CORVALLIS — Saturday started with an early morning power outage in Corvallis that momentarily threatened to delay the start of the Oregon-Oregon State football game.
It ended when the Beavers turned the lights out on the Ducks, and possibly their chances of playing in a fourth straight Pac-12 Championship game.
No. 21 Oregon State rallied from 21-points down in the second half to defeat No. 9 Oregon 38-34 in front of a raucous crowd of 28,840 at Reser Stadium in the regular-season finale for both teams.
It was the second one-score loss in three weeks for the Ducks (9-3, 7-2, Pac-12), who led 14-10 at halftime, 31-10 late in the third quarter and then 34-17 just three seconds into the fourth quarter.
But it wasn’t enough for Oregon, which was outscored 28-3 in the final 18 minutes as it lost for the second straight time in Corvallis.
It was a stunning turn of events for the Ducks, who scored 24 straight between the second and third quarters to take a three-touchdown lead.
But in the fourth quarter, Oregon wilted.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Ducks quarterback Bo Nix said. “Losing sucks. Losing in that way, there’s no fun in it. It’s difficult. There are a bunch of ways you can learn and grow from it and get back to the drawing board. … It’s frustrating because we had our chances. You never want to lose like that, but it’s part of football.”
Here are some takeaways from the game.
[tie_index]Oregon lost the line of scrimmage[/tie_index]
Oregon lost the line of scrimmage
The Ducks lost the game when their defense couldn’t stop the run and their offense couldn’t score on four chances inside its own 5-yard line in the final minutes.
Oregon allowed a season-high 268 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, including 149 in the second half when the Beavers (9-3, 6-3) mauled the Ducks at the point of attack, even when it was obvious what was coming and Oregon State quarterback Ben Gulbranson attempted just four passes in the second half. He finished the game 6-for-13 for 60 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
“We knew they weren’t passing the ball,” defensive back Bennett Williams said. “At some point they gave that up. We knew they were running the ball and we couldn’t stop it. That’s what it came down to.”
Nix led the Ducks with 327 yards passing and two touchdowns, but the Ducks rushed for just 143 yards and two scores and were held to two yards on three straight runs by Jordan James when they had first down at the Oregon State 5-yard line trailing by four points with under 4 minutes to play.
“That was tough,” Nix said. “It felt like we had four chances to line up and get five yards … and we didn’t score. It’s frustrating.”
[tie_index]Special team mistakes aid Oregon State[/tie_index]
Special team mistakes aid Oregon State
The Ducks melted down on special teams in the fourth quarter, helping set up the Beavers for their comeback.
After Oregon took a 34-17 lead on a 24-yard field goal by Camden Lewis with 14:57 to play, Oregon State’s Silas Bolden returned the ensuing kickoff 48 yards with a 15-yard face mask penalty tacked on to give the Beavers a first down at the Oregon 36.
Two plays later, Newell scored on a 10-yard run.
Oregon State’s following kickoff was surprisingly fielded at the 1-yard line by Kris Hutson, who could only get 16 yards on the return, most of which was nullified by a holding penalty on the return as the Ducks started their drive at their own 8.
Oregon made it just five yards before needing to punt, but Alex Bales — who had a punt blocked earlier in the game — fumbled the snap, recovered the ball, but was tackled at the 2-yard line.
It took the Beavers one play to score as they cut their deficit to 34-31 with 12:13 to play.
“It matters the most when it matters, right?” Lanning spoke of his special team play. “I don’t know if you ever sit there and prepare for disaster, but you know when it’s not up to your standard, and it showed up in this game.”
[tie_index]Too many struggles on the fourth down [/tie_index]
Too many struggles on the fourth down
There wasn’t a team in the Pac-12 at the start of the game with a fourth-down conversion rate better than the Ducks’ 73%.
That didn’t mean much on Saturday as the offense went 0-for-3 on fourth down — including twice in the fourth quarter, one failed attempt that led to the go-ahead score for Oregon State and another that prevented Oregon from taking a late lead.
- Leading 34-31 midway through the fourth, Nix tried to run on 4th-and-1 from the Ducks’ 29 and was dropped for a 1-yard loss, giving the Beavers the ball with 9:39 to play and all they needed was four plays to get into the end zone for the go-ahead score on a 6-yard run by Isaiah Newell.
- Trailing 38-34, Nix threw incomplete to Troy Franklin in the end zone with 3 minutes to play to effectively end the game.
“We’ve been aggressive by nature the majority of the year, and a lot of times it’s worked for us,” Lanning said. “We’ll also look back and say, fourth down, you’ve had two punts in complete disarray, I like my chances on fourth-and-1 to run the ball and get it rather than line up for another pump that maybe won’t be successful.”
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[tie_index]Chase Cota’s return gives the offense an early boost[/tie_index]
Chase Cota’s return gives the offense an early boost
The starting receiver was back in the lineup for the first time since getting injured in the first half against California on Oct. 29 and marked his return with a bang.
His first catch in 3½ games went for a 44-yard touchdown on the Ducks’ opening drive, as he wrestled a 50-50 ball away from Oregon State cornerback Rejzohn Wright in the end zone.
It was his second TD catch of the season.
Cota was second on the team with 24 catches for 319 yards when he got hurt after making a catch against the Golden Bears. He didn’t play against Colorado, Washington or Utah.
He finished Saturday’s game with a career-high nine catches for 136 yards.
His second reception came on the Ducks’ second final drive of the first half when he caught a 26-yard pass from Nix that moved Oregon out of the shadow of its own end zone and to near midfield.
The Ducks were facing second-and-10 at the 17-yard line when Cota caught the ball at the 31 and took it to the 43 for the longest play of the drive.
[tie_index]Dillingham is on the move[/tie_index]
Dillingham is on the move
Right as the game was ending Saturday, multiple reports began to spread that offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham was going to be named the next coach at Arizona State.
It’ll be a return to his alma mater for Dillingham, who graduated from ASU in 2012. At 32, he’s poised to become the youngest coach in the Power Five.
“I just saw him in the locker room, gave him an embrace,” Williams said. “Happy for him and he’s gonna do big things for sure.”
Oregon had a chance to lock up a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game with a win, but will now have to hope for a win by Washington State against Washington in the Apple Cup Saturday night.
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