Oct 30, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA;  Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Cameron Rising (7) during the fourth quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Utah bounced No. 10 Oregon once; now it’s for Pac-12 title

No. 10 Oregon will be out for revenge, and No. 17 Utah will be looking for history when the teams meet in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night in Las Vegas.

The Pac-12 South champion Utes (9-3, 8-1 Pac-12) wrecked the Ducks’ College Football Playoff hopes on Nov. 20 with a 38-7 rout in Salt Lake City. Utah has won its division in three of the past four seasons but is seeking its first victory in the conference title game and is trying to advance to the first Rose Bowl in school history.

Oregon (10-2, 7-2) bounced back from the loss to Utah by dispatching Oregon State 38-29 last weekend to clinch the North division. The Ducks have won the league title game in each of the past two seasons.

Although these foes carry the reputations of being arguably the two most physical teams in the Pac-12, it was all Utes in the first meeting. Utah outrushed Oregon 208-63 and led 28-0 at halftime after scoring two touchdowns in the final 27 seconds, including Britain Covey’s 78-yard punt return.

Utah controlled the ball for more than 35 minutes.

“They’re a big, physical, disciplined football team that plays hard,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of Utah.

“They play with physicality and violence. They’re very assignment-conscious, technique- and fundamentally sound. They have explosive players on special teams, offense and defense … just a really complete football team.”

To wit: Utah is the only Pac-12 team that ranks in the top 30 nationally in scoring (35.2 points per game, tied for 21st) and points allowed (21.5, 29th).

This is a low-mistake outfit, exemplified by Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, who is completing 62.8 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. But the Utes’ calling card is the running game, led by Tavion Thomas, who has 978 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

He has 12 rushing scores in his past four games, including 21 carries for 94 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting against Oregon.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is signaling more of the same.

“It’s a little bit different, playing the same team twice in a 13-day period. But that’s how it goes,” he said. “No major overhauls. But you do tweak some things and make some subtle adjustments here and there.

“Not a lot has changed for either team … Really, it’s the execution and the energy is more critical than any minor schematic adjustments you might make.”

Over its last six games, Utah has averaged 218.2 rushing yards, while holding opponents to just 119.5 yards on the ground.

Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown rolls into the title game with momentum, earning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors for his play against Oregon State. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for 83 yards and a score on 14 carries.

Travis Dye (1,036 yards, 14 TDs) sparks the ground game.

Middle linebacker Noah Sewell, the team’s leading tackler, is good to go for the title game, as is cornerback Mykael Wright, Cristobal said. Both players left last week’s game with injuries.

The Ducks are 4-0 in the Pac-12 championship game, including last year’s victory over USC.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Travis Dye (26) rushes against the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Oregon, No. 23 Utah meet in clash of Pac-12’s best

Two of the Pac-12’s best go head-to-head Saturday night in Salt Lake City, with Utah a slight favorite to end Oregon’s hopes of making the College Football Playoff.

The Ducks retained their No. 3 spot in the CFP rankings Tuesday and are on a five-game winning streak. But the Utes, ranked No. 23 in the CFP poll, figure to be the best team Oregon has faced since the Ducks upset Ohio State in Columbus in September. Both teams lead their respective divisions — Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) tops the Pac-12 North by two games and Utah (7-3, 6-1) leads the Pac-12 South by one game over Arizona State.

Oregon can clinch the North title and a spot in the conference championship game with a win Saturday or an Oregon State loss. Utah can clinch the South with a win over the Ducks or an Arizona State loss.

That all means that the Ducks and Utes are on a collision course for a rematch against each other in the Pac-12 Championship game on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.

The two teams are near mirror images of each other. Utah averages 35.7 points per game on offense, Oregon 35.3. The Ducks allow 22.6 points per game on defense, the Utes 23.8.

Oregon’s 441 yards of offense per game is only three more than Utah’s average. In winning five of their last six games, the Utes have scored no fewer than 34 points in each of the six.

