Oregon 38, Purdue 36
Oregon can’t seem to get away from drama.
A week after LeGarrette Blount’s punch and an uncharacteristic offensive meltdown against Boise State, the Ducks eked out a victory over Purdue.
Trailing 38-30, the Boilermakers’ Keith Smith found Aaron Valentin with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:01 left. But Kyle Adams was out of bounds when he caught Joey Elliott’s pass to tie it and Oregon (1-1) held on for the 38-36 victory.
Purdue (1-1) had closed within one at 31-30 early in the fourth quarter on Ralph Bolden’s 22-yard touchdown reception, before Oregon’s Kenjon Barner then ran 21 yards for a score with 6:42 left.
“It’s definitely a sense of relief,” Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said. “There were a lot of doubters, but we got it done.”
Blount appeared on the field with his teammates before the game wearing his No. 9 jersey. Coach Chip Kelly suspended the running back for the season last week after he punched Boise State’s Byron Hout following Oregon’s opener.
Blount, a senior, was allowed to stay on scholarship and practice with the team, but can’t appear in any games.
When asked by reporters if he could talk, Blount said, “Nah,” and walked away.
One fan at Autzen Stadium raised a sign that read “Free LeGarrette,” and when the video scoreboard ran highlights of last season’s Ducks, a clip of Blount drew cheers.
Blount left the field for the game, and Oregon went about distancing itself from the punch and the loss to Boise State.
“It’s been tough, but we’re focused. We kept our heads on straight,” running back Andre Crenshaw said.
Against the Broncos, the Ducks had just 152 yards offense, their worst showing in nearly 15 years. Oregon didn’t have a first down until the third quarter.
It was quite a departure for the Ducks, who had the second-ranked rushing offense in the country behind Navy and were ranked among the top 10 in total offense and scoring offense.
But it got worse for Oregon after the game, when Blount slugged Hout. The next day, Kelly proclaimed the punishment and ended Blount’s playing career in Eugene.
Oregon fared better against Purdue, but it wasn’t without its challenges.
The Ducks couldn’t capitalize on Casey Matthews’ interception on the Oregon 23 and had to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Morgan Flint to go up 3-0 early in the first quarter.
The Boilermakers came back with a quick drive that ended with Jaycen Taylor’s 5-yard run to take the lead, but Oregon’s Crenshaw capped an equally quick drive with a 2-yard TD dash and the Ducks were ahead 10-7.
Bolden, who rushed for 234 yards in Purdue’s season-opening victory over Toledo, had a 14-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to put the Boilermakers back in front.
Oregon went up 17-14 on Walter Thurmond III’s 18-yard interception return before Purdue tied it up just before halftime on Carson Wiggs’ 23-yard field goal.
Purdue took back the lead on Bolden’s 1-yard leap into the end zone early in the second half. But then a fumble was scooped up by Javes Lewis, who ran 28 yards for the score to tie it again for the Ducks.
That appeared to spark the Ducks, and Masoli scored on a keeper from 15 yards out. Just as he scored, a rainstorm hit Autzen and the deciding fourth quarter was marked by periodic showers.
Masoli completed 11 of 21 passes for 163 yards for Oregon. Elliott went 24 of 41 for 266 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for Purdue.
Bolden ran for 123 yards and caught three passes for 52 yards. Masoli led the Ducks’ rushers in Blount’s absence with 84 yards.
“We executed, but they just stopped us there at the end,” Bolden said. “That’s what happens. It was a tough loss.”
The Ducks defeated Purdue 32-26 in double overtime last year in West Lafayette. Blount rushed for 131 yards, including a 3-yard winning plunge.
“We moved on from last week,” Kelly said after his first victory as Oregon’s head coach. “I’m just excited for our players because they put in the hard work.”