OU safety Pat Fields (10) returns an interception against Texas Tech on Oct. 30 in Norman.

cover

Interim coaches take spotlight for Oklahoma, Oregon in Alamo Bowl

There aren’t a lot of areas where Bryan McClendon’s experience matches Bob Stoops’.

But heading into the Alamo Bowl, between McClendon’s Oregon squad and Stoops’ Oklahoma one, McClendon has Stoops beat in experience serving as an interim head coach.

McClendon served as interim head coach for Georgia’s TaxSlayer Bowl victory following the 2015 season.

The Ducks’ passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach gets another chance after Mario Cristobal took over at Miami earlier this month.

“Knowing they trust me to be able to do that, it means a lot,” said McClendon.

While McClendon at least expected to be coaching in a bowl game, Stoops did not.

But when Lincoln Riley left for USC, Stoops left the golf course to reassume the spot he held from 1999-2016 before stepping down in the summer of 2017, clearing the way for Riley to be elevated into the role.

Several players remain after Stoops recruited them before leaving the Sooners.

Oklahoma safety Pat Fields is one.

Fields and several other players said playing for Stoops in the game adds to the motivation.

“Being able to play for him, especially my last game, it’s almost a movie-type moment,” Fields said. “Especially with everything that’s gone on. So it’s gonna be huge. I’m gonna love doing it.”

It’ll also give Stoops a chance to coach his son, Drake, a redshirt junior receiver for the Sooners, and work alongside his other son, Isaac, who is a student assistant.

Both teams have had several players opt out of the Dec. 29 game in San Antonio.

For Oregon, star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, wide receiver Devon Williams and cornerback Mykael Wright decided to begin preparations for the NFL Draft after the Ducks’ Pac-12 Championship Game loss to Utah.

Oklahoma has lost four defensive starters — linebackers Nik Bonitto and Brian Asamoah and defensive linemen Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey.

It has been difficult for Oregon to prepare for the Sooners, given all of Oklahoma’s personnel changes among the defensive front seven.

“You do your best assuming as possible, right?” McClenson said. “They’re going through the same stuff that we’re going through, and that a lot of teams right now are going through in college football.”

The Sooners also lost backup quarterback Spencer Rattler, receiver Jadon Haselwood and tight end Austin Stogner to transfer. Oregon lost wide receiver Mycah Pittman to transfer.

After the game, Stoops will give way to Brent Venables, a former long-time Oklahoma assistant who spent the last decade as Clemson’s defensive coordinator.

Oregon hired Dan Lanning, who spent the last four seasons at Georgia, the last three as defensive coordinator.

The Sooners are making their first Alamo Bowl appearance. Oregon is 1-1 in the bowl.

Oklahoma leads the all-time series between the programs, 6-1, including a 17-14 win in the 2005 Holiday Bowl.

The teams’ last meeting came in 2006, a controversial 34-33 Ducks’ home win that turned on a pair of replay reviews that went against the Sooners in the final two minutes and resulted in a one-game suspension of both the on-field officials and the replay official.

–Field Level Media

Auburn Tigers quarterback Bo Nix (10) walks the field before taking on Mississippi State Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

Former Auburn QB Bo Nix announces transfer to Oregon

Former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, one of the most sought-after passers in the transfer portal, announced Sunday on social media that he will enroll at Oregon.

Nix graduated Auburn early and will be a graduate transfer in 2022.

In 34 games for the Tigers, Nix threw for 7,251 yards, 39 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, adding 18 rushing scores.

In 2021, he completed a career-best 61 percent of his passes for 2,294 yards, 11 touchdowns and three picks with four rushing touchdowns as Auburn finished 6-6. He played in 10 of the team’s 12 games, with his season ending after he sustained an ankle injury Nov. 13 in a loss to Mississippi State.

“I have made so many decisions for Auburn, and now it’s time to do what’s best for me. It’s time that I move on to the next chapter in my life,” Nix said earlier this month in a video posted to Instagram. “To reach further goals, I’ve decided it’s best to be a grad transfer and find a new start somewhere else.”

