Takeaways lift Ducks
The takeaway form Oregon's Saturday win over UCLA:
An Oregon team that hadn't produced a takeaway in its first two games forced UCLA into four turnovers and held on for a 38-35 win over the Bruins in a game at Autzen Stadium that the visitors controlled at the line of scrimmage.
Oregon improves to 3-0 heading to a Friday game in Corvallis against 1-2 Oregon State. UCLA falls to 1-2.
The turning point was a pick-six from Jordan Happle on the final play of the first half, but the game was in doubt until the final seconds when Chip Kelly's Bruins drove to the Oregon 39 with 55 seconds left.
UCLA redshirt freshman quarterback Chase Griffin, in his first career start, threw three incompletions, including a fourth down throw into tight coverage that Kyle Phillips couldn't hold. A false start penalty slowed the Bruins momentum and Adrian Jackson made a key tackle on tough running back Demetric Felton on third down as the Ducks survived.
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said it was good for his young team to survive a back-and-forth game with many momentum shifts — and that the defense can take confidence from holding the three-point lead in the final minute.
"I look around the country and I look at some of the perennial powers that are winless or won one or two games and I look at the fact that we're 3-0 right now," Cristobal said. "We were certainly never going to apologize for winning. Is there a silver lining in a win like that? To have the defense out there and to have to come up with a play is huge, right?"
UCLA's ground game punished the Ducks to the tune of 267 yards and the Bruins defense limited Oregon to 88 net yards on the ground. Felton, a shifty 200-pound redshirt senior, ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns, the second of those an 11-yard run to pull the Bruins within 38-35 with 3:43 remaining.
"I thought Felton was awesome. We knew we wanted to run the ball coming in here," UCLA coach Chip Kelly said.. "That's the part that hurts. I think we tripled their output in the rushing game. If you told me we were going to triple them in rushing and we'd lose, I'd be surprised at that."
The Ducks got one first down on their next possession, but had to punt it back to the Bruins, who drove from their own 10 to the Oregon 39 with three pass plays and help from a roughing the passer penalty.
The Bruins might have had the game in hand before than but for the UCLA turnovers.
The Ducks converted two fumble recoveries into quick scores, had Happle's defensive touchdown, and scored after a third-quarter pick by Verone McKinley III to go ahead 38-28. McKinley also made a heads-up fumble recovery and return to set up the first score of the game.
"We pride ourselves in being the best return team in the country," McKinley said.
Describing his early fumble recovery, on which he batted the ball out of the reach of a Bruin lineman, McKinley said: "I know he's coming at me and I know it's rolling so I tip it and keep it rolling and kind of jump and skip pout of the way, I can pick it up and try and go score."
Happle, the Jesuit High grad who transferred to Oregon this summer from Boise State, led the team with 11 tackles (six solo). He said he knew as soon as he intercepted the ball on the final play of the half that he had to score.
Oregon's Brandon Dorlus hit Griffin as he threw and the ball floated into the arms of Happle, who scooted 58 yards to put Oregon ahead, outrunning Felton along the sideline to complete the play.
Happle said he felt the takeaways were coming after Noah Sewell set the tone in practice during the week by punching the ball loose multiple times. It was Sewell who forced the fumble that McKinley recovered in the first quarter.
"We were emphasizing turnovers a lot. Everyone knows turnovers change games as a whole," Happle said. "When you create those habits in practice, it's just bound to carry over to a game at some point. Today it finally showed up for us."
Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough, facing a UCLA defense that brought pressure at every opportunity, threw for a career-best 334 yards and three touchdowns on a 19-of-30 afternoon. Shough said the Ducks hurt themselves by not finishing three drives into Bruins' territory.
He said he needed to be better against UCLA's good, aggressive defense.
"Some of the decision making in the run game on some of the read-option stuff, and then, obviously, in the pass game just getting it out of my hands and taking what the defense gives me," Shough said. "I think we did a better job in the second half, but realize when they're bringing pressure maybe get it out quicker and let our guys run because that was the key."
Griffin, making his first start because UCLA senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson was unavailable, completed 19 of 31 passes with a touchdown and two interceptions. He threw into coverage a few times, but looked confident in Kelly's offense.
"Chase Griffin did a really good job today executing their game plan," Happle said. "I know their starter was out, but I don't think there was any drop off in what we saw today from him. I think he did an incredible job."
Ducks' tight end Hunter Kampmoyer had a big first game of the season with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown. Devon Williams caught six of 11 targets for 123 yards and a TD, and was praised by Cristobal for his practice habits in recent weeks.