“They’re a really talented football team. They’ve recruited very well. They have a lot of staff continuity. They’ve done what they’ve done for a long time and worked together for a long time,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said of the Utes. “They have a lot of guys who play with power. A lot of speed on that team, explosive players.”

For the Ducks, their offense starts with the run. The Ducks are tied for second in the nation with 31 rushing touchdowns, including 15 in the last four games. The leading rusher is Travis Dye, who needs 92 more rushing yards to reach 1,000 in a season for the first time in his career.

Oregon is fifth in the nation with a 51.56 percent third-down conversion rate, going 31-of-47 (65.9 percent) in the last four games, and the Ducks are averaging 297 rushing yards per game over the last three.

Utah has won 17 of its last 18 home games, and with a win, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham would become the all-time wins leader at the school with 142. Utah has scored 16 of its 27 rushing touchdowns in the last four games.

“We prepare the same exact way, meeting structure, practice structure, everything. That’s how you have to do it in the Pac-12 because if you don’t, it doesn’t matter who you play, you’re going to get beat if you’re not ready to go,” Whittingham told the Deseret News. “We approach it the same exact (way) every single week.”

In rivalry history, Oregon is 23-10 all-time against the Utes with wins in three of the last four meetings, including the 2019 Pac-12 championship game in which a Justin Herbert-led Ducks team rolled to a 37-15 win in Santa Clara, Calif.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Byron Cardwell (21) runs for a touchdown during the second half against the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Oregon breaks away to beat Washington State

Quarterback Anthony Brown accounted for 258 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns as No. 3 Oregon pulled away from a halftime tie to defeat Washington State 38-24 on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.

Brown rushed for 123 yards and one score and threw for 135 yards and another touchdown. Byron Cardwell (two touchdowns) and Travis Dye Jr. (one score) ran for 98 and 88 yards, respectively, as the Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) amassed 306 yards on the ground to 91 for the Cougars.

Quarterback Jayden de Laura threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns for Washington State, which outgained Oregon 233-157 in the first half en route to a 14-14 tie.

The Ducks wasted little time taking control in the third quarter, however. Brown capped a five-play, 43-yard drive with a 17-yard burst for a 21-14 lead, and Camden Lewis added a 22-yard field goal after 13-play, 91-yard march down the field late in the period.

The Cougars didn’t score again until Dean Janikowski’s 34-yard field goal with 8:31 left in the game.

Oregon went right back to work, with Cardwell scoring on rushes of 27 yards and 22 yards that came about 3 1/2 minutes apart to extend the lead to 38-17 with 2:07 remaining.

de Laura found Travell Harris for a 2-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds left to complete the scoring.

Washington State’s first-half touchdowns came on de Lauria’s 14-yard pass to De’Zhaun Stribling midway through the second quarter, and de Lauria’s 1-yard run with 11 seconds left before the break.

Oregon finished with 441 total yards to 371 for Washington State.

Oregon, which has a two-game lead on Washington State and Oregon State in the Pac-12 North, travels to face Utah, which is also 6-1, next weekend. Washington goes home to face Arizona.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Travis Dye (26) celebrates with fans following a 26-16 victory against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Oregon attempts to keep rising vs. Washington St.

The College Football Playoff committee kept the Oregon Ducks on track for a spot in the national semifinals, voting them No. 3 and moving them up a spot when the rankings were revealed Tuesday night.

Now the Ducks (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) can put some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference’s North Division with a win over Washington State on Saturday night in Eugene, Ore.

A victory would give the Ducks a two-game lead in the North over the next-best team, not to mention keep them in contention for the Pac-12 championship game and a major bowl game if not the CFP semifinals.

Oregon has won four straight games and is coming off a 26-16 victory over Washington in Seattle last week. The Ducks rushed for 329 yards and held the Huskies to 166 yards of total offense.

