No. 5 Oregon downs Washington State 38-24 with big 2nd half

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux says it’s at that point of the season where every team wants to knock off the Ducks.

Anthony Brown Jr. threw for 135 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 123 yards and another score as No. 5 Oregon beat Washington State 38-24 on Saturday night.

Oregon, ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, has won five straight and extended its winning streak at Autzen Stadium to 18 straight games, including 14 straight victories at home over Pac-12 opponents.

“Every game is a playoff game,” Thibodeaux said. “Us having this target on our backs, it makes every team want to play their best. You know, one thing that we had a problem with was playing down to teams. And now I feel like we’re in that mode where teams have to play up to us.”

Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) needed to win and for Stanford to beat Oregon State up the road in Corvallis earlier on Saturday to clinch the Pac-12 North. The Beavers didn’t hold up their end, winning 35-14 over Stanford.

Washington State (5-5, 4-3) tied the game at 14 before halftime but Oregon pulled away in the third quarter. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak over Pac-12 opponents for the Cougars, who fell to BYU on Oct. 23 in a midseason nonconference game.

The Cougars still need one more win to become bowl eligible and perhaps redeem a season that has been marked by turbulence. Washington State dismissed head coach Nick Rolovich on Oct. 18 after his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Our guys aren’t going to quit. They’re gonna keep fighting,” WSU interim coach Jake Dickert said. “They’re gonna keep battling. I think the biggest thing we were looking for in this game is just improvement and keep progressing in our program, keep moving forward.”

Saturday’s game got off to a strange start. Washington State’s second play from scrimmage appeared to be a 77-yard touchdown pass from Jayden de Laura to Calvin Jackson Jr. But on review, Jackson stepped out of bounds at the Oregon 7-yard line. On the next play, de Laura fumbled out of the end zone for an Oregon touchback.

Travis Dye plowed his way into the end zone from a yard out to give the Ducks a 7-0 lead. Verone McKinley III got his fifth interception of the season and three plays later Dye scored on an 11-yard pass from Brown.

The Cougars closed the margin on de Laura’s 14-yard pass to De'Zhaun Stribling midway through the second quarter. De Laura’s 1-yard keeper with 11 seconds left in the half tied it at 14.

Oregon scored on Brown’s 17-yard scramble on their first series of the second half to pull back in front. The Ducks extended the lead on Camden Lewis‘ 22-yard field goal.

It appeared that Washington State’s George Hicks III recovered a fumble by Brown in the end zone early in the fourth quarter and ran it back 50 yards. After review, the play stood.

De Laura hit Travell Harris with a 38-yard pass to get to the Oregon 11, but the Ducks’ defense held and the Cougars settled for Dean Janikowski’s 34-yard field goal to make it 24-17.

“I think it was another chance for us to kind of show our resilience and show that we’re gonna keep coming,” Thibodeaux said. “I feel like we’ve trained for sudden changes. Things happen in this football so just being able to come back and play the next play, that’s all you have to do.”

Thibodeaux, considered a top pick in the 2022 NFL draft if he chooses to go pro, had a pair of sacks and six tackles, including two tackles for loss.

Byron Caldwell ran for a 27-yard touchdown with 5:52 left before a 22-yard scoring run with 2:07 to go for the Ducks. De Laura’s 2-yard TD pass to Harris ended it.

“I think this team’s getting better and better every single week, in a lot of different areas, a lot of different phases,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “So the sky’s the limit.”

Dye ran for 88 yards and a score, and had 25 yards receiving and another TD. Oregon had more than 300 yards on the ground for the second straight game.

De Laura threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars. He was intercepted twice.

THE TAKEAWAY

Washington State: Washington State hasn’t defeated a team ranked in the AP Top 25 since No. 25 Iowa State in the 2018 Alamo Bowl. The Cougars last defeated a team in the top 10 in 2017, when they upset No. 5 Southern California in Pullman, Washington. … Washington State was coming off a bye.

Oregon: Last year in Pullman, the Cougars led 19-14 at halftime but the then-No. 11 Ducks pulled away in the second half, with Dye catching two second-half touchdown passes, to win 43-29.

AND TAKEAWAYS

The Ducks have 15 takeaways at home this season. It was the fifth game of the season with at least three takeaways.

“Being in the secondary against Washington State, you know they’re going to pass the ball,” McKinley said. “We were prepared.”

Cristobal said: “I’ll tell you what, it was seven nothing and Verone gets up pick. That was another huge bolt of energy to our sideline our offensive guys fed off of that big time. And that’s what Verone does. Verone’s a game changer.”

UP NEXT

Washington State: Hosts Arizona on Friday night.

Oregon: Visits Utah next Saturday.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.