Skip to main content

Ducks Take Command Of Pac-12 North

Nov 14, 2021

The Pac-12 North Division title is within sight for the Oregon football team. Even bigger prizes lay farther out on the horizon.

The Ducks remained in the thick of the College Football Playoff race for another week after beating Washington State on Saturday, 38-24. Oregon survived two turnovers that led to 10 points for the Cougars, relying on a running game that pounded out 306 yards and four UO touchdowns.

Anthony Brown was 17-of-22 passing for 135 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed 17 times for 123 yards and another score. Travis Dye had one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown, and Byron Cardwell rushed for 98 yards and two fourth-quarter scores.

Oregon improved to 9-1 overall this season and 6-1 in Pac-12 play. The Ducks have a two-game lead on their Pac-12 North competition with two games to play, needing a win at Utah next week or in the regular-season finale against Oregon State to clinch a spot in the conference championship game.

And, of course, Oregon remained in the race for the College Football Playoff, after entering the week ranked No. 3 by the CFP selection committee.

"We're growing, we're getting better," UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "(The) 1-0 (mentality) is sinking in. … The sky's the limit."

Saturday's game was rife with drama – the Cougars shocked the Ducks with the longest passing play they'd allowed all season two plays in, only to fumble across the goal line for a touchback on the next play. Oregon then built a 14-0 lead only to see WSU force a 14-14 tie.

Then, what looked like a dagger of a touchdown run by Brown early in the fourth quarter instead was stripped out by the Cougars at the goal line. A tackle by Kris Hutson denied WSU a scoop-and-score touchdown return, at least, and the UO defense forced WSU to settle for a field goal that made it a one-score game, 24-17.

"It was another chance for us to show our resilience," said UO defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who had one of his two sacks in the game on that possession. "We've trained for sudden change; things happen, it's football. Being able to play the next play, that's what we do."

Brown kept his cool as always, and drove the Ducks to consecutive rushing touchdowns by Cardwell, of 27 and 22 yards. An interception by UO safety Bryan Addison set up the second, as Oregon led 38-17 before WSU scored its lone second-half touchdown with 9 seconds left in the game.

After dodging the bullet on the opening possession, Oregon's defense forced a three-and-out that set up the first UO scoring drive of the night. Brown completed all four of his passes on the possession for 32 yards and also ran four times for 33 yards, setting up a touchdown run by Dye.

"What (the Cougars) were doing, it called for him to use his legs tonight," Cristobal said of Brown. "And he did it. … We take a lot of pride as coaches in making adjustments and looking for areas to attack. We felt these things would work, and they work only if they're executed at a high level by the players."

Verone McKinley III quickly regained possession for the Ducks with his Pac-12-leading fifth interception of the season, on a night when he led Oregon with eight tackles. Four plays later, Brown completed an 11-yard scoring pass to Dye, and it was 14-0. But momentum changed early in the second quarter after Dye fumbled, and WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura had a passing touchdown and another one on the ground to tie the score at halftime.

Oregon's longest kickoff return of the season, of 56 yards by Mykael Wright, sparked a touchdown drive to open the second half. Brown finished it off himself, running 17 yards and diving for the pylon to give the Ducks a 21-14 lead. After a WSU punt, the Ducks again dominated in the trenches to drive to another score, a 22-yard Camden Lewis field goal for a 24-14 lead.

Following a WSU punt, the Ducks seemed to keep the momentum rolling, only to have Brown stripped at the goal line while trying to tack on another rushing touchdown. But the UO defense held Washington State to a field goal in the red zone, and Oregon took command for good with the two Cardwell rushing touchdowns sandwiched around the Addison interception.

With two games left in the regular season, all of Oregon's goals remain possible.

"It's the fourth quarter of the season," UO center Alex Forsyth said. "You gotta finish strong."