Different Auburn team. Different Oregon team. Different venue. Different stakes on the line.
This time it was a touchdown with nine seconds left instead of a field goal on the last play of the game that did the Ducks in as No. 16 Auburn pulled off the mild 27-21 upset over the No. 11 Oregon team.
True freshman Bo Nix found Seth Williams in the front corner of the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown with nine seconds left to complete a second half comeback.
Oregon held a 21-6 lead in the third quarter, but the Tigers kept chipping away and chipping away and all the Ducks could do is watch as their lead kept shrinking.
Darrian Felix gave the Ducks their biggest lead of the game on a six-yard touchdown run with just over nine minutes left in the third quarter. It was Felix’s first career touchdown.
The Ducks was holding a 13-point lead and its defense was playing very well against the SEC juggernaut until suddenly Nix completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Eli Stove when the Tiger hurry-up offense caught Oregon off guard for a series. The Ducks used to be the beneficiaries of confusion due to a rushed defense, but tonight it was just the opposite.
Working with the 21-13 lead the Ducks had every opportunity to fashion a benchmark victory for the program but the offense couldn’t find any consistency in the second half.
Auburn took advantage and sliced into that lead again when Joey Gatewood’s 1-yard run finished off an eight-play, 69-yard drive with 9:56 left in the game to make it 21-19. The Tigers were going to go for two in order to tie the game, but were called for a false start and they had to settle for the extra point instead.
With the Ducks clinging onto that one-point lead, both teams traded possessions and Oregon had the ball with less than six minutes left. This was where Justin Herbert was banged up at the worst possible time. He went knee-to-knee with an Auburn defender and he had to be tended to, causing the senior quarterback to miss one play.
Unfortunately, that one play was a fourth-and-one on the Tigers 41. The Ducks decided to go for it with back up Tyler Shough and his hand off to CJ Verdell was stuffed in the backfield.
But the Oregon defense came through and forced Auburn to punt with 4:31 left. The Ducks moved the chains once but had to punt the ball away with 2:17 remaining.
With one timeout left, Nix wasn’t to be denied, leading the Tigers to the game winning touchdown, leaving the Ducks only seconds on the clock.
The key play, besides the score, was when Nix had to scramble on a fourth-and-three and he was able to barely get the first down.
It would be hard to believe the second half would go the way it did for the Ducks after the first half was so successful. Oregon scored on its first possession of the season. Herbert completed five of his first six passes and C.J. Verdell found the end zone from one yard out for the early 7-0 lead.
Oregon made it 14-3 when Herbert found Spencer Webb for a 20-yard touchdown. Then everything went haywire.
Jevon Holland returned a punt 81 yards to set up a first-and-goal and the Ducks were seven yards away from making it 21-3. Instead, Herbert fumbled and Big Kat Bryant picked it up and ran to the three-yard line. Although Auburn settled for just a field goal, momentum had switched and it never really left the Tiger sideline.
Despite falling to 0-1, Oregon has to quickly rebound and right the ship as an upstart Nevada team comes to Eugene next week. The Wolfpack upset Purdue 34-31 on a 56-yard field goal as time expired.
Game time is set for 4:30 pm on the Pac-12 Network.
~ Don Smalley