Verdell, No. 12 Oregon stun No. 3 Ohio State 35-28

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch
0 Comments

COLUMBUS, Ohio — C.J. Verdell watched on TV last week as Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim shredded Ohio State’s disheveled defense early. The Oregon running back thought he could take advantage in the same fashion.

Verdell, who has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, made it happen. He ran for 161 yards and scored three touchdowns as shorthanded No. 12 Oregon stunned No. 3 Ohio State 35-28.

“We saw the Minnesota running back was having a good game, and we wanted to do the same thing,” the 5-foot-8, 211-pound Verdell said.

Verdell and quarterback Anthony Brown exploited holes in Ohio State’s defense and handed the Buckeyes their first regular-season loss in nearly three years and the first of third-year coach Ryan Day‘s tenure.

The Buckeyes’ last loss in the regular season came at Purdue in October 2018 under Urban Meyer.

Ohio State (1-1, 1-0 Big Ten) never led the game it was favored to win by 14 1/2 points despite gaudy numbers from freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud. Its front seven struggled to contain Verdell, control the edge and get after Brown in front.

“They quickly adapted and just played with grit and toughness, knowing this was going to be a slugfest,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.

The Ducks (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) were without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Justin Flowe.

“It’s hard to express in words the magnitude of coming out here down a couple of guys due to injury, and just playing really, really gutsy football, executing at a high level,” Cristobal said. “A tremendous job of preparation and turning it into a reality by our players and coaching staff.”

The Buckeyes had a chance to tie it late after pulling within a touchdown with 7:55 to go. But when they got the ball again, Stroud took his first sack of the day and then was intercepted by Verone McKinley III on a desperation sideline pass on third-and-18 at the Oregon 35 with 2:50 left as a crowd of more than 100,000 sat stunned.

Stroud, trying to show he is a worthy heir to Justin Fields, likely will be fine. It’s the Ohio State defense that needs work.

Twice in the first half Verdell scurried around the left end – one of them was a pitch pass on fourth-and-1 – and went untouched into the end zone from 14 yards out. Travis Dye exploited the left side again, running from 5 yards out to give the Ducks a 28-14 third-quarter lead.

Three plays into the second half, Verdell blasted through the middle untouched and outran defensive backs for a 77-yard score. He went left again for a 7-yard gain and a first down in the fourth quarter, one play before Brown connected with Moliki Matavao for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Ducks a 35-21 lead with 12:46 left.

“This is not fatal,” Day said. “Certainly, it hurts.”

BRIGHT FUTURE

Stroud, in his second start, was 35 of 54 for 484 yards and three touchdowns. That was the second most yards in Ohio State history, just 15 short of Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s 499 against Northwestern in 2018. Stroud’s success was partly due to some brilliant catches by receivers Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxson Smith-Njigba. He threw two touchdown passes to Smith-Njigba and one to Wilson.

THE TAKEAWAY

Oregon: The Ducks were better than they showed in their opener when they struggled with Fresno State. Brown made smart decisions; Verdell, who was plagued by injuries the last two seasons, had a stellar day; and the O-line controlled the line of scrimmage.

Ohio State: Stroud is adept at finding his star receivers and making throws but is still getting comfortable with decision-making. He could be the next offensive star for the Buckeyes in a long line. But the defense needs improvement, especially linebackers. This loss is squarely on their shoulders.

“You ask yourself, is it personnel, is it scheme or is it coaching?” Day wondered. He said coaches would watch the tape and get to work on the problems.

HE SAID IT

“When you go through adversity, you find out a lot about your team,” Day said.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Ohio State likely will take a considerable tumble, while the Ducks move into the top 10.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Returns home to face FCS team Stony Brook of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Ohio State: Hosts Tulsa, which lost 19-17 to UC-Davis in Week 1 and was beaten by Oklahoma State 28-23 on Saturday.

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

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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
0 Comments

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.