Resilient Ducks Beat UCLA, 34-31
PASADENA, Calif. — Anthony Brown rushed for the game-winning touchdown for the second straight week, and the second interception of the day for DJ James made it stand up as the No. 10 Oregon football team won 34-31 against former UO coach Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
Down 14-0 after one quarter, the Ducks (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) rallied into a 34-17 lead on Brown's 43-yard touchdown run with 13:53 to play. UCLA responded with two touchdowns in a span of 4:01, the second set up by a Brown interception. Another interception gave the Bruins possession with 3:00 left in the game, but James picked off a pass by UCLA backup quarterback Ethan Garbers in UO territory with 48 seconds to play.
"This team, its leaders, its players, they're a special, special bunch," UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "They're just resilient. They just keep coming. They truly believe there's no play, no circumstance, no bad call, no injury we can't overcome."
The game featured an NCAA-record four touchdowns on four consecutive carries by Travis Dye, as the Ducks put their slow start behind them and took a 27-17 lead in the third quarter. Brown's touchdown provided more insurance, which the Ducks ended up needing after the late turnovers.
Brown finished the day 29-of-39 passing for 296 yards, including a streak of 11 straight completions from late in the second quarter into the third. His 29 completions were spread around to 11 different receivers, with Devon Williams catching five for 80 yards.
"We've been working together for a very long time," Brown said. "Having things come together for us today was what we needed."
Brown's long touchdown also made him Oregon's leading rusher with 85 yards; Dye finished with 14 carries for 35 yards and four scores, despite experiencing a migraine earlier in the day.
Kayvon Thibodeaux was relentless for the UO defense, with two sacks among his 4.5 tackles for loss and nine tackles overall. Noah Sewell also had nine tackles, and James had eight to go along with this two interceptions — one in each half.
Overall, Oregon outgained the Bruins 417 yards to 352, averaging 6.6 yards per play and limiting UCLA to an average of 3.9 yards on 91 offensive plays. The Bruins came into the day averaging 219.9 yards rushing, second in the Pac-12, but the Ducks held them to 110 on Saturday.
"It was a hard-fought game," Thibodeaux said. "We love games like that, being able to be out there playing to the last whistle. It was exciting. There was so much going on. I love it."
Oregon played its third straight game without starting center Alex Forsyth, who suited up for warmups but was in street clothes for the game. Freshman Jackson Powers-Johnson started at guard but was sidelined by an injury, with TJ Bass starting at left tackle before sliding inside to his normal guard spot in the second half. Dawson Jaramillo replaced Powers-Johnson at right guard, and George Moore played left tackle in the second half.
That was perhaps a factor in Oregon's start Saturday. For the second straight week, the Ducks saw an opponent march methodically down the field to open a game and score a touchdown. Though Brown completed three straight passes to open the game for the UO offense, they turned it over on downs, and later had a punt blocked to set up UCLA's second touchdown of the first quarter.
The Bruins' aggressive approach on defense resulted in several early offsides penalties, two of which negated interceptions in the first half. Each of those negated interceptions was followed by a Dye touchdown run, as his older brother and legendary former UO linebacker Troy Dye watched from the sideline — along with a who's who of alums that also included Justin Herbert, Kenjon Barner, Justin Hollins and Troy Hill.
UCLA was driving late in the second half with the game tied 14-14, when Verone McKinley III made a played that loomed large in the end. In coverage at safety, McKinley reached back to deflect a potential touchdown pass to UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich. That helped force the Bruins to settle for a field goal and a 17-14 lead, which ended up having massive implications in a game Oregon won by three points.
"This one's huge," McKinley said. "We came out, we were a little flat. We got punched in the mouth, to be honest. And we woke up. ... We make it a little difficult sometimes. But we play four quarters."
Oregon's defense pitched a shoutout in the third quarter, and two more touchdowns by Dye — and also a missed PAT — gave Oregon a 27-17 lead. Brown's touchdown made it 34-17, and that lead was just enough as James and the Ducks spoiled UCLA's comeback bid.