For two and a half quarters, Oregon let Oregon State hang with them with the Beavers trailing by only 10 at halftime, and at one point closing to within three points. But once Oregon scored to go up 27-17 the Ducks defense did the rest, keeping Oregon State out of the endzone on their next six straight possessions.
Even when they weren’t forcing turnovers the Ducks played phenomenal defense, holding Oregon State to just 82 yards rushing and holding both Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks to under 100 yards receiving.
“We did a nice job getting turnovers, and we held them to a minimum of explosion plays,” defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “That’s kind of been us all year.”
It was the third strong game from a defensive unit that was heavily criticized after giving up 51 points in a win over USC, but that game also may have been a turning point for the Ducks as a defensive unit.
“I think our defense really responded after the USC game,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “It was huge.”
If there was a weak point defensively for the Ducks it was on kick coverage, with the Ducks giving up several big returns to Terron Ward in the first half. But Oregon switched to a squib kick on kickoffs in the second half and on their second kick of the second half, Oregon State had trouble corralling the bouncing kick and it was recovered by Keanon Lowe.
Four snaps later, De’Anthony Thomas sprinted 29 yards for one of his three touchdowns to put the Ducks up 34-17, giving them their biggest lead of the game to that point.
And the turnovers just kept coming.
On their next four possessions the Beavers punted once and threw three straight interceptions, including a gorgeous leaping takeaway from Erick Dargan, not counting the muffed punt that bailed Oregon out after the Ducks went three and out.
“You can’t win with turnovers,” Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said. “Especially with a really good team on the other side of the ball.”