Justin Herbert and Dillon Mitchell were out of concussion protocol.
And the dynamic offensive duo, along with some big plays on special teams and a strip-sack by Justin Hollins, proved to be a headache for Chip Kelly.
Oregon spoiled Kelly’s homecoming with a 42-21 victory over UCLA on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 56,114 at Autzen Stadium.
"This game wasn’t about me," Kelly, who posted a 46-7 record during his four seasons as the Ducks' head coach, said after his Bruins fell to 2-7 (2-4 in Pac-12 play). "This was about us trying to go out and compete. We’ve got a young team that’s learning from their mistakes. A lot of teachable moments from this game."
Herbert was tentative at times but completed 18 of 32 passes for 264 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions after taking a beating during last week’s 44-15 loss at Arizona. The junior quarterback connected with Mitchell eight times for 156 yards and both touchdowns.
"It’s always great to have him out there, he’s a guy that just makes plays," Herbert said of Mitchell, who has 50 receptions for 735 yards in six conference games this season. "Early in the week we reached out to each other. He was excited to come back to play, and I was, too."
The Ducks (6-3, 3-3) ran a total of 47 times for 142 yards (3.0 yards per attempt) and one touchdown during the back-to-back road losses at Washington State and Arizona.
Against the Bruins (2-7, 2-4), who ranked 107th nationally in rushing defense coming into the game, Oregon ran the ball 42 times for 200 yards (4.8 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns.
"We made a decision, it was about enough is enough," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. "We are going to put our foot in the ground and recommit ourselves to being the physical team we started the season as."
After getting outscored 50-8 in the first halves in Pullman and Tucson, the Ducks led 21-7 at the intermission thanks to three key plays in the kicking game:
-- Ugo Amadi returned a Stefan Flintoft punt 56 yards for a touchdown to give the Ducks a 7-0 lead with 11:08 remaining in the first quarter.
-- Adam Stack trotted out for a 46-yard field goal attempt, but holder Blake Maimone executed the fake with a 28-yard completion to tight end Jacob Breeland down to the UCLA 1-yard line. CJ Verdell punched the ball in on the next snap.
-- Tony Brooks-James recovered a muffed punt at the UCLA 11-yard line, which set up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Mitchell to extend the lead to 21-0.
"We thought we could run the ball well coming into the game, but the kicking game really hurt us," Kelly said. "We have to correct that."
UCLA starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson finally silenced the crowd with a 63-yard touchdown to tight end Caleb Wilson with 6:45 remaining in the second quarter.
Stack missed a 21-yard chip shot with 1:15 remaining in the second quarter, and JJ Molson’s 56-yard field goal was short on the final play before halftime.
Verdell was injured after a 16-yard run in the third quarter. True freshman Travis Dye, who lost a fumble at Arizona, was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 at the UCLA 47-yard line.
But after the Bruins took over on downs, Hollins forced Thompson-Robinson to fumble and recovered the ball at the UCLA 7-yard line. The turnover set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Cyrus Habibi-Likio to give the Ducks a 28-7 cushion with 6:15 remaining in the third quarter.
"That thing turned it and it turned it fast. Great play by (Hollins)," Cristobal said. "I can’t speak enough about him, the type of year he’s had. He’s come up big, and what we saw was he played with a relentless engine tonight and caused a lot of problems for UCLA’s offense."
Michigan graduate transfer Wilton Speight replaced Thompson-Robinson and guided the Bruins on a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped with a 25-yard touchdown scamper by Joshua Kelly.
Jaylon Redd’s 31-yard touchdown run on a reverse in the third quarter, after Keith Simms had recovered an onside kick, was taken off the board by a targeting penalty on center Jake Hanson for an illegal blindside block.
UCLA lined up for a 47-yard field goal, but a botched snap allowed the Ducks to hold on to their two-touchdown advantage.
Two snaps later, Herbert’s 67-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell extended Oregon’s lead to 35-14.
"It feels amazing," freshman safety Jevon Holland, who came up with an interception in the end zone, said of having the Herbert-Mitchell combination on his side. "Two of our top guys were back and ready to go. It was awesome."
Herbert used to cheer on the Ducks as a kid when Kelly was guiding the program to new heights.
"I just stayed focused on the game and just tried to block that out and not let it distract us," Herbert said of Kelly's return to Autzen Stadium, where he was 26-2 as Oregon's coach. "But it’s definitely cool to line up against him. He’s a coach I grew up watching, and it was special.