LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown had better thank his lucky stars that the No. 10 Ducks were able to seal a 34-31 win against Pac-12 Conference rival UCLA.
Brown was having a good day at the office as he and the Ducks were cruising along with a 34-17 lead early in the fourth quarter after his 43-yard touchdown run.
For the record, Brown completed 29 of 39 passes for 296 yards against the Bruins. But Brown got sloppy down the stretch and made a couple of ill-advised passes that turned out to be intercepted by UCLA defenders.
As it turned out those wayward passes were flipped into two Bruins touchdowns, and just like that, UCLA was right back in the ballgame and had more than a decent opportunity to pull off the upset.
“I’ve known this group for a long time and they’re an unbelievably resilient bunch,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s 34-17, [people] think the game is over, and our players fight until the end. We just came up one play short.”
Despite the mistakes he made, Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal liked what he saw from Brown, especially his passing in the second and third quarters when the Ducks outscored the Bruins 27-3 to take a commanding lead of the ballgame.
“It sent really set the tone,” Cristobal said of Brown’s passing. “And then, especially in the middle and in the third quarter where things really changed. We swung the momentum of the game. We were able to hang onto it at the end.”
Up until Oregon played UCLA, Brown had kept the mistakes down to a minimum, which has spurred the Ducks into being one of the top teams in the nation. Hard work and diligence have been the key, Brown said.
“Preparation,” remarked Brown after the game. “We work a lot all week on every look possible that we could get. We knew that some holes would be open for the pass game and we had to take advantage of them. We did it today. It was good to come full-circle.”
The way that the Bruins were able to claw their way back into the game was the same way how the early afternoon contest ended. The one thing that Oregon did well on defense was putting the brakes on the Bruins’ run game that featured Zach Charbonnet, Brittain Brown, and quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson, who left the game early after being injured.
The Bruins were limited to 110 net yards rushing the football.
“I think, at the end of the day, we need to execute better,” UCLA offensive lineman Jon Gaines said. “Football is a really simple game; it’s blocking and tackling. They’re a good defensive team and we didn’t execute as the offensive line the way we needed to. Getting behind early, you need to start throwing the ball a little bit more, so that kind of factors in, as well. At the end of the day, it’s a matter of execution. We need to look to improve that.”
Ethan Garbers, who came in relief of Thompson Robinson because of an injury, threw his own misguided pass that ended up being picked off to give Brown and the Ducks a reprieve from a possible defeat.
“We were in our two-minute offense, obviously. We just worked on the two-minute menu, which Ethan knows the same as Dorian does,” Kelly said. “We didn’t change anything. We had a really big play on the fourth-down conversion – really proud of that. Didn’t get a good look on the last play, so I’m not going to make a comment on that.”
With 65 points scored between the two teams in the game, it would seem that playing defense would be obsolete. But big defensive plays are what decided the game.
A fumble recovery and interceptions by Jay Shaw and Jordan Genmark Heath in the second half were critical to the Bruins’ comeback bid. A blocked punt in the first half is what led to UCLA’s second score of the day.
“Coach Kelly and the staff, we talk about once we get into the fourth quarter, we throw those ‘ones’ up,” Genmark Heath said. “A lot of people throw those fours up – that fourth quarter, we’re attacking it just like it’s the start of the game.
Genmark Heath continued, “That’s kind of what you guys saw out there. We came out there fresh, fast, and physical, and that’s the momentum change that we needed. So when those other teams start getting tired, we’re just getting started. That’s where you’re going to see those ones in the air.”
DJ James came up with the two Oregon interceptions, including his game-ender against Garbers. Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux said that’s what the Ducks are all about.
“We got to keep fighting,” Thibodeaux said about that last UCLA drive. “There is always one more play, one more opportunity to showcase the work that we put in on Tuesday and Wednesday. Our backs were against the wall. We had to come out and fight, show our grit.”
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers sports, social and racial justice, politics, equal rights, and entertainment. Dennis has over two decades of journalism experience. He earned a degree in journalism from Howard University. “I write what I’m passionate about.”