Duck notes: Oregon needs to learn to finish
The name of the rivalry may have changed, but there was no shortage of passion, intensity or excitement in Friday's annual in-state football showdown between Oregon and Oregon State.
Backup quarterback Chance Nolan pushed his way into the end zone from a yard out with 33 seconds left to lift the Beavers to a dramatic, 41-38 victory over the Ducks at Reser Stadium, giving head coach Jonathan Smith his first victory in the rivalry series and seriously damaging Oregon's chances for both a Pac-12 title and an appearance in the College Football Playoff.
"We've got to finish games," Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. "We didn't finish it, but it's like we always tell the players — we take all these things together. We've got to coach it better. We've got to play it better. We had a couple chances to close it out. Credit to (Oregon State) as well. They deserved it."
Oregon's defense continued to struggle under second-year coordinator Andy Avalos, surrendering 532 yards of total offense to the Beavers, including a series-record 226 rushing yards for Oregon State senior Jermar Jefferson.
"He ran really well tonight and they blocked well for him," Cristobal said of Jefferson, who leads the conference with 675 rushing yards through four games. "He popped some big runs. I thought there were moments where we had him bottled up, and then he just does a really good job of riding and reading and being patient with his blocks. He's a really good football player."
"He had a good game today," said Oregon safety Verone McKinley III. "He's a very physical runner, he does a good job of keeping his feet alive. It's just about gang tackling. We had some good moments, we had some bad moments, but it's just about bouncing back and correcting those things."
The defense did come up with a big fourth-down stop of the Beavers late in the fourth quarter, but Oregon went three-and-out on its ensuing possession and punted the ball back to Oregon State with 1:55 remaining. The Beavers drove 53 yards in 10 plays and scored the game-winning touchdown on Nolan's quarterback sneak after starter Tristan Gebbia left the game on the previous play with a leg injury.
"Certainly we've got to finish off the game. That's the bottom line," Cristobal said. "There's no way to sugarcoat that in any way, shape or form. That's how you have to win football games and we didn't get it done."
BOUNCE BACK: Oregon's outside chance at a CFP berth effectively went up in smoke on Friday night. The Ducks can still win the Pac-12 North division and have a very successful season, but the loss will probably eliminate them from playoff consideration.
Now, Oregon will need to find motivation to finish the season on a high note.
"Bottom line is there has to be improvement in everything we do," Cristobal said. "I told them that's something that real-deal competitors will let this sit in there and burn, and drive you and pull the team together.
"That's the only kind of guys that we can have in this organization. That's the expectation. The expectation is to come in and get ready to improve and get prepared for our game next week."
McKinley agreed with that assessment and said the Ducks will need to put this loss out of their minds.
"We're going to bounce back from this and come back harder than ever," he said. "This isn't us. We're better than this and we know we're better than this. We just need to bounce back at practices and meetings and move on. That's all we can do, is correct it and move on."
The defense, which saw tremendous improvement last season under Avalos, has taken a step backwards this season by allowing 457 yards and nearly 30 points per game.
"It's on everybody. We're not just going to blame the front, not just going to blame the secondary because we work together," McKinley said. "Being able to build on all three of those levels, from the linebackers to the D-line ... it's on everybody and those are just mistakes that we all have to improve on."
BREAKOUT RECEIVING STAR: Devon Williams had his second consecutive big game after last week's breakout performance against UCLA. On Friday against Oregon State, Williams had four catches for 101 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown that gave the Ducks a 21-10 lead early in the second quarter.
Williams, who started his career at USC before transferring after the 2018 season, actually committed to Oregon State initially, pledging his allegiance to the Beavers before switching over to the Ducks a few days later.
The 6-4, 205-pound sophomore was the No. 1-ranked athlete in the country coming out of high school but caught only four passes in his first season at USC. After putting his name in the transfer portal and visiting Corvallis, Williams verbally committed to Oregon State before backing out and signing with the Ducks less than 48 hours later.
The Beavers announced the signing on social media and even added Williams to the official roster before having to backtrack in the next several days. At the time it was widely considered a recruiting coup for Smith and his Oregon State staff, but ultimately Williams chose the Ducks over the Beavers.
Williams redshirted last season as a transfer and caught three passes in Oregon's first two games before breaking out last week with six catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
KICKING ISSUES SOLVED? Oregon debuted a new placekicker on Friday as redshirt freshman Henry Katleman took over kicking duties for sophomore Camden Lewis, who was just 1-for-4 on field goal attempts this season.
Katleman made all four of his extra point attempts and also drilled a 33-yard field goal with 46 seconds remaining in the first half that gave the Ducks a 24-13 halftime lead.
"He had done well in practice. Those guys have been competing, going back and forth," Cristobal said of the competition between Katleman and Lewis. "Henry has always been a really good teammate, a really good competitor. Tonight his extra points were good, his field goal was good, and at the end we were going to put him in there if it was time to kick a field goal. He had a pretty decent night."