Nix’s decision to attend Oregon came after he was rumored to be considering a transfer to Ole Miss. The Ducks are in the midst of a coaching change with Mario Cristobal leaving for Miami and the school hiring Georgia assistant Dan Lanning as his replacement. New Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham was Nix’s offensive coordinator at Auburn in 2019.

The Ducks were 10-3 overall this season and 7-2 in the Pac-12 North, falling 38-10 to Utah in the conference title game. The 14th-ranked Ducks will meet 16th-ranked Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl at San Antonio, Texas.

Auburn is set to face No. 20 Houston in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 28.

–Field Level Media

Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux celebrates with teammates after the win over Arizona in their first Pac-12 game of the season.

Eug 0922521 Uo Az 16

Report: Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux to declare for NFL draft

Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux will declare for the NFL draft and forgo his final two seasons of eligibility, according to a report from ESPN on Monday night.

The 6-foot-5, 258-pound pass rusher also will skip Oregon’s bowl appearance as he prepares for the draft. His decision to not play in the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma on Dec. 29 followed the departure of his head coach, Mario Cristobal, to Miami earlier in the day.

Thibodeaux, a Los Angeles native, could be a top-five pick in next year’s draft. He tallied 19 sacks in 31 career games at Oregon, leaving him tied for seventh on the school’s all-time sack list.

Thibodeaux also had 34 1/2 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles with the Ducks. He was the program’s first defensive lineman to earn All-America status since DeForest Buckner did so in 2015.

This season, Thibodeaux is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player.

–Field Level Media

December 3, 2021; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Oregon Ducks during the first half in the 2021 Pac-12 Championship Game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Utah earns Pac-12 title with rout of No. 10 Oregon

No. 17 Utah dominated No. 10 Oregon for the second time in three weeks, advancing to the school’s first Rose Bowl with a 38-10 victory in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night in Las Vegas.

Devin Lloyd contributed a pick-six in the first half, Cameron Rising passed for 170 yards and ran for 61, and the Utes (10-3, 8-1 Pac-12) controlled the line of scrimmage, just as they did when they routed then-No. 3 Oregon 38-7 on Nov. 20.

The Ducks (10-3, 7-2) managed just 221 total yards Friday night, including 74 on the ground.

Utah ran for 191 yards and three short touchdowns, two from Tavion Thomas, giving him 20 rushing scores for the season.

Utah, which joined the Pac-12 for the 2011 season, previously won the South division in 2018 and 2019, but failed to win the league title game. Oregon had been 4-0 in championship games before Friday night.

The Ducks managed a 42-yard field goal after trailing 23-0 at halftime, but the Utes delivered knockout blows with back-to-back touchdown drives for a 38-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown never found any rhythm, completing 13 of 24 passes for 147 yards, with two interceptions.

Utah set the tone early. The Utes scored on the first possession of the game and went up 14-0 on Lloyd’s 34-yard interception return with 4:16 to go in the first quarter. Lloyd stepped in front of a receiver on a pass over the middle and ran untouched into the end zone.

Oregon’s defense tried to turn momentum, twice intercepting Rising in Ducks’ territory in the second quarter. But the Ducks couldn’t take advantage, including missing a 44-yard field goal.

Utah pounced again at the end of the half, converting a third-and-14 at the Oregon 40 before Rising found Dalton Kincaid in the end zone for an 11-yard score with 27 seconds left in the half. The PAT failed, but the Utes weren’t done.

A huge mistake by Brown — forcing a throw as he was running out of bounds — resulted in an interception that led to Jadon Redding’s 50-yard field goal and a 23-0 lead as time expired.

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA;  Utah Utes running back Tavion Thomas (9) celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Cameron Rising (7) during the fourth quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Utah bounced No. 10 Oregon once; now it’s for Pac-12 title

No. 10 Oregon will be out for revenge, and No. 17 Utah will be looking for history when the teams meet in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday night in Las Vegas.

