Oregon holds a 14-6 lead over Auburn at the half in Dallas, but it could be so, so much more.
The Ducks accepted the ball to open the game and promptly moved 74 yards in 11 plays to take an immediate 7-0 lead. The Ducks initially scored on a 3rd-and-goal Justin Herbert keeper, but replay ruled his knee down at the 1. No matter, Mario Cristobal kept his offense on the field and pounded the ball in through CJ Verdell.
The Ducks forced a three-and-out on Auburn’s first chance, then drove right back to Auburn’s doorstep. That’s where, if this game turns in the second half, Oregon will carry regret with the back to Eugene: a third-down drop in the back of the end zone by Bryan Addison, and then a missed 20-yard field goal by Camden Lewis.
Auburn rode the chance to swing momentum for the first time, using a 38-yard completion from Bo Nix to Will Hastings and then a 19-yard Nix run to set up a 40-yard Anders Carlson field goal, pulling the Tigers within 7-3 at the 3:17 mark of the first quarter.
Oregon immediately answered, needing only three plays to move 75 yards and push their lead to 14-3 with 2:11 left in the first.
The Ducks once again moved in position to take complete control of the game when Jevon Holland returned a punt 81 yards to the Auburn 9, but Oregon then gave it right back with another red zone disaster. This one was a fumbled exchange by Herbert, scooped up by Big Kat Bryant and returned 83 yards to Oregon’s 3.
Auburn again did not fully capitalize on this mistake, settling for a 25-yard Carlson field goal.
A third critical mistake set up Auburn’s third scoring chance, this one a 53-yard punt that was returned 41 yards by Auburn’s Christian Tutt, who was given an extra 15 when Oregon punter Blake Maimone roughed him. Given the ball at Oregon’s 26, Auburn again failed to cash in. This time, Carlson was wide right from 42 yards with eight seconds left before the break.
The quarterbacks’ lines explain the game, at least outside of major Oregon mistakes. Herbert was 10-of-16 for 122 yards and a touchdown, while Nix was 6-of-18 for 91 yards and two picks.
Verdell rushed nine times for 65 yards and a touchdown.