Washington holds off Oregon to win final Pac-12 championship, all but a College Football Playoff spot

Why wouldn’t the Pac-12 Finals be an instant classic?

Friday marked the final Pac-12 championship game as 10 schools in the conference moved to the Big Ten, SEC or ACC next season — but the No. 3 Washington and No. 5 Oregon. It doesn’t leave without one final epic conference battle.

It was a good one — after the Ducks erased a 17-point deficit, the Huskies won back-to-back Pac-12 championships of their own, 34-31, cementing their spot in the College Football Playoff.

Washington dominated the first 28 minutes of the game, forcing three Oregon punts and going 87 yards as they took a 20-3 lead with 1:39 left in the first half. But the Ducks managed to go 70 yards in just 90 seconds to find the end zone and build a 10-point deficit into the locker room.

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Michael Benix Jr. #9 of the Washington Huskies celebrates after Jeremy Bernard #4 scores a touchdown in the second quarter during the Pac-12 Championship game against the Oregon Ducks at Allegiant Stadium on December 1, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Brandon Slaughter/Sports Image/Getty Images)

The Ducks got the ball to start the second half and revived a drive after 4th and 5 turnovers. Ten plays later, they opted to go for it on 4th down, and the bold call worked, as Bo found Knicks’ Terrance Ferguson in the end zone for the second drive in a row. Play marches on the field.

The two teams traded interceptions before Washington turned the ball over at Oregon’s 28. It took just four plays for the Ducks to take the lead, thanks to a 44-yard run by the Knicks – a Jordan James touchdown that put Oregon up 24-20 with 1. :51 left in the third.

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The Huskies finally stopped the bleeding and responded with Dillon Johnson’s second touchdown to regain a three-point lead early in the fourth, and they immediately forced the ball back at 9:04. . Washington wasted plenty of clock down the field, and with 2:44 remaining, Bennix threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Quentin Moore to give Washington a 34-24 lead.

But that wasn’t the icing Washington thought it was — on the second play of their next drive, Treshaun Holden made an impressive 63-yard catch and run to score and cut Oregon’s deficit to three with 2:14 left. .

Jabbar Muhammad

Jabbar Muhammad #1 of the Washington Huskies reacts after breaking up a pass during the second quarter against the Oregon Ducks during the Pac-12 Championship at Allegiant Stadium on December 01, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ian Maule/Getty Images)

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However, that is not enough. The Ducks’ onside kick failed, and after Washington gained two first downs (the second on a 15-yard rush on 3rd-and-9), the Huskies were the Pac-12 champions.

In a battle of Heisman hopefuls, Benix completed 27 of his 39 passes for 319 yards, but Johnson stole the show with his 152 rushing yards on 28 carries, two of them scores.

In a losing effort, the Knicks threw three touchdowns on 21-of-34 passing. The Huskies defense held Bucky Irving to just 20 rushing yards on nine carries and Troy Franklin to just four catches for 34 yards.

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The loss spelled the end of any College Football Playoff hopes for Oregon, who dropped to 11-2, with both losses coming to the Huskies — already ranked No. 5 in the nation, and it’s hard to imagine they’ll get enough help. All others enter this weekend.

As for Washington, it looks like they will face No. 2 Michigan in the semifinals, but that will be officially announced on Sunday. Assuming the Huskies (who are 13-0 and won the conference) are there, it will be their first appearance in the CFP since 2016 and second overall.

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