The Pac-12 South champion Utes (9-3, 8-1 Pac-12) wrecked the Ducks’ College Football Playoff hopes on Nov. 20 with a 38-7 rout in Salt Lake City. Utah has won its division in three of the past four seasons but is seeking its first victory in the conference title game and is trying to advance to the first Rose Bowl in school history.

Oregon (10-2, 7-2) bounced back from the loss to Utah by dispatching Oregon State 38-29 last weekend to clinch the North division. The Ducks have won the league title game in each of the past two seasons.

Although these foes carry the reputations of being arguably the two most physical teams in the Pac-12, it was all Utes in the first meeting. Utah outrushed Oregon 208-63 and led 28-0 at halftime after scoring two touchdowns in the final 27 seconds, including Britain Covey’s 78-yard punt return.

Utah controlled the ball for more than 35 minutes.

“They’re a big, physical, disciplined football team that plays hard,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said of Utah.

“They play with physicality and violence. They’re very assignment-conscious, technique- and fundamentally sound. They have explosive players on special teams, offense and defense … just a really complete football team.”

To wit: Utah is the only Pac-12 team that ranks in the top 30 nationally in scoring (35.2 points per game, tied for 21st) and points allowed (21.5, 29th).

This is a low-mistake outfit, exemplified by Utah quarterback Cameron Rising, who is completing 62.8 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. But the Utes’ calling card is the running game, led by Tavion Thomas, who has 978 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns.

He has 12 rushing scores in his past four games, including 21 carries for 94 yards and three touchdowns in the first meeting against Oregon.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is signaling more of the same.

“It’s a little bit different, playing the same team twice in a 13-day period. But that’s how it goes,” he said. “No major overhauls. But you do tweak some things and make some subtle adjustments here and there.

“Not a lot has changed for either team … Really, it’s the execution and the energy is more critical than any minor schematic adjustments you might make.”

Over its last six games, Utah has averaged 218.2 rushing yards, while holding opponents to just 119.5 yards on the ground.

Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown rolls into the title game with momentum, earning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors for his play against Oregon State. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for 83 yards and a score on 14 carries.

Travis Dye (1,036 yards, 14 TDs) sparks the ground game.

Middle linebacker Noah Sewell, the team’s leading tackler, is good to go for the title game, as is cornerback Mykael Wright, Cristobal said. Both players left last week’s game with injuries.

The Ducks are 4-0 in the Pac-12 championship game, including last year’s victory over USC.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Travis Dye (26) rushes against the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Oregon, No. 23 Utah meet in clash of Pac-12’s best

Two of the Pac-12’s best go head-to-head Saturday night in Salt Lake City, with Utah a slight favorite to end Oregon’s hopes of making the College Football Playoff.

The Ducks retained their No. 3 spot in the CFP rankings Tuesday and are on a five-game winning streak. But the Utes, ranked No. 23 in the CFP poll, figure to be the best team Oregon has faced since the Ducks upset Ohio State in Columbus in September. Both teams lead their respective divisions — Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) tops the Pac-12 North by two games and Utah (7-3, 6-1) leads the Pac-12 South by one game over Arizona State.

Oregon can clinch the North title and a spot in the conference championship game with a win Saturday or an Oregon State loss. Utah can clinch the South with a win over the Ducks or an Arizona State loss.

That all means that the Ducks and Utes are on a collision course for a rematch against each other in the Pac-12 Championship game on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.

The two teams are near mirror images of each other. Utah averages 35.7 points per game on offense, Oregon 35.3. The Ducks allow 22.6 points per game on defense, the Utes 23.8.

Oregon’s 441 yards of offense per game is only three more than Utah’s average. In winning five of their last six games, the Utes have scored no fewer than 34 points in each of the six.

“They’re a really talented football team. They’ve recruited very well. They have a lot of staff continuity. They’ve done what they’ve done for a long time and worked together for a long time,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said of the Utes. “They have a lot of guys who play with power. A lot of speed on that team, explosive players.”

