UO Rally falls short, Colorado gets first PAC-12 win against Ducks

EUGENE, Ore. — Colorado intercepted a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone with less than a minute left, sending Oregon to a 41-38 defeat Saturday afternoon before 53,974 in Autzen Stadium for the Ducks’ Pac-12 opener.

How It Happened: Down 33-17 early in the second half, the Ducks (2-2) scored 21 straight points to charge into the lead. Colorado went ahead 41-38 midway through the fourth quarter with its second touchdown of the game that was ruled incomplete on the field, but overturned to a touchdown upon video review. After the teams traded punts, Oregon methodically drove the field with less than three minutes to play, but a Dakota Prukop fade to Darren Carrington II in the corner of the end zone was a touch underthrown, and picked off.

The turnover spoiled a furious Oregon rally after Colorado (3-1) scored early in the second half to lead 33-17. Tony Brooks-James scored for the fifth straight game to get the rally rolling, after a Brenden Schooler interception gave the Ducks possession. The UO defense followed with a three-and-out, and Kani Benoit capped a 10-play, 74-yard drive with another rushing touchdown.

Oregon was in the driver’s seat after another interception, by Troy Dye, set up a Prukop touchdown pass to Carrington, the second of the game between those two. That gave the Ducks a 38-33 lead, but the Buffaloes would score the only TD of the fourth quarter. A potential third touchdown connection between Prukop and Carrington was intercepted to spoil Oregon’s day.

Colorado took a 26-17 lead into halftime, showing no ill effects without starting quarterback Sefo Liufao. Phillip Lindsay gave the Buffs a 7-0 lead with a 1-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the game, and Chris Graham’s 24-yard field goal made it 10-0. The drive to a field goal included a 21-yard pass completion by Montez on third-and-13. Taj Griffin answered for the Ducks with a short TD run, set up by a 50-yard scamper from Tony Brooks-James, but the Buffs converted three more third downs on the way to another touchdown and a 16-7 lead.

The Ducks were in danger of being buried early in the second quarter, after Colorado scored to go up 23-7 and then forced an Oregon punt on the next possession. But the Ducks ran a fake punt, linebacker Danny Mattingly rumbled 29 yards, and two plays later Prukop passed to Carrington for a touchdown. That made it 23-14, and the teams then traded field goals prior to halftime.

Who Stood Out: Prukop finished 22-of-33 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, but his first interception of the season was costly. Dwayne Stanford caught six balls for 95 yards, and Carrington had the two TD grabs. Brooks-James rushed 16 times for 120 yards. Dye led the defense with 10 tackles.

What It Means: Oregon needs to regroup quickly, with Northwest rivals WSU and Washington next up on the schedule. Players feel the team is close to clicking, but they know they can’t continue making mistakes like starting slow and missing tackles.

UO coach Mark Helfrich
On the swing of emotions when driving to a winning TD, then seeing an interception

“I’ve never been in a train wreck. But that’s probably what it would feel like.”

On the play call in the red zone
“We’re trying to get a safe play, and just get the ball out to the corner. Just gave it a shot; the worst-case scenario obviously happened.”

Quarterback Dakota Prukop
On the late interception

“That’s something me and Darren work all the time — goal-line fade. When they called that play, I was like, we’re going to get a touchdown here. I’ve got to see it on film, but obviously I didn’t put enough juice on it.”

Notable:  A week after Charles Nelson quarterbacked the extra-point unit, which converted 1-of-5 two-point attempts, Taylor Alie returned in that role against the Buffs. … The Ducks played for the first time since season-ending injuries to receiver Devon Allen and left tackle Tyrell Crosby, and also played without running back Royce Freeman and tight end Pharaoh Brown. Benoit and Evan Baylis started at those spots. Defensively, A.J. Hotchkins returned at MIKE linebacker, and Dye reclaimed his role at SAM linebacker. … Receiver Dillon Mitchell made his UO debut, becoming the eighth UO true freshman to play this season. … More than 200 UO football alumni attended the game in conjunction with the athletic department’s Hall of Fame weekend. … The coaching staffs wore armbands in recognition of the “Coach to Cure MD” effort to raise money and awareness for the fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Visit www.coachtocuremd.org for more information.

Up Next: The Ducks travel to the Palouse to face Washington State next Saturday evening. Kickoff time and television information will be finalized Sunday.

Story provided by Oregon Athletics.

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