Rivalry Win Sends Ducks To Pac-12 Championship Game
EUGENE, Ore. – The two-time defending Pac-12 champions will try to make it three in a row when the Ducks play Friday in the conference title game, which No. 11 Oregon advanced to by beating Oregon State 38-29 in Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
The first sellout crowd at Autzen in two years witnessed the Ducks' 19th straight win at home, in which they put up 506 yards of offense and limited OSU's vaunted rushing attack to 85 yards. UO quarterback Anthony Brown accounted for three touchdowns, helping the Ducks to a 24-3 halftime lead that forced the Beavers out of their comfort zone offensively.
Oregon (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) advanced to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, in a rematch against one of two teams to beat the Ducks this season, Utah. The Ducks beat the Utes in the 2019 conference title game, before beating USC to win the 2020 Pac-12 crown.
"All in all, just proud of our guys for taking control of the game in the most critical moments, and earning an opportunity to play a 13th game," said UO coach Mario Cristobal, who left Eugene after the game for an overnight trip to visit his mother, who he said in his postgame comments had fallen ill.
A week after falling behind 28-0 at halftime in a loss at Utah that dashed their playoff hopes, the Ducks scored on all four of their first-half possessions against the Beavers. Travis Dye, who surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season Saturday, opened the scoring with a rushing touchdown and Devon Williams made it 14-0 with a touchdown that came during his 110-yard receiving day.
Brown scored on the ground just before halftime after the teams had traded field goals, making it 24-3. Kris Hutson hauled in Brown's second touchdown pass of the day in the fourth quarter, giving Oregon a 31-9 lead. And though Oregon State quickly rallied for two touchdowns, recovering an onside kick in between, Dye put the nail in OSU's coffin with his second rushing touchdown of the day for a 38-21 lead with 3:14 to play.
Emotions boiled over as OSU drove to one last late touchdown. UO safety Verone McKinley III was called for targeting, and though the call was reversed by replay, the two teams scuffled in the end zone moments later. In the end, though, Oregon was able to celebrate clinching the Pac-12 North division, and a rematch with Utah.
"We couldn't be more excited to get another shot at Utah next week in Vegas, especially in that beautiful stadium," UO linebacker Nate Heaukulani said, looking ahead to the Pac-12 title game in the new home of the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders.
Saturday's win for the Ducks came on senior day. A pregame ceremony included not only guys like Brown and Heaukulani, but NFL-bound sophomore defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, and also receivers Johnny Johnson III and Jaylon Redd, program mainstays in recent years who participated in the ceremony using scooters to immobilize their respective legs injuries.
In the absence of Johnson and Redd, Williams had the first 100-yard outing by a UO receiver this season, and Hutson caught his first career touchdown pass. Brown finished the day with 358 yards of total offense, having completed 23-of-28 passes for 275 yards while rushing for another 83 yards.
"This being senior day, it was special going out the way I did, and the way we went out against Oregon State at home," Brown said. "It was just a great experience."
Oregon State came into the game as the Pac-12's best rushing team at 229.4 yards per game, and having allowed 24 total points in their previous two games. The Ducks matched that 24 points by halftime Saturday and held OSU's rushing attack under 100 yards for just the second time this season, as Oregon won for the 12th time in the last 14 games against the Beavers.
OSU's late flurry of points came with two of the Ducks' top defenders, linebacker Noah Sewell and cornerback Mykael Wright, on the sideline due to injuries. Cristobal said after the game none of the players banged up Saturday looked to be seriously hurt, at least based on preliminary diagnoses.
McKinley led the UO defense with six tackles, setting a ferocious tone against the run after the Ducks allowed 208 yards on the ground in losing to the Utes. That effort Saturday earned Oregon a rematch with Utah come Friday.
"We'll be in bright and early tomorrow, ready to work," McKinley said. "We know what we want to do. We know what the task is. We know what's at stake. And we're ready to go."