Big Plays Help Ducks Improve To 4-0
Oregon used explosive plays on offense and five takeaways by the defense to put away Arizona on Saturday night in Autzen Stadium, 41-19.
The No. 3 Ducks (4-0) scored first on a 63-yard touchdown reception by Jaylon Redd, and used a 53-yard Travis Dye run to set up a CJ Verdell rushing touchdown for a 17-7 lead. It was 24-10 at halftime, and though the Wildcats (0-4) made it a one-score game in the third quarter, Oregon scored the final 17 points of the game with a Bennett Williams pick-six providing the exclamation point.
Anthony Brown finished 10-of-21 passing for 206 yards and three touchdowns, including a nine-yard scoring pass to Terrance Ferguson in the second quarter and an 18-yard TD strike to Spencer Webb in the fourth. On both sides of the ball Saturday, the Ducks might not have played with great consistency, but they made plays when it mattered.
"We typically get what we emphasize," UO coach Mario Cristobal said, adding that the coaching staff has emphasized starting well and finishing strong, both of which happened Saturday night. "But we want to play complete games. And we haven't played our best football yet."
Though that may be the case, the Ducks are 4-0 for the first time since the 2014 season, when Oregon reached the final of the first College Football Playoff. Saturday's win was Oregon's 15th in a row at home.
After Verdell's touchdown Saturday night made it 17-7, Arizona drove into the red zone only to have Mykael Wright intercept a pass in the end zone. It was a similar story on the first drive after halftime, when the Wildcats threatened to close a 24-10 gap only to have Verone McKinley III intercept a pass at the 2-yard line.
"As a defense that's the best feeling, getting those takeaways," Williams said. "And that's what we pride ourselves on. We want three every game, so five feels pretty good."
Arizona took advantage of the field position, at least, and sacked Brown for a safety before driving to a touchdown after the free kick to get within 24-19. But the Ducks regained some cushion on the second field goal of the night by Camden Lewis, then followed a defensive stop by driving to Webb's touchdown before getting the icing on the cake when Williams picked off his second pass of the night and returned it for a touchdown.
Oregon came into the night fifth nationally in takeaways with eight, and tied for third in average turnover margin per game (plus-2.33). But of those numbers got a boost Saturday night.
"Turnovers, a bright spot; fourth quarter, a bright spot," Cristobal said. "Lots of (other) stuff to improve on."
Brown played most of the game after missing the second half of the previous week's win over Stony Brook, and the Ducks also welcomed Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mase Funa, Adrian Jackson and Keith Brown back from injury. Thibodeaux didn't start nor did he play after halftime, and he wasn't credited with a statistic, although Cristobal said the Ducks are "really feeling good" about his status for next week's game at Stanford.
Noah Sewell led the UO defense with 14 tackles, and Williams had eight tackles – including a remarkable six solo tackles – along with two interceptions. McKinley intercepted his fourth pass in four games, after coming into the day tied for the FBS lead with three.