Travis Dye ran for a career-high 211 yards with a touchdown. His 211 rushing yards were the most in a game by a Pac-12 player this year, and Oregon is 15-1 all-time when Dye scores a touchdown.

Dye has 11 rushing touchdowns this season.

“He’s a game-changer,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said, “and he changed it in a lot of different ways.

“The guy’s the ultimate competitor. The pride that he takes in the course of the week, in the preparation and then I wish you could see him behind the scenes as a leader and the amount of energy and passion generated and the way he addresses, encourages, talks, pushes and challenges his teammates is really special. We’re getting to enjoy all of the fruits of his labor.”

Washington State (5-4, 4-2) comes into Eugene having won four of its past five games. The Cougars are 1-1 since Nick Rolovich was fired as head coach over his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which went against regulations for Washington state employees.

The one win came on Oct. 30 at Arizona State, 34-21, with the Cougars in control from start to finish. Under interim head coach Jake Dickert, Washington State is looking for its first win over a Top 25 team since a victory over No. 24 Iowa State in the 2018 Alamo Bowl, the first win over a Top 10 team since beating No. 5 USC at home in 2017, and the first road win over a Top 10 team since defeating No. 6 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

Cougars quarterback Jayden de Laura leads the Pac-12 with 17 touchdown passes, is second in passing yards per game (245.9) and has four three-touchdown games this season.

The Washington State defense leads the Pac-12 and is tied for fifth in the country with 20 takeaways, and the Cougars are tied for second place in the nation with 11 fumble recoveries.

“When you look at Oregon, the biggest thing in why I have such high regard and respect for their program is it’s not just good players,” Dickert said. “They’re coached well, their schemes are very detailed. They win the game at the line of scrimmage. They don’t beat themselves. Our guys are going to be ready to meet that challenge come Saturday night.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly reacts following a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Oregon sticks with QB Anthony Brown for game at UCLA

The Oregon Ducks look to stay in the top 10 when they travel to Pasadena, Calif., to oppose UCLA on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl.

The 10th-ranked Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) have played back-to-back tight games, a 31-24 overtime loss to Stanford on Oct. 2 and a 24-17 win over California on Oct. 15 that came down to a fourth-and-goal defensive stand. Oregon is the only team in the conference with one overall loss.

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is back to calling plays after needing surgery while the Ducks played at Stanford three weeks ago, and he is cleared to travel with the team to Pasadena.

Moorhead expressed support for starting quarterback Anthony Brown, who heard the boos and chants for backup Ty Thompson as the Ducks struggled on offense for a good portion of last week’s game.

“I think ‘AB’ is doing a solid job in his role,” Moorhead told Ducks Digest. “He’s not Marcus Mariota, he’s not Dennis Dixon (former Oregon quarterbacks who made the NFL), he’s not any of those guys, but he’s got to understand who he is and what he does well and how it’s going to contribute to our offensive and team success.

“You can nitpick and talk about stats and completion percentage and all that stuff, but I’ll go into a game with AB as my quarterback and believe in his abilities and what he’s going to do.”

Oregon is one of just two teams in the nation, along with Coastal Carolina, to rush for at least 180 yards in every game this season. The Ducks have been strong in the fourth quarter of games, outscoring opponents 72-31. They have scored points on 10 of 16 fourth-quarter drives and forced five turnovers in the fourth quarter to go with three turnovers on downs.

UCLA (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) looks for another win against a North Division opponent after defeating Washington 24-17 in Seattle last week. The Bruins, led by former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, racked up 420 yards of total offense to 267 for the Huskies.

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a hand in three touchdowns, throwing for two and running for one while totaling 270 scrimmage yards.

Running back Zach Charbonnet, a transfer from Michigan, ran for a season-high 131 yards and has been a force for the Bruins this season. He has five 100-yard games and averages better than 6 yards per carry.

Oregon has won seven of the past eight meetings but hasn’t beaten the Bruins in Pasadena since 2014.

Kelly hasn’t had many signature victories in Westwood, but a win over the program he led into national prominence 12 years ago would be one. He downplayed it this week.

