship, and got it done," Cristobal said. "So, tremendous credit goes to these football players. …

"One heck of a week, huh? One heck of a week."

Quarterbacks Tyler Shough and Anthony Brown each threw two touchdown passes, but it was the UO defense that stole the show Friday. Game MVP Kayvon Thibodeaux hounded USC quarterback Kedon Slovis all night, and helped the Ducks limit the Trojans to 38 rushing yards. Nickel Jamal Hill had two interceptions, the second with 2:49 left in the game to all but quash USC's comeback bid.

"The pressure on the quarterback, stopping the run game, very physical on the line of scrimmage, physical on the perimeter," Cristobal said. "(The defense) just came in with an attitude and with a purpose, and on a mission."

Playing without two-time 1,000-yard rusher CJ Verdell, the Ducks had to work hard on offense all night. Travis Dye led the way with 72 all-purpose yards, and he had one of four receiving touchdowns for Oregon in the game. Sean Dollars, celebrating his birthday Friday, provided a spark with 52 rushing yards.

The Ducks threw for just 108 yards, with Shough and Brown sharing time. Brown was used situationally at first, entering in red-zone situations and throwing two TD passes. Brown also quarterbacked Oregon's final possession, as the Ducks earned one first down and killed all but the final 23 seconds of game clock after Hill's second interception with 2:49 to play.

Hill had two of the Ducks' three takeaways on the night, as Oregon won the turnover battle for just the second time all season. The first takeaway Friday was an interception on the opening drive by Deommodore Lenoir, which the Ducks quickly converted into a 7-0 lead three plays later when Brown threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Redd.

"He deserved to play, somehow, some way," Cristobal said of Brown, a senior transfer who made his UO debut Friday. "Not only that, he provided an advantage for us. … We all very much appreciate Anthony for hanging in there throughout the season."

Hill's first interception came later in the first quarter, and again the Ducks capitalized quickly. This time it was Shough throwing a touchdown pass, a 14-yard toss that tight end Hunter Kampmoyer hauled in over a defender.

USC got on the scoreboard late in the quarter with the first of two TD passes on the night by Slovis. A sack by Brandon Dorlus deep in USC territory early in the second quarter gave the Ducks excellent starting field position yet again, and they went up 21-7 on a Shough touchdown pass to DJ Johnson.

Oregon led 21-14 at halftime, and opened the second half by using up more than half the third quarter on a 14-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that ended in a Brown touchdown pass to Dye. USC drove down to the Oregon 4-yard line in response, but DJ James broke up a pass in the end zone and the Trojans settled for a field goal.

USC surprised the Ducks with an onside kick after the field goal, but Thibodeaux sacked Slovis on third down to force a punt. The Ducks were forced to punt themselves moments later, but a roughing call extended the drive, and Henry Katleman made a 40-yard field goal to put Oregon up 31-17.

The Trojans got within 31-24 with 6:16 to play, and the Ducks went three-and-out. But with USC driving on the ensuing possession, Mase Funa forced Slovis from the pocket, the USC quarterback got rid of the ball toward the sideline and Hill made the interception while tapping a foot down inbounds.

The play was originally ruled incomplete, but it was changed to an interception after replay review, and the Ducks killed all but the last 23 seconds of game clock before Slovis threw it away under pressure from Isaac Slade-Matautia on the final play.