Ducks Derailed In Loss At Utah
SALT LAKE CITY — Oregon's chances for a College Football Playoff berth took a potentially critical hit Saturday when the No. 3 Ducks fell behind early and never gained any traction in a 38-7 loss to Utah before a record crowd of 52,724 fans in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
While the Utes clinched the Pac-12 South with the win, the Ducks (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) still needed some help to clinch their own spot in the Pac-12 title game — either an Oregon State loss later Saturday, or a UO win over the Beavers next week. That would set up a rematch between Oregon and Utah on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas, with a Rose Bowl berth the likely prize.
As in 2019, when the Ducks lost their penultimate game of the regular season on the road — in that case at Arizona State — this year's team will also look to regroup against the Beavers, take on the Utes in the Pac-12 championship game and move on to a likely Rose Bowl berth.
"Obviously a disappointing night for us, in many ways," UO coach Mario Cristobal said. "… There's a lot to play for; a lot of our goals are still ahead of us, and we've got to get ready for them quickly by going back to work. Because they ain't going to fix themselves."
After rushing for at least 250 yards in each of the previous three games, Oregon managed just 63 against the Utes on Saturday. The UO defense struggled to get off the field, allowing Utah to convert 11-of-14 third-down chances, while the Ducks' own offense was 6-of-14 on third down and was flagged for some untimely penalties that spoiled drives. Oregon also was unable to convert two field-goal attempts, one of which was blocked, and the Ducks allowed a punt return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half, putting them in a 28-0 hole.
Oregon saw its litany of injury issues continue Saturday, with senior receivers Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd both unavailable for the game with injuries Cristobal said postgame have ended their seasons. The Ducks also were without defensive lineman Keyon Ware-Hudson, and within the course of the game, safety and defensive leader Verone McKinley III also was sidelined.
Anthony Brown completed 17-of-35 passes against the Utes, for 231 yards and a touchdown — the scoring pass a 36-yard completion to Devon Williams on the opening possession of the second half. But the Ducks weren't able to take momentum from that, as Utah used a methodical ground attack and timely plays in the passing game to keep moving the chains and maintain possession for more than 10 minutes longer than Oregon.
"We've been really good at responding; tonight as an organization we didn't respond," Cristobal said. "We let it snowball."
Travis Dye, who came into the night leading the Pac-12 in yards from scrimmage, was held to 29 yards on six rushes, and a single reception for six yards. Williams led the Ducks offensively in the absence of Johnson and Redd, catching five balls for 81 yards, and Byron Cardwell ran for 35 yards.
Noah Sewell had 10 tackles with a sack to lead the UO defense, with his family on hand to watch him face off against his brother, Utah defender Nephi Sewell. Defensive tackle Popo Aumavae had a career-high eight tackles, while Utah native Jeffrey Bassa, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Mykael Wright had seven tackles each.