No. 11 on the list On Saturday, Oregon got a taste of life without standout defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, and it was a terrifying prospect for the Ducks, who stave off a Fresno State upset effort by outlasting the Bulldogs 31-24. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 came off when quarterback Anthony Brown scored the game-winning touchdown with 2:57 left on a 30-yard option keeper.
Thibodeaux, the Ducks’ outstanding edge rusher and a top projected selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, departed the game with an apparent ankle injury in the second quarter. He returned for a brief cameo, but did not participate in the second half and was spotted on the sideline in street clothes and a walking boot. The Ducks struggled to handle a tenacious Fresno State offense led by quarterback Jake Haener without him. Early in the fourth quarter, the Washington transfer brought the Bulldogs back from a 14-0 hole to grab a 24-21 lead.
With 2:19 left in the game, the Ducks’ defense stiffened when it counted most, as Fresno State came up just short of the sticks on a fourth-down try. From there, Oregon ran the time out to earn a 1-0 record ahead of a game against No. 4 Ohio State next week.
The status of Thibodeaux will be a major factor in that game. Last season, the 6-foot-5 junior was voted MVP of the Pac-12 Championship Game after earning many All-American honors. In an aggregate prepared by CBS Sports this week, he was ranked as the No. 1 NFL Draft prospect for 2022. Thibodeaux had an early impact with a strip-sack that led to an Oregon touchdown, and it wasn’t until his injury that Fresno State established its offensive rhythm.