For the Ducks, their offense starts with the run. The Ducks are tied for second in the nation with 31 rushing touchdowns, including 15 in the last four games. The leading rusher is Travis Dye, who needs 92 more rushing yards to reach 1,000 in a season for the first time in his career.

Oregon is fifth in the nation with a 51.56 percent third-down conversion rate, going 31-of-47 (65.9 percent) in the last four games, and the Ducks are averaging 297 rushing yards per game over the last three.

Utah has won 17 of its last 18 home games, and with a win, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham would become the all-time wins leader at the school with 142. Utah has scored 16 of its 27 rushing touchdowns in the last four games.

“We prepare the same exact way, meeting structure, practice structure, everything. That’s how you have to do it in the Pac-12 because if you don’t, it doesn’t matter who you play, you’re going to get beat if you’re not ready to go,” Whittingham told the Deseret News. “We approach it the same exact (way) every single week.”

In rivalry history, Oregon is 23-10 all-time against the Utes with wins in three of the last four meetings, including the 2019 Pac-12 championship game in which a Justin Herbert-led Ducks team rolled to a 37-15 win in Santa Clara, Calif.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Byron Cardwell (21) runs for a touchdown during the second half against the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Oregon breaks away to beat Washington State

Quarterback Anthony Brown accounted for 258 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns as No. 3 Oregon pulled away from a halftime tie to defeat Washington State 38-24 on Saturday in Eugene, Ore.

Brown rushed for 123 yards and one score and threw for 135 yards and another touchdown. Byron Cardwell (two touchdowns) and Travis Dye Jr. (one score) ran for 98 and 88 yards, respectively, as the Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) amassed 306 yards on the ground to 91 for the Cougars.

Quarterback Jayden de Laura threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns for Washington State, which outgained Oregon 233-157 in the first half en route to a 14-14 tie.

The Ducks wasted little time taking control in the third quarter, however. Brown capped a five-play, 43-yard drive with a 17-yard burst for a 21-14 lead, and Camden Lewis added a 22-yard field goal after 13-play, 91-yard march down the field late in the period.

The Cougars didn’t score again until Dean Janikowski’s 34-yard field goal with 8:31 left in the game.

Oregon went right back to work, with Cardwell scoring on rushes of 27 yards and 22 yards that came about 3 1/2 minutes apart to extend the lead to 38-17 with 2:07 remaining.

de Laura found Travell Harris for a 2-yard touchdown pass with nine seconds left to complete the scoring.

Washington State’s first-half touchdowns came on de Lauria’s 14-yard pass to De’Zhaun Stribling midway through the second quarter, and de Lauria’s 1-yard run with 11 seconds left before the break.

Oregon finished with 441 total yards to 371 for Washington State.

Oregon, which has a two-game lead on Washington State and Oregon State in the Pac-12 North, travels to face Utah, which is also 6-1, next weekend. Washington goes home to face Arizona.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks running back Travis Dye (26) celebrates with fans following a 26-16 victory against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Oregon attempts to keep rising vs. Washington St.

The College Football Playoff committee kept the Oregon Ducks on track for a spot in the national semifinals, voting them No. 3 and moving them up a spot when the rankings were revealed Tuesday night.

Now the Ducks (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) can put some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference’s North Division with a win over Washington State on Saturday night in Eugene, Ore.

A victory would give the Ducks a two-game lead in the North over the next-best team, not to mention keep them in contention for the Pac-12 championship game and a major bowl game if not the CFP semifinals.

Oregon has won four straight games and is coming off a 26-16 victory over Washington in Seattle last week. The Ducks rushed for 329 yards and held the Huskies to 166 yards of total offense.

Travis Dye ran for a career-high 211 yards with a touchdown. His 211 rushing yards were the most in a game by a Pac-12 player this year, and Oregon is 15-1 all-time when Dye scores a touchdown.

Dye has 11 rushing touchdowns this season.

“He’s a game-changer,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said, “and he changed it in a lot of different ways.