Travis Dye's 40 yards on 10 carries led Oregon's backs. He also caught a 32-yard touchdown pass.
After losing freshman linebacker Sewell to an apparent right leg injury in the third quarter, the Ducks D started to toughen up. McKinley picked off a fourth down pass moments after the injury, and then the Ducks forced consecutive punts.
Cristobal said after the game he is "hopeful that things aren't as bad as they originally seemed" for Sewell, who left the field on a cart aver having his leg rolled up on.
The return of safety Nick Pickett, who was suspended for the first half because of a targeting penalty at Washington State, also seemed to help the defense.
Shough used his legs to help Oregon open the third quarter with a 75-yard scoring drive, a 23-yard run from the QB jump starting that drive.
But the Bruins' tempo was effective on the next drive, a 75-yard, 13-play drive that included a conversion on fourth-and-1 near midfield. Ten of the 13 plays were runs as the UCLA offensive line continued to win the line of scrimmage.
Oregon had a couple of chances to extend the lead but misfired. Early in the fourth quarter, Oregon had first down at the UCLA 25 but wound up settling for a 43-yard field goal attempt that Camden Lewis shanked badly. On the next drive, the Ducks appeared to have a first down inside the Bruins 20, but a holding penalty nullified the play and a sack then forced a Ducks punt.
Ultimately, it was big plays and takeaways that saved the Ducks. Williams had receptions of 49, 30 and 19 yards and Johnson had receptions for 31 and 19 yards.
With the Bruins stacking players close to the line of scrimmage and blitzing often, the big pass plays were the Ducks best weapon.
Cristobal gave UCLA's defense credit for making things difficult on his offensive line, which had been a strong suit of Oregon's first two wins.
"I think first and foremost you got to give credit to UCLA. They have changed schematically significantly from what they have done before, and some of the stuff they did we didn't handle as well as we're used to handling," Cristobal said. "The difficulty of blocking some of the movements and pressures when we were caught in certain plays, they showed up in negative plays today. We got to do, I got to do a better job setting them up for success."
All three Oregon touchdowns in the first half came off takeaways, Happle's pick-six on the final play of the second quarter.
"We're out of time, so it's score or nothing, and he found a way just to out-race the running back and get into the end zone and was a monstrous play in this football game," Cristobal said..
That play put Oregon ahead 24-21 at the break despite being outplayed at the line of scrimmage by the Bruins for two quarters. The Bruins outgained the Ducks 237-179 in the first half. UCLA averaged five yards per running play, led by Felton's 83 yards on 16 carries. Griffin missed only three passes before halftime, completing 10 of his first 11 throws for 112 yards before Happle's pick-six.
Oregon scored two touchdowns 16 seconds apart to jump ahead 14-0.
One-play after the McKinley III fumble recovery and return, Shough hit a wide-open Williams.
On the ensuing kickoff, a hit by JJ Greenfield forced UCLA's Qwuantrezz Knight to fumble and Johnny Johnson III recovered for Oregon. The next Oregon snap was a 32-yard catch ahd run for Dye after Shough faked a quarterback run and flipped a pass to Dye.
The Bruins got good field position and scored their first TD on a 1-yard run from Felton.
They tied it when CJ Verdell fumbled and Knight returned the ball 20 yards for a score.
After Oregon drove to the 5 but settled for a 23-yard Camden Lewis field goal, Griffin hit Greg Dulcich for a 32-yard score to give the Bruins their first lead.
OREGON 38, UCLA 35
UCLA 7 14 7 7—35
OREGON 14 10 14 0—38
Ore — Devon Williams 19 pass from Tyler Shough (Camden Lewis kick), 5:39.
Ore — Travis Dye pass from Shough (Lewis kick), 5:23
UCLA — Demetric Felton 1 run (Nicholas Barr-Mira kick), 2:15
UCLA — Qwuantrezz Knight 20 fumble return (Barr-Mira kick), 13:21
Ore — Lewis 23 FG, 7:14
UCLA — Greg Dulcich 32 pass from Chase Griffin (Barr-Mira kick), 3:24
Ore — Jordan Happle 62 interception return (Lewis kick)
Ore — CJ Verdell 5 run (Lewis kick), 11:48
UCLA — Brittain Brown 2 run (Barr-Mira kick), 7:39
Ore — Hunter Kampmoyer 12 pass from Shough (Lewis kick) 1:24
UCLA — Felton 11 run (Barr-Mira kick), 3:43
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