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No. 12 Oregon stuns No. 3 Ohio State 35-28
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No. 12 Oregon stuns No. 3 Ohio State 35-28

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Oregon Ohio St Football

Oregon quarterback Anthony Brown drops back to pass against Ohio State during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — C.J. Verdell ran for 161 yards and had three touchdowns as shorthanded No. 12 Oregon exploited a porous Ohio State defense to upset the No. 3 Buckeyes 35-28 for their first regular-season loss in nearly three years.

Ohio State (1-1, 1-0 Big Ten) never led the game it was favored to win by 14 1/2 points despite gaudy numbers from freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud. Its front seven struggled to contain Verdell, control the edge and get after Ducks quarterback Anthony Brown in front.

“They quickly adapted and just played with grit and toughness, knowing this was going to be a slugfest,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.

The Ducks (2-0, 2-0 Pac-12) were without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Justin Flowe.

The Buckeyes had a chance to tie it late after pulling within a touchdown with 7:55 left. But when they got the ball again, Stroud, who passed for 472 yards and three touchdowns, took his first sack of the day and then was intercepted by Verone McKinley III on a desperation sideline pass on third-and-18 at the Oregon 35 with 2:50 to go in front of a stunned crowd of more than 100,000.

Stroud, trying to show he is a worthy heir to Justin Fields, likely will be fine. It’s the Ohio State defense that needs work.

Twice in the first half Verdell scurried around the left end — one of them was a pitch pass on fourth-and-1 — and went untouched into the end zone from 14 yards out. Travis Dye exploited the left side again, running from 5 yards out to give the Ducks a 28-14 third-quarter lead.

Three plays into the second half, Verdell blasted through the middle untouched and outran defensive backs for a 77-yard score. He went left again for a 7-yard gain and a first down in the fourth quarter, one play before Brown connected with Moliki Matavao for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Ducks a 35-21 lead with 12:46 left.

Stroud, in his second start, passed for the second-most yards in Ohio State history, coming up 15 short of Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s 499 against Northwestern in 2018.

Stroud’s success was partly due to some brilliant catches by receivers Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxson Smith-Njigba. He was 33 for 54 and connected for two touchdowns with Smith-Njigba and another with Wilson.

It was third-year Ohio State coach Ryan Day’s first loss in the regular season. The Buckeyes’ last loss in the regular season came at Purdue in October 2018 under Urban Meyer.

“This is not fatal,” Day said. “Certainly, it hurts.”

UP NEXTOregon: Returns home next Saturday to face FCS team Stony Brook of the Colonial Athletic Association.

Ohio State: Hosts Tulsa, which lost 19-17 to UC-Davis in Week 1 and was beaten by Oklahoma State 28-23 on Saturday.

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