Sporting their highest Associated Press ranking since Marcus Mariota suited up behind center, the No. 3 Oregon Ducks (4-0, 1-0) defeated Arizona (0-4, 0-1), 41-19, at Autzen Stadium to open Pac-12 play.
Once again, the Ducks played down to their competition, but they still walked off the field undefeated and in the driver's seat for a College Football Playoff appearance.
The Ducks are looking to become the first Pac-12 team to go 10-0 in conference play and be the first Oregon team to make the College Football Playoff since 2015.
Here's how Saturday's win went down. (Hint, five forced turnovers greatly helped the Ducks.)
Oregon didn't wait long to get on the board, going 75 yards in three plays, largely thanks to a 63-yard touchdown pass from Anthony Brown to Jaylon Redd. The catch-and-run gave Oregon a 7-0 lead with 13:58 remaining in the first quarter.
Next, Bennet Williams came down with a diving interception on the first Wildcats' play from scrimmage to give the Ducks the ball back immediately. The takeaway led to a 21-yard field goal from Camden Lewis to give the Ducks a ten-point advantage.
Arizona responded with a 10-play, 91-yard drive capped with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jordan McCloud to Bryce Wolma. During the drive, the Wildcats' offensive line got consistent push en route to 52 yards rushing on that drive alone. A late hit out-of-bounds from DJ Johnson also gifted Arizona 15 yards.
Oregon wasted no time reigniting a double-digit lead thanks to a five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Travis Dye had a 53-yard carry which set up a CJ Verdell for an 11-yard touchdown on the next play.
Next, with Arizona in the Oregon red zone once again, Mykael Wright snagged the Ducks' second interception of the evening, resulting in a touchback. The takeaway set up an eight-play, 80-drive that ended with Terrance Ferguson scoring for the second consecutive week.
To end the first half, Arizona scored a field goal before the teams traded scoreless possessions to enter the locker room, 24-10 Ducks.
At the beginning of the second half, Verone McKinley III baited McCloud in the Oregon red zone and came away with Oregon's third interception of the game. Also, it was McKinley's third straight game with an interception.
Unfortunately, Oregon's offensive line allowed Brown to get sacked by Arizona's Mo Diallo for a Wildcats' safety. Then, Arizona did further damage thanks to a 12-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to make the score 24-19 Ducks.
Oregon responded with a nine-play, 50-yard drive which concluded with a 43-yard field goal from Lewis, giving the Ducks a 27-19 lead.
An illegal forward pass on the kickoff pinned Arizona deep in its own territory and the Ducks' defense forced a punt with 12:32 remaining in the game. Anthony Brown would soon find Spencer Webb for an 18-yard touchdown to take a 15-point lead.
Bennett Williams then got his second interception of the day: a 68-yard pick-six to give the Ducks a 41-19 lead with 7:04 remaining.
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To seal the game, sixth-year senior Nate Heaukulani intercepted McCloud with 46 seconds remaining.
Ty Thompson saw action for the final two offensive drives of the game. He did not complete a pass and ran for two yards.
Interestingly, true freshman Jackson Powers-Johnson saw first-team snaps at both guard positions. The Ducks had been rotating offensive linemen all season but usually at the tackle positions prior to Saturday. On the official organizational chart, the 4-star freshman is listed as the second string center.
Running back Seven McGee also saw snaps with the first-team offense, even seeing two targets including a 27-yard catch to move the chains to end the third quarter. He also ran the ball twice for five yards with the second-string offense.
Star linebacker Noah Sewell was tended to by Oregon medical personnel early in the fourth quarter and walked off under his own power. He returned on the next defensive series.
Additionally, Oregon welcomed arguably the nation's best player back to the lineup as Kayvon Thibodeaux played for the first time since suffering an ankle sprain against Fresno State. However, the third-year linebacker limped off the field during the second quarter and got his left ankle wrapped on the Ducks' sideline. To begin the second half, he was wearing sneakers while staying in full pads. He did not re-enter the game.
With the loss, Arizona has lost 16 consecutive games dating back to the 2019 college football season.
Next, the Ducks travel south to Palo Alto, CA to play the Stanford Cardinal (2-2, 1-1) at 12:30 p.m. PST on Saturday, October 2.
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