“It’ll be like another game,” Kelly said. “It’s not my former team, I was there a long time ago, so I don’t know any of those coaches, I don’t know any of those players. So it’s not like I’m going back to coach against a bunch of guys that I coached.”

Both of UCLA’s losses have come at home, to Fresno State and Arizona State.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Oregon Ducks running back CJ Verdell (7) runs during the third quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon RB CJ Verdell to miss rest of season

CJ Verdell, the leading rusher for No. 8 Oregon, will miss the rest of the season with an injury.

Ducks coach Mario Cristobal confirmed the bad news on Thursday, although he did not specify the exact nature of the injury.

Verdell left last Saturday’s 31-24 loss at Stanford in the third quarter with an apparent lower-leg injury.

He rushed 17 times for 63 yards and a touchdown and caught one pass for 13 yards against the Cardinal.

In five games this season, he ran for 406 yards and six scores and added eight receptions for 74 yards and one TD. That includes a 161-yard rushing effort with three touchdowns in a Sept. 11 victory at Ohio State.

Verdell posted back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns in 2018-19 and ranks fifth in Oregon history with 2,929 rushing yards. He has scored 30 touchdowns from scrimmage in 37 games.

The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) return to action at home against Cal (1-4, 0-2) on Friday, Oct. 15.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Stanford, California, USA;  Oregon Ducks quarterback Anthony Brown (13) scores during the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford rallies to stun No. 3 Oregon in OT, 31-24

The Oregon-Stanford rivalry has seen some close games in its recent history, and Saturday afternoon in Palo Alto, Calif., will go down as an all-time stunner.

Stanford scored a touchdown on an untimed down on the last play of regulation, then scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Tanner McKee to John Humphreys in overtime and held on for a 31-24 upset of the third-ranked Ducks.

Oregon had the ball last and was forced to go for a first down on fourth-and-8, but Anthony Brown’s pass fell incomplete to end the game.

The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to take a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, scoring on three consecutive drives in the second half.

But Oregon’s defense, without its top two players for much of the final Stanford drive and all of overtime due to an injury to Noah Sewell and a targeting ejection to Kayvon Thibodeaux, couldn’t preserve the lead.

Oregon also lost one of its top running backs this season, CJ Verdell, to a third-quarter foot injury. Verdell had 63 rushing yards and a touchdown before getting carted off the field.

Stanford (3-2, 2-1) stopped Oregon on downs near the goal line just before halftime to take a 17-7 lead into the break, and seemingly had all the momentum. But they needed a major comeback to win.

Stanford got the ball with 1:59 left to play at its own 13-yard line with a chance to tie. McKee, shaken up after a hard hit, got the ball to the 2-yard line. A defensive holding penalty on fourth down gave the Cardinal one more chance with an untimed down, and McKee hit Elijah Higgins for a touchdown pass to send the game to overtime.

In overtime, McKee found Humphreys and Stanford held to get the win. McKee went 20 for 33 for 230 yards and three touchdowns.

Travis Dye led the Ducks with 96 rushing yards.

–Field Level Media

Oregon's CJ Verdell, center, rushes against Stony Brook during the first quarter.

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No. 3 Oregon visits Stanford for key Pac-12 North game

A college football rivalry that heated up a decade ago when Stanford and Oregon battled for division and conference supremacy renews on Saturday afternoon when the third-ranked Ducks go to Palo Alto, Calif., to take on the host Cardinal.

No. 3 Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2014 season, when the Ducks made it to the national championship game. Beating Stanford would put Oregon in even better position in early October than that team, which was upset by Arizona on Oct. 2 seven years ago.

Since 2009 in the Oregon-Stanford series, each team has won six games and lost six, although the Ducks have handled the Cardinal in each of the past two seasons. And since the league expanded and moved to divisions in 2011, Stanford or Oregon has represented the Pac-12 North eighth times in 10 conference title games.

