Ahkello Witherspoon picked off Dakota Prukop’s pass that was going to Darren Carrington in the end zone with just 48 seconds left and Colorado leaves Autzen Stadium with a 41-38 win over the Ducks in front of 53,934.
But before the Prukop interception, Colorado took the lead for good on Bryce Bobo’s circus catch in the front corner of the end zone with 8:43 left. Bobo leaped up and grabbed the ball with one hand and his right foot was on the ground before he fell out of bounds. It was originally called an incomplete pass on the field, but replay ruled Bobo’s catch was good to give his team the three-point lead.
The two teams traded possessions and finally the Oregon defense absolutely had to come up with a stop with three minutes left and the Ducks did. Oregon received the ball on the Buffaloes 41. The Ducks gained 34 yards in three plays, but one poor throw was all it took to stop the potential game-winning drive.
Just to be in that kind of situation was somewhat of a minor miracle for Oregon considering how poorly it played throughout the game and especially in the first half.
The Buffaloes had a 26-17 halftime lead and scored on their first possession to make it 33-17. At that point, it seemed highly unlikely the Ducks would be able to climb back into the game. The defense wasn’t playing well and the offense was inconsistent at best.
But for the remainder of the third quarter, the Ducks were able to put it all together on both sides of the ball. When the fourth quarter began, Oregon had a 38-33 lead.
The Ducks rally started when they completed a five-play, 51-yard drive that ended with Tony Brooks-James sprinting to the corner of the end zone for and Oregon was back to within nine at 33-24. Oregon’s defense then got one of their few stops of the day and forced Colorado to punt.
For the first time since the first quarter, the Ducks were able to make it a one-possession contest with a 10-play, 74-yard drive that ended with Kani Benoit powering his way into the end zone and it was 33-31.
Oregon then made its biggest defensive play of the game when Troy Dye jumped a slant route and picked off Steven Montez to give the Ducks the ball at the Colorado 27. That happened to be one of the few mistakes Montez made. The backup quarterback who was playing for an injured Sefo Liufau, burned the Ducks with his arms and legs. He was 23-of-32 for 333 yards and three touchdowns and then he rushed for 135 yards and one touchdown. Montez used his escape abilities to extend many drives, which ultimately tired the Duck defense as the game went along.
After Dye’s interception, it just took them 21 seconds to score on Carrington’s 18-yard touchdown grab. It was his second touchdown on the day where Carrington had five catches for 68 yards. Dwayne Stanford had his best game of the season with six catches for 95 yards.
Unfortunately for Oregon, the halftime break didn’t mean Colorado would slow down any or the Duck defense would suddenly figure some things out. It was quite the opposite.
Colorado extended its lead to 33-17 on the first drive of the third quarter on a ross 48-yard touchdown reception. The receiver managed to reach out, catch the ball, stumble for the final three yards and fall into the end zone.
Although the scoreboard read Colorado 26, Oregon 17 at the halftime break, the Ducks had to feel quite fortunate to only be down by nine. The deficit could have, and probably should have, been a lot more for the home team.
Oregon’s defense was confused for much of the first half with misalignments and missed tackles that equaled 351 total yards for the Buffaloes. Montez played like he has been a four-year starter and picked the Ducks apart. He was 17-of-20 for 217 yards and one score and it was just inches from being two scores, but Bobo’s attempt to come down with a touchdown in the waning seconds was ruled out of bounds and Colorado had to settle for another field goal.
At one point in the half, the Buffaloes had a commanding 23-7 lead and looked to be in total control Their offense was moving up and down the field and the Buffaloes defense was holding the Ducks in check.
But Oregon was able to wake everyone up in the second quarter with a six-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Prukop finding Carrington streaking down the middle of the field where he jumped and extended himself for the touchdown catch. With the extra point, yes the extra point, good, the Ducks were down 23-14, but had momentum squarely on their sideline.
The Ducks managed to get a rare defensive stop and the offense was able to take advantage by driving down to the Buffaloes 24 and Schneider booted in a 41-yard field goal with 6:17 left in the second quarter.
With the contest a one possession game again, Colorado went back to what worked so many times before, a slant route down the middle of the field. Montez found Devin Ross for 18 yards to the Duck 27-yard line to set up the Chris Graham 33-yard field goal to end the half.
That slant pattern was a killer for the Duck defense for the entire first half and a 61-yard slant and run by Ross down to the five was just what Colorado needed before Montez rushed it in the end zone from three yards out and the 23-7 lead.
~ Don Smalley