Ducks Downs Utes 51-27

SALT LAKE CITY – The No. 4 Oregon Ducks (9-1, 6-1) clinched the Northern Division of the Pac-12 Conference by powering their way to a 51-27 win over the Utah Utes (6-3, 3-3). The Ducks exploded for 24-points in the fourth quarter to ensure the win.

(PHOTO Oregon Ducks running back Royce Freeman (21) runs with the ball as Utah Utes defensive back Brian Blechen (4) attempts to make the tackle during the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Oregon won 51-27. Photo credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

“A gutty win,” said Oregon’s Mark Helfrich of the contest. “A gutty, gutty win by our team. A huge turn of events, obviously, pm the fumble going into the end zone.”

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota hurt Utah by throwing three touchdown passes and running for a fourth.

“(Oregon) is a great football team,” commented Utah headman Kyle Whittingham. The Oregon Ducks may be one of the best teams in the nation. They have a bunch of playmakers and probably the best quarterback in college football.”

The Ducks had led at halftime 24-10 but Utah came storming back in the third quarter with two touchdowns to cut Oregon’s lead to 27-20. Oregon had kicked a field goal to give them 27 and it seemed the Utah had shaken the monstrous mistake of the first half when Kaelin Clay dropped the football before crossing the goal line allowing Duck linebacker Joe Walker to recover and return the fumble 100-yards for a touchdown.

“It’s a lot better being tied 7-7 than being down 14-0,” said Helfrich of the fumble and 100-yard return. “Our guys would have kept playing, no question. We wouldn’t have flinched, but that (play) was huge.”

The play caused momentum to swing to Oregon for the remainder of the first half and when Devontae Booker hauled in a pass from Travis Wilson and score on a 27-yard pass play cutting Oregon’s lead to 27-20, momentum went back to Utah.

The Utes were able to trim Oregon’s lead even further in the fourth quarter to 30-27 but then the Ducks found the a rhythm in what they wanted to do on offense and reeled of 21-straight points. In all the Ducks scored a 42-yard field goal by Aidan Schneider (the second of the second half. Earlier in the third quarter Schneider hit a 31-yarder. Schneider finished the night with three field goals, with one in the first half from 39 yards out.

Mariota finished the night throwing for 239 yards on 17-for-29 throwing, three touchdowns plus ending up as the game’s leading rusher with 114 net yards on 18 carries on Mariota’s rushing TD. Actually, Mariota had a total of 152 yards but lost 38 yards after being sacked four times.

Byron Marshall was the leading receiver with six catches for 56 yards. Pharaoh Brown had three catches for 40 yards and a touchdown before leaving the field on a medical cart following Mariota’s rushing score. There was no word on Brown’s condition following the game.

Devon Allen had two grabs for 69 yards including a 41-yard reception. Dwayne Stanford continued his strong play by hauling in two touchdown passes from Mariota. Keanon Lowe also had two receptions.

Royce Freeman got a lot of his 99 net yards in the fourth quarter plus scoring the final touchdown of the game. Thomas Tyner had 45 hard earned yards on 12 carries.

Over all the Ducks racked up 502 yards of total offense thought 179 of those yards came in the fourth quarter. The Ducks had 265 yards of rushing and 239 yards of passing. Many had thought that Utah would try and control the clock with the running game but the Utes finished with 120 yards of rushing. The Utah passing game was supposed to be lacking but on Saturday night Utah quarterbacks threw for 320 yards and Utah had a total of 440 yards of offense.

Travis Wilson was 18-for-28, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Kendal Thompson, who started the game, had 23 yards of passing before leaving the game. Devontae Booker was the leading rusher with 65 net rushing yards and was also the leading receiver with eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Clay had five grabs for 152 yards, though 78 of his yards came on the play that may go down in Utah history as the drop.

Oregon’s special teams were obviously highlighted with Schneider’s three field goals but Charles Nelson had one kickoff return for 36 yards and Johnathan Loyd was very impressive with a 51-yard return that nearly ended up a touchdown had not been for Utah kicker Andy Phillips diving tackle that tripped Loyd up.

Phillips who is considered one of the top kickers in the country hit two field goals of 32 and 28 yards but missed his final attempt of 48. Clay had seven kick returns totaling 179 yards with a long of 41.

Defensively, the Ducks again proved strong when the defense was most needed – in the fourth quarter. Oregon was led in tackling by Derrick Malone with eight tackles (four solos) including an assist on a sack with DeForest Buckner getting credit for the other half of the sack. Troy Hill had seven tackles (six solos) and had an interception in the fourth quarter that led to a touchdown. Tyson Coleman had the other interception on the Utah 33 in the third quarter but the Ducks were unable to capitalize on the turnover and turned the ball over on downs.

The Ducks recorded six tackles for loss with Malone and Buckner getting a sack. Buckner also had another TFL. Coleman, Walker and Tony Washington’s two TFLs made up for the rest of the tackles for loss.

Reggie Daniels had a fumble recovery along with Walker’s play. The Ducks won the turnover-to-takeaway statistic, with the two fumble recoveries and the two interceptions. Oregon fumbled once when Mariota coughed up the ball in the first quarter.

Oregon now has the bye and will face Colorado on Nov. 22, at Autzen Stadium. Notes:

•The Ducks clinched the Pac-12 North Division title for the second time in the four seasons of conference divisional play. UO will face the Pac-12 South champion on Friday, Dec. 5 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. •Marcus Mariota passed for a touchdown for the 36th straight game - every game of his career. He is tied with Graham Herrell (Texas Tech) for the third-longest streak in NCAA history.
•Mariota’s 18 rushing attempts were a career best. He finished with 114 yards on the ground, his fifth-career 100-yard effort and third this season. Oregon improved to 17-0 when Mariota runs for at least one score.
•Mariota has now totaled at least four touchdowns in 7 of 9 games this season.
•Joe Walker became the first Duck and fifth player in NCAA history with 100 yards on a fumble return, scoring the Ducks’ first touchdown of the game.
•Royce Freeman tied LaMichael James (2009) for the UO freshman mark with his 14th rushing touchdown of the season. The true frosh followed up his 98-yard rushing performance vs. Stanford with 99 on 15 carries against the Utes.
Hroniss Grasu made his team-leading 50th career start at center.
•Mariota has passed for multiple TDs in 10 straight games - the longest active streak in the FBS.
•Mark Helfrich (23 games) became the second-fastest head coach (tying Chip Kelly) to reach 20 wins to start a Pac-12 career.
•Mariota became the first UO signal caller to pass for 9,000 yards in a career. He now has 9,122.
•True freshman Aidan Schneider hit the longest field goal by an Oregon kicker in two seasons, connecting from 42 yards out. His three field goals on the night were the most by a UO kicker in a game since Eric Solis had three vs. New Mexico Sept. 4, 2010. Schneider, who took over placekicking duties two weeks ago at Cal, is now 5-for-5 on attempts this season.
•Oregon ended Utah’s streak of holding opponents under 30 points at nine games, one week after stopping Stanford’s streak at 31.
•The Ducks improved to 8-5 against Utah in Salt Lake City. It was UO’s first win in the Beehive State since 1995.

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