Brown’s keeper gives No. 11 Oregon 31-24 win over Fresno St.

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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EUGENE, Ore. — Anthony Brown Jr. was blunt about No. 11 Oregon’s offensive struggles against Fresno State.

“It wasn’t clean enough,” he said.

Brown scored on a 30-yard quarterback keeper with 2:57 left and the Ducks overcame a wobbly season opener with a 31-24 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday.

Oregon jumped to a 21-6 lead, but Fresno State scored two unanswered touchdowns to tie the game midway through the third quarter, then took the lead early in the fourth on Abraham Montano’s field goal.

Camden Lewis kicks a 25-yard game-tying field goal before Brown’s go-ahead touchdown.

The performance was somewhat concerning given the Ducks face No. 4 Ohio State next weekend.

“In order for us to go where we need to go, we have to be firing on all cylinders, which we weren’t today. And that was obvious,” Brown said. “We’re going to see it on the tape, fix what we need to we need to fix and move on and progress from it.”

Brown threw for 172 yards and a touchdown while running for 62 yards and the winner. It was Oregon’s 17th straight home-opening victory.

Brown, a sixth-year senior, transferred to Oregon last year from Boston College but was backup to Tyler Shough until getting playing time in the Pac-12 title game and the Fiesta Bowl. Shough transferred to Texas Tech in the offseason.

The Ducks were hurt by the loss of defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who left the game at halftime with a left ankle injury.

Oregon had not played a game at Autzen Stadium for 644 days and the game came amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the state.

Oregon and Oregon State were among the first schools to require proof of vaccination or a negative virus test to attend football games. Gov. Kate Brown also imposed a mask mandate, even at outdoor events.

The game was also marred by smoky conditions from wildfires in the region. Air quality was deemed unhealthy in the Eugene region by the U.S. Air Quality Index.

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener threw for 285 yards and a touchdown. The Bulldogs (1-1) already started the season with a 45-0 victory over Connecticut.

“We talk about weathering the storm, especially when you go into a hostile environment and the storm hit is pretty hard in the first quarter, and we weathered it,” Fresno State coach Kalen DeBower said. “You just get so far behind that it’s catching up, and when you finally take a lead, you have to make a lot of plays to get to that point.”

After Thibodeaux sacked Haener and caused him to fumble for a turnover, CJ Verdell ran for a 2-yard touchdown to give the Ducks the early lead.

Another Fresno State fumble led to 4-yard scoring run from Travis Dye to make it 14-0. The duo of Verdell and Dye went into the game with a combined 4,363 rushing yards, most of any retuning pair at the FBS level.

Thibodeaux, widely considered a possible Heisman Trophy contender this season, appeared to injure his left ankle but had it taped on the sidelines and returned before the end of the first half. He came out of the break in street clothes and wearing a boot.

“I know it’s a sprain, which we’re very optimistic that it’s nothing too serious,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.

Montano kicked a pair of field goals, from 33 and 39 yards, before Brown found Johnny Johnson III in the end zone with a 32-yard pass to make it 21-6. Jalen Cropper caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Haener to close the gap for Fresno State to 21-13 just before halftime.

Haener scored from two yards out on a keeper and the conversion tied the game at 21 before Montano’s 22-yard field goal with 13:03 left gave the Bulldogs a 24-21 lead.

Cristobal wasn’t sure what caused Oregon’s offensive lapses.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it, because the energy was real good preparation was real good. We thought our physicality and pregame was well, also,” he said. “I know they have some good players. They did what we thought they would do, we did what we thought we would do.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Fresno State: Fresno State hadn’t played a ranked opponent since 2018. … The Bulldogs are celebrating their 100th year of football this season.

Oregon: Senior linebacker Dru Mathis left the game in the first half with what appeared to be a left knee injury. … Oregon leads the series against Fresno State 7-2. The Bulldogs haven’t downed the Ducks since 1982.

UP NEXT

Fresno State hosts Cal Poly next Saturday.

Oregon travels to No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.