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Eugene, Ore. -- On the back of one of their best first half performances of the season, the Oregon Ducks held on late in Santa Clara to win their first Pac-12 football championship since 2014, defeating the Utah Utes 37-15.
The Ducks, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, dominated on the ground and through the air to start the game, taking advantage of some uptempo play that looked reminiscent of the Chip Kelly era. CJ Verdell opened the scoring with a 3 yard touchdown run on Oregon's first drive, and then the Ducks defense did their job.
Utah had no answers, as quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zach Moss struggled to mount successful drives into the Ducks red zone. Oregon freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux blocked a punt that the Ducks then turned into a touchdown drive to make the game 17-0.
They entered the half with a 20-0 lead.
Coming out of the locker rooms, the Ducks saw a Utah team with renewed energy. The Utes defense held Oregon to a punt and then turned around and scored on the next drive, bringing the deficit to 13. A touchdown pass later in the 3rd quarter from Tyler Huntley to Sampson Nacua brought the score to 23-15.
With around 9 minutes left in the game, the Ducks offense started inside their own 10 yard line and drove to the 30 before running back CJ Verdell broke through the line and scampered for 70 yards for a touchdown that all but sealed the game, giving Oregon a two score lead. With under 3 minutes to play, Utah continued to look for ways back into the game, but a Troy Dye interception followed by another Verdell touchdown truly shut the door on any chance for a comeback.
While the Big 12 and SEC will be waiting to see who will be playing in the College Football Playoff, the Ducks made it easy on themselves as the Pac-12 representative. The Rose Bowl is a certainty, and Oregon will be headed to Pasadena.
This story will be updated. Stay tuned with KEZI.
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