No Fiesta fun for Ducks in bowl game
Iowa State's methodical offense set the tone for the Fiesta Bowl from the opening drive and Oregon's inefficient play meant the Ducks had little chance for success in the Saturday, Jan. 2, game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The Ducks couldn't sustain drives on third down and struggled to get the Cyclones' offense off the field in a 34-17 Iowa State win that was a testament to execution deciding a football game.
"It's a game of execution. In critical situations, we didn't execute well enough. We didn't coach well enough," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.
It was a game reminiscent of Oregon's losses to Oregon State and Cal, as the Ducks made costly mistakes and their offense was blanked in the second half.
Oregon finishes 4-3. No. 10-ranked Iowa State finishes 9-3.
The Ducks will be unranked and missed a chance to make an important statement about where they want to go in the future by losing three fumbles and a pooched kickoff.
"You can't compromise your physicality, your execution, your focus and your effort. When you turn over the ball like we did (it is) hard to overcome," Cristobal said.
While there were plenty of Oregon shortcomings, the result was a testament to Iowa State and what a class of Cyclones seniors have accomplished. Playing in the program's first major bowl game, Iowa State dictated the script by dominating the key downs.
Cristobal compared these Cyclones with the 2019 Ducks.
"It reminds me a lot of the team that we had last year and how they found a way to execute and coach and do the things that they need to when the game was on the line," Cristobol said.
Iowa State was 11 of 19 on third down and 2 of 3 on fourth down. The one fourth-down stop was an impressive goal-line stand after a Travis Dye fumble gave the Cyclones a short field in the second quarter.
The other side of the coin was even worse. Oregon was officially 0 for 6 on third downs and failed on its lone fourth-down snap.
Anthony Brown, who shared the quarterbacking with Tyler Shough and scored both Oregon touchdowns with his feet, had enough yards for a first down on a third down in the third quarter but had the ball stripped form him as he battled for extra yards.
It was that kind of afternoon in the desert for the Ducks.
Iowa State ran 85 offensive plays to 46 for Oregon, domination of possession to the tune of 42:48 to 17:12. It started with a 15-play drive to open the game followed by a 14-play drive. Thirty-seven of the first 46 plays were run by the Cyclones.
Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibobeaux said first-down success for Iowa State put the Ducks in tough situations.
"You know, if you start off and you win the first down, it will be easy to win the next two," Thibodeaux said. "But early on we kind of lost some of the early plays, so they kind of got in a rhythm before we did."
Cristobal accurately compared Iowa State to the best Stanford teams that pound opponents and use big tight ends and receivers to get matchup advantages.
"If they can get you in third-and-manageable and third-and-short and keep moving the sticks, they're going to continue bleeding the clock. They're going to snap the ball with anywhere from 10 to 3 seconds on the play clock and time will get chewed up."
Oregon's defense held up well, under those circumstances. In addition to the goal-line stand following Dye's fumble, the Duck D held ISU to a field goal after a third-quarter punt hit the helmet of UO's Mykael Wright and set the Cyclones up at the Oregon 14. The defense also forced a punt following Brown's lost fumble.
Breece Hall, who led the nation in total rushing yards this season, netted 136 on 34 carries. He scored a pair of short touchdowns, but his long run of 19 yards came in the fourth quarter with the Oregon defense tired and the game decided.
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy finished 20 of 29 for 156 yards and a touchdown. He also ran nine times for 39 yards, with a touchdown and a couple of big third-down conversions.
The game's turning point came just before halftime, when the Cyclones scored TDs 17 seconds apart. Iowa State went up 21-14 with 1:44 left in the first half, then covered a pooched kickoff that eluded Oregon's DJ Johnson at the 27 and needed three plays to find the end zone again.
Oregon, with Brown at QB, quickly moved into Iowa State territory and twice should have scored a touchdown. But a tremendous catch by Micah Pittman in the end zone was wiped out by a holding penalty and then Brown overthrew a wide-open Devon Williams.
Henry Katleman salvaged that drive with a career-long 47-yard field goal.
That made it 28-17 at halftime, and there was every reason to believe the Ducks offense would carry some momentum into the third quarter. Brown, who finished 12 of 19 for 147 yards and ran four times for 36 yards, hit Jaylon Redd for 18 yards to open the second half, but that was Oregon's only first down in the third quarter and the Ducks had only three in the second half.
In fact, Oregon netted only 68 yards from 21 second-half snaps.
The postgame focus was on the split time between Shough and Brown. Cristobal said that the plan entering the game was similar to the Pac-12 championship game, with packages for Brown in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
That changed when Brown engineered a nine-play, 98-yard TD drive in the second quarter — a march that accounted for seven of Oregon's 17 first downs in the game.
"(Brown) developed a hot hand, so we stayed with a hot hand," Cristobal said, adding: "We did what we thought would give us the best chance to win."
Shough was 7 of 9 passing for only 79 yards and his fourth-down interception at the end of the game. Playing near his home and opposite friend Brock Purdy, Shough was 3 for 3 on Oregon's first TD drive (that Brown capped with a 6-yard run). Of the quarterback rotation, Shough said: "I'm just going to keep controlling what I can control."
Dye gained 52 yards on eight carries for a Ducks' ground game that gained 98 yards and netted 86. Junior CJ Verdell did not play and Cyrus Habibi-Likio had the only other carry for an Oregon running back.
The Oregon defense played well in the third quarter, but the Ducks had two turnovers in the period. On a third-down run by Brown he got the ball ripped out as he tried to gain extra yards, giving the ball to back ISU up 14 with 2:45 left in the third quarter.
Brown, who didn't take a snap until the Pac-12 championship game, rushed for touchdowns of 6 and 16 yards in the first half.
The Ducks defense finally forced an Iowa State punt in the third quarter, but that punt hit Oregon's Wright in the helmet and Iowa recovered at the Oregon 14. For the second time in the game, the Ducks' D responded as Thibodeaux sniffed out a slip pass for a 5-yard loss and Brandon Dorlus forced Purdy into an errant throw on third down.
A 33-yard field goal put ISU up 31-17, but it could have been a bigger hole.
Oregon's offense was productive in a first half that saw Iowa State run 22 more plays. Dye lost a fumble. A pooch kickoff was recovered by the Cyclones to set up a 27-yard drive as ISU scored touchdowns 17 seconds apart late in the second quarter to go up 28-14.
Oregon, with Brown at QB quickly moved into Iowa State territory and twice should have scored touchdowns. But a tremendous catch by Mycah Pittman in the end zone was wiped out by a holding penalty and then Brown overthrew a wide-open Devon Williams.
Henry Katleman salvaged that drive with a career-long 47-yard field goal.
The Ducks' defense limited big plays, but had trouble getting the Cyclones off the field. Iowa State's first two drives included 29 plays as it went 75 yards to open the game and 69 on its next possession.
Starting Oregon linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia was ejected for targeting three minutes before halftime as he hit Purdy with the top of his helmet as the quarterback was sliding.
IOWA STATE 34, OREGON 17
Oregon 7 10 0 0—17
Iowa St. 7 21 3 3—34
ISU — Breece Hall 1 run (C. Assalley kick), 7:24
Ore — Anthony Brown 6 run (Henry Katleman kick), 4:14
ISU Charlie Kolar 14 pass from Brock Purdy (Assalley kick), 10:58
Ore — Brown 16 run (Katleman kick), 3:17
ISU — Purdy 1 run (Assalley kick), 1:44
ISU — Hall 1 run (Assalley kick), 1:27
Ore — Katleman 47 FG, 0:13
ISU — Assalley 33 FG, 6:30.
ISU — Assalley 39 FG, 6:11
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