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Game Recap: Colorado Steals Pac-12 Opener from Oregon, 41-38

The Buffaloes amass 602 yards of total offense against a leaky Oregon defense. Redshirt back-up quarterback totals 468 overall yards, including four scores for Colorado

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

EUGENE, Oregon - The Colorado Buffaloes defeated the Oregon Ducks, 41-38, on Saturday afternoon from Autzen Stadium. Colorado’s offense amassed 602 yards of total offense against the Duck defense, including five touchdowns. The last time Oregon began a season 2-2 was in 1991-92.

Colorado quarterback Steven Montez led the charge on Saturday amidst his first career collegiate start. The red-shirt freshman back-up was the overall star of the game, as the Oregon defense continually overcommitted every time the Buffs’ quarterback put the ball down to run.

He rushed for 135 yards on 21 carries, alongside an incredibly stellar 23-of-32 from the pocket for 333 yards and four total touchdowns with two interceptions.

“He’s a big-bodied quarterback,” said Oregon defensive back Brenden Schooler. “He didn’t want to go down easy, so we had to respect the fact that he could run. But, he was a pretty good thrower, so we had to respect that as well.”

On 3rd and 16, Darren Carrington drew the biggest pass interference call of his career, placing Oregon on the Colorado 26-yard-line with a 1:43 left to play in the game. However, on that same drive Dakota Prukop was intercepted by Ahkello Witherspoon in the end zone, diminishing all Duck hope.

“I didn’t put enough juice on it,” said Prukop. “I should’ve put it a lot higher for an easy jump ball, that’s what he (Carrington) likes. Just got to learn from it.”

Puzzled? Me too. A little less than two minutes left in the game, two timeouts still in the chamber, within field goal range for the Ducks and three attempts at a score before fourth down. Why not run the ball? If you don’t score, worst case scenario is overtime. But, a fade route to the back of end zone on first down? That is your play call? Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich will not sleep well tonight.

“I’ve never been in a train wreck, but I’m pretty sure that is what it would feel like,” said Helfrich after the loss.

Bryce Bobo did his best Odell Beckham Jr. impersonation, clutching a 31-yard bomb with just three fingers and one foot down in the end zone. With the Colorado thunderous score, including their successful two-point conversion, the Buffaloes regained the lead, 41-38, with 8:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“Somebody is going to have to explain that to me,” Helfrich said. “The ball spun in his hand. That is always an incomplete pass. It was an unbelievable job by him of corralling the ball.”

Nearing the end of the third quarter, week No. 1 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, Troy Dye reappeared in fine fashion with a gigantic interception. The massive Duck forced turnover led to Carrington’s second touchdown catch of the day and Oregon’s first lead Saturday, 38-33.

A 33-yard completion to Dwayne Stanford placed Oregon on the Buffaloes’ 39-yard-line. Three plays later, Kani Benoit scampered in from three yards out for the Duck touchdown, slicing the Colorado lead to 33-31.

Schooler intercepted Colorado quarterback Steven Montez and returned it 36 yards to set-up the first Duck score of the second half. Tony Brooks-James scored from 1-yard out, alongside the successful extra point (because every Oregon extra point attempt is an event in itself) to cut the Colorado lead, 33-24.

“Just not making tackles,” said Schooler. “We’re giving them free plays pretty much. We got to make them earn it.”

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon
The Ducks celebrate an early touchdown score from running back Taj Griffin. Oregon as a whole, rushed for 215 total yards on 45 carries Saturday.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Following Oregon’s failed fourth down attempt at midfield to start the second half, Devin Ross grabbed a highly questionable 48-yard touchdown pass from Montez.

“We just couldn’t stop them, we couldn’t stop anything out there,” said Duck defensive back Arrion Springs. “These ones definitely hurt the most.”

After initially being ruled incomplete on the field, Ross apparently caught the ball, before juggling and dropping it in the end zone. It was ruled a touchdown after further review from the officials, as the Buffaloes amplified their lead, 33-17.

“It’s going to be another tough pill to swallow as far as the film, but as long as everybody sticks together and owns what they need to do,” stated Helfrich. “Owns, starting with me.”

Trailing 23-7 with 11:58 left in the first half, Oregon scored 10 unanswered points including a 41-yard field goal by Aidan Schneider, before Colorado added three points right before the halftime whistle. The Ducks trailed the Buffaloes, 26-17, at halftime.

The breakthrough play of the half for the Ducks came on fourth down and three yards to go when Danny Mattingly galloped 29 yards to the Buffaloes 28-yard-line following Oregon’s perfectly executed fake punt. Before that play, Oregon was struggling just to secure first down conversions.

Two plays later, Dakota Prukop hooked-up with Carrington for the 25-yard touchdown, his first of the afternoon. With the momentum-changing score, Oregon cut their deficit to nine points, 23-14, following their second successful extra point with 10:18 left in the first half.

“I haven’t been through something like this before,” Prukop said. “You know, it sucks. But, I just got to eat it and learn from it. Can’t let it happen again. Move on.”

If it wasn’t for their special teams masterpiece, Oregon would have been in bigger trouble than they found themselves at halftime. Colorado simply dominated the game from all angles in the first two quarters on Saturday. Fortunately for the quack attack, football is a tail of two halves.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Oregon
Colorado quarterback Steven Montez set the tone early and often from Eugene. The redshirt freshman looked like the veteran on the field from Autzen Stadium in his first career start.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

With Royce Freeman in street clothes nursing a leg injury, the supremely talented Oregon backfield trifecta had the opportunity to shine on Saturday. Oregon’s backfield combined for 215 rushing yards on 45 total carries (4.8 YPC), including three scores.

Colorado’s secondary is proving to be the most unheralded defensive backfield in the Pac-12 so far this young season. Possessing one big cornerback is an advantage, having three NFL-bodies in the secondary is a game-changer.

Oregon receivers had trouble getting separation, as No. 4 Michigan had similar difficulties with them last week. However, Tedric Thompson did drop a sure game-ending interception on the Ducks final drive.

“We’re just frustrated that we’re putting in this much work during practice, busting our butts every day and we can’t come out with the win on Saturday,” Schooler said. “Everyone is pretty mad.”

Brooks-James led the way for the Oregon rushing game with 120 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Prukop completed 22-of-33 passes, totaling 293 yards, two TD passes and his first and most crucial interception of the young season. Stanford led the Oregon pass-catchers with 95 yards on six catches.

“At the end of the day, the coaches and I trust the call,” said Brooks-James. “Just got to roll with the punches.”

Ross led all receivers with seven grabs for 153 yards and a score.

The Ducks were playing without their Heisman hopeful Freeman and their starting tight end, Pharaoh Brown. Not to mention, Oregon learned Monday that both Devon Allen and Tyrell Crosby would be lost for the season.

Brooks-James went on to say, “Mentally, we just got to bounce back and flush it, as coach likes to say. Flush it and move on because the longer you dwell on it, the worse off you’re going to be. Just flush it and get ready for WSU.”

Oregon (2-2) is set for their short-week trip to Pullman, Washington next to face the struggling Washington State Cougars (1-2). Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, October 1 from Martin Stadium. The Ducks will be looking to get back on track with their first Pac-12 win of the season.

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