Oregon comes up one play short from 16-point deficit against Colorado
It looked as though it could be a comeback to remember, but ended as one of Oregon football’s most discouraging Pac-12 openers.
After overcoming a 23-7 deficit to lead 38-33 late in the third quarter, Oregon ultimately lost to Colorado 41-38 at Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
In a season filled with disheartening moments, ignited by Autzen’s 110-game sellout streak ending, this loss adds to Oregon’s ongoing struggles. The uncharacteristic tempo problems, a struggling defense and Oregon’s first loss to Colorado since it joined the Pac-12, not mention the Duck’s first back-to-back loss in a long time; Oregon needed this game for momentum, for morale and for the fans.
“We’re all in this together, coaches—first and foremost—in keeping guys pointed in the right direction is a big deal right now,” head coach Mark Helfrich said.
The Ducks came out lackadaisical in the first half with two consecutive three-and-outs, while Colorado took advantage of Oregon’s developing run defense to get points on the board on each of its first three drives. The Buffaloes were up 16-7 after the first quarter with 203 total offensive yards, compared to Oregon’s 86.
After halftime, the Ducks came out and gained momentum with two big interception by freshman Brenden Schooler and Troy Dye. Both of those ensuing drives ended in points for Oregon. Those interceptions, along with the points scored following them, brought the fans back into the game, which in turn, hyped up the players and led to a productive third quarter of play.
“Those two interceptions were big keys in the game, I mean, the crowd got back into it and we just kind of fed off everything,” Dye said.
Injuries have been a leading storyline for Oregon this season. Running back Royce Freeman’s injury has been one of the most significant injuries recently.
Freeman sustained a lower leg injury early in the Nebraska game and was sidelined Saturday. Against Nebraska, the rest of the Oregon running backs corps flourished, and Saturday they had another decent outing. But again, it wasn’t enough to win.
“Obviously Royce is unique, but those other guys have had very good production—there aren’t too many things that we’re doing differently without Royce,” Helfrich said. “Tony did a nice job, Kani and Taj did good things at times, a couple things we’ll want to call a re-do on but for the most part, we did a good job.”
Tony Brooks-James had a career-high 122 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Despite, the interceptions for Oregon and liveliness on both sides of the ball in the second half, everything ultimately came down to Oregon’s final offensive play of the game: first and goal with less than a minute on the clock. Dakota Prukop under threw Darren Carrington, resulting in a Colorado interception and ending Oregon’s comeback.
“I’ve never been in a train wreck, but that was probably what it would feel like,” Helfrich said in response to how he felt when the ball was intercepted.
Prukop said the pass was something that he just “didn’t put enough juice on it.”
“People are going to say, ‘Oh, it’s not one play, you know, there’s a whole game,’ but it came down to the last play,” Prukop said. “And that’s something I work with Darren all the time, so it just comes down to execution on my part.”
It was a disastrous ending for a highly questioned, injured and young Oregon team.
In this loss, as well as Oregon’s loss to Nebraska, they lost by three points.
When asked about other similarities between the two, Helfrich had one thing to say: “The wrong team winning at the end by three points.”
Now, all the Ducks can do is learn from this loss and move on to focus on next week’s game against Washington State.
“I haven’t been through something like this before,” Prukop said. “You know, it sucks, but you’ve just got to eat it, learn from it, can’t let it happen again. Just move on.”
Follow Kylee O’Connor on Twitter @kyleethemightee
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