“The guy’s the ultimate competitor. The pride that he takes in the course of the week, in the preparation and then I wish you could see him behind the scenes as a leader and the amount of energy and passion generated and the way he addresses, encourages, talks, pushes and challenges his teammates is really special. We’re getting to enjoy all of the fruits of his labor.”

Washington State (5-4, 4-2) comes into Eugene having won four of its past five games. The Cougars are 1-1 since Nick Rolovich was fired as head coach over his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19, which went against regulations for Washington state employees.

The one win came on Oct. 30 at Arizona State, 34-21, with the Cougars in control from start to finish. Under interim head coach Jake Dickert, Washington State is looking for its first win over a Top 25 team since a victory over No. 24 Iowa State in the 2018 Alamo Bowl, the first win over a Top 10 team since beating No. 5 USC at home in 2017, and the first road win over a Top 10 team since defeating No. 6 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

Cougars quarterback Jayden de Laura leads the Pac-12 with 17 touchdown passes, is second in passing yards per game (245.9) and has four three-touchdown games this season.

The Washington State defense leads the Pac-12 and is tied for fifth in the country with 20 takeaways, and the Cougars are tied for second place in the nation with 11 fumble recoveries.

“When you look at Oregon, the biggest thing in why I have such high regard and respect for their program is it’s not just good players,” Dickert said. “They’re coached well, their schemes are very detailed. They win the game at the line of scrimmage. They don’t beat themselves. Our guys are going to be ready to meet that challenge come Saturday night.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly reacts following a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Oregon sticks with QB Anthony Brown for game at UCLA

The Oregon Ducks look to stay in the top 10 when they travel to Pasadena, Calif., to oppose UCLA on Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl.

The 10th-ranked Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) have played back-to-back tight games, a 31-24 overtime loss to Stanford on Oct. 2 and a 24-17 win over California on Oct. 15 that came down to a fourth-and-goal defensive stand. Oregon is the only team in the conference with one overall loss.

Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is back to calling plays after needing surgery while the Ducks played at Stanford three weeks ago, and he is cleared to travel with the team to Pasadena.

Moorhead expressed support for starting quarterback Anthony Brown, who heard the boos and chants for backup Ty Thompson as the Ducks struggled on offense for a good portion of last week’s game.

“I think ‘AB’ is doing a solid job in his role,” Moorhead told Ducks Digest. “He’s not Marcus Mariota, he’s not Dennis Dixon (former Oregon quarterbacks who made the NFL), he’s not any of those guys, but he’s got to understand who he is and what he does well and how it’s going to contribute to our offensive and team success.

“You can nitpick and talk about stats and completion percentage and all that stuff, but I’ll go into a game with AB as my quarterback and believe in his abilities and what he’s going to do.”

Oregon is one of just two teams in the nation, along with Coastal Carolina, to rush for at least 180 yards in every game this season. The Ducks have been strong in the fourth quarter of games, outscoring opponents 72-31. They have scored points on 10 of 16 fourth-quarter drives and forced five turnovers in the fourth quarter to go with three turnovers on downs.

UCLA (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12) looks for another win against a North Division opponent after defeating Washington 24-17 in Seattle last week. The Bruins, led by former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, racked up 420 yards of total offense to 267 for the Huskies.

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a hand in three touchdowns, throwing for two and running for one while totaling 270 scrimmage yards.

Running back Zach Charbonnet, a transfer from Michigan, ran for a season-high 131 yards and has been a force for the Bruins this season. He has five 100-yard games and averages better than 6 yards per carry.

Oregon has won seven of the past eight meetings but hasn’t beaten the Bruins in Pasadena since 2014.

Kelly hasn’t had many signature victories in Westwood, but a win over the program he led into national prominence 12 years ago would be one. He downplayed it this week.

“It’ll be like another game,” Kelly said. “It’s not my former team, I was there a long time ago, so I don’t know any of those coaches, I don’t know any of those players. So it’s not like I’m going back to coach against a bunch of guys that I coached.”

Both of UCLA’s losses have come at home, to Fresno State and Arizona State.

–Field Level Media