Oregon is coming off a 41-19 win over Arizona last Saturday at home in which they led by just 24-19 early in the fourth quarter before taking over. In that game, the Ducks intercepted five passes, which made them a plus-12 in turnover margin — the top mark in the country this season.

The five interceptions were the most for the program since the Ducks picked off six passes against California on Nov. 13, 1999. Oregon’s 13 takeaways are the best in college football, and their nine interceptions are tied for the most in the nation.

On the Oregon offense, running back CJ Verdell is averaging 5.6 yards a carry and 85.8 yards a game this season and needs just 26 rushing yards to move into the school’s career top five in that category.

Oregon leads the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging 38.8 points.

Head coach Mario Cristobal said he feels good about the health of star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was on a snap count against Arizona of six to 10 plays. Thibodeaux missed the previous two games with an ankle injury.

“He’s in good shape to play. We’ll see if he’s in good enough shape to play an entire game. I think he will,” Cristobal said. “There were no issues and no physical limitations. It was important that he got in that game and got himself some snaps.”

The Cardinal (2-2, 1-1) played in its own stadium for the first time this season last Saturday and fell to No. 24 UCLA 35-24. Stanford lost to unranked Kansas State in Arlington, Texas, upset then-No. 14 USC in Los Angeles, overpowered Vanderbilt in Nashville and lost at home to the Bruins.

Quarterback Tanner McKee was 19 for 32 for 293 yards with three touchdowns and led Stanford with 42 yards rushing after running back Nathaniel Peat was held to just 27 yards on 13 carries.

Stanford head coach David Shaw said a slow start led to his team’s loss.

“You can’t spot a good team 13, 14 points,” Shaw said after the Cardinal faced 14-0 and 21-7 deficits. “We’re getting towards that midseason point and starting to have a really good idea of what we do well and what we don’t. Hopefully we’ll do more positive things the rest of the year.”

–Field Level Media

Oregon's Terrance Ferguson, right, scores on a pass play from Anthony Brown Jr. during the second quarter against Arizona.

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No. 3 Oregon breaks away from Arizona late, 41-19

Oregon’s Anthony Brown threw for three touchdowns, and a big-play defense rescued the Ducks with five interceptions to help subdue winless Arizona in a 41-19 victory on Saturday night in Eugene, Ore.

Brown completed 10 of 21 passes for 206 yards for the Ducks (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who were in trouble entering the fourth quarter. Arizona (0-4, 0-1) — which has now lost an FBS-high 16 consecutive games — trailed just 24-19 after three periods.

But Oregon began to respond in the fourth quarter with a 43-yard field goal from Camden Lewis with 13:37 to go. After the Ducks forced their first three-and-out of the night, Oregon drove 59 yards, capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Webb for a 34-19 lead with 8:26 left.

Bennett Williams then sealed the victory with a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown at the 7:04 mark.

Jordan McCloud, the third starting quarterback in four games for Arizona, gave the offense a spark, completing 21 of 35 passes for 233 yards. Arizona had six drives of 10-plus plays, controlled the ball for nearly 38 minutes, and had a 435-393 edge in total yards.

But McCloud’s five interceptions — the last of which came in the final minute — were the difference in the game.

The South Florida transfer was picked off by Williams on Arizona’s first snap that set up a field goal and a 10-0 Oregon lead. The Ducks also thwarted two red-zone possessions with a pick in the end zone and another at the 1-yard line.

Oregon led 24-10 at halftime, but the Wildcats sacked Brown for a safety and pulled with 24-19 with 1:36 to go in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Drake Anderson.

The Ducks have won 15 consecutive games at Autzen Stadium.

Arizona’s losing streak is the longest in school history. The Wildcats entered Saturday’s contest coming off a home loss to FCS opponent Northern Arizona.

Oregon star edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who had not played since the first half of the season opener because of an ankle injury, played sparingly in the first half before limping off midway through the second quarter. He did not return.

–Field Level Media