Dominant Win For No. 7 Ducks
EUGENE, Ore. — November could be a month to remember for the Oregon football team.
The No. 7 Ducks will enter the final month of the regular season at 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play after beating Colorado in Autzen Stadium on Saturday, 52-29. With the first College Football Playoff selection committee rankings of the season to be released Tuesday, Oregon figures to be in the thick of the conversation for a playoff berth along with a third straight Pac-12 Conference title,
"The best part is, they know we can get a lot better," UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "They know there's still a lot of meat on the bone."
Three weeks of slow starts came to an end Saturday as Oregon raced out to a 21-0 lead. Quarterback Anthony Brown was marvelous for a third straight week, and the early lead allowed the Ducks to get experience for some exciting young talent.
Not only did Travis Dye account for three more touchdowns, giving him seven in the last two games, but freshman running backs Byron Cardwell and Seven McGee rushed for scores as well. Freshman Troy Franklin caught one of three passing touchdowns by Brown, who finished the game 25-of-31 for 307 yards.
"It's good, especially to get a win," said Brown, who is 74-of-98 passing (75.5 percent) for 847 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions since Oregon's lone loss of the season, at Stanford. "Still trying to build off of it, because there were some things I missed on the field. Just gotta move forward from it, and keep going."
The Ducks have thrived with a "1-0" mindset each week this season, which they'll take on the road next week at Washington. Oregon plays all three of its Northwest rivals in November as well as at Utah, and the stakes each week with ratchet up now that the playoff committee will be meeting.
"I think we showed that, when we play our starters, and when we play and execute, we can be a pretty good football team," Cristobal said. "And what makes us good is, we know we can play better."
Oregon's lone turnover Saturday was an interception in the fourth quarter, by backup quarterback Ty Thompson. Brown re-entered the game and directed the game-clinching touchdown drive, which was finished off by McGee.
"We took control of the game relatively early," Cristobal said. "In the second quarter they got a couple scores, but our defense came out in the second half and immediately shut the door. We wanted to play a lot of guys that were not only backups but guys down the line who deserved playing time."
Dye opened the scoring with Brown's first passing touchdown of the day, and Cardwell made it 14-0 later in the first quarter. The Ducks had trailed after the first quarter in three straight games, but that streak came to an emphatic end Saturday.
Cardwell finished the game as Oregon's leading rusher, with 127 yards on just seven carries — an average of 18.1 yards per rush.
"It was a dream come true, something I've always prayed about and seen myself doing," Cardwell said. "To finally get the opportunity, thankful for the coaching staff and the line up front, and thankful to the Lord making things perfect for me."
The Ducks played without center Alex Forsyth yet again, starting TJ Bass at left tackle and George Moore at left guard, with Ryan Walk again anchoring the line in Forsyth's place at center. They lost starting receiver Steve Stephens IV due to injury and receiver Johnny Johnson III to a targeting ejection in the second half, and yet they didn't flinch.
After Franklin's first career receiving touchdown early in the second quarter, Colorado finally mounted a scoring drive to make it 21-7. Dye's second touchdown of the day also was answered by the Buffaloes, before Camden Lewis closed out the first half with a 27-yard field goal for a 31-17 halftime lead by the Ducks.
Dye's third touchdown of the day and Brown's third passing touchdown of the afternoon, to Devon Williams, put Oregon up 45-14 entering the fourth quarter. Colorado scored early in the final period, and after Thompson's interception the Buffs drove to another touchdown. An onside kick recovery by Oregon stanched the bleeding, and Brown led an eight-play drive that took 5:13 off the block before McGee joined Cardwell and Franklin to make it a trio of freshmen finding the end zone for the first time Saturday.
Oregon finished the game with 568 yards of offense, a well-balanced attack with 312 yards through the air and 256 on the ground. They were 7-of-10 on third down, and 5-of-5 on red-zone chances.
"Coach had a great plan for us and we executed well, from blocking to catching to running," said Brown, who was on the field for eight possessions and led the Ducks to scores on all eight. "That was a really big key to our fast start this week."
Now, as the calendar turns to November, it's all about how the Ducks finish.