Oregon had a total of one sack during back-to-back losses at Washington State and Arizona.
The Ducks had just one sack again Saturday, but it became the play that seemed to seal a 42-21 win over UCLA at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon led 21-7 midway through the third quarter when Travis Dye was stuffed on fourth-and-one to give UCLA the ball at its own 47-yard line. On the next play, Justin Hollins sacked Dorian Thompson-Robinson and forced a fumble that the UO linebacker later recovered at the UCLA 7-yard line.
“I was trying to make a play,” Hollins said. “I felt up front, we needed one. I felt like the pressure was on us a little bit because we did not apply too much pressure in the last few weeks.”
Four plays after Hollins’ strip sack and recovery, Oregon scored to take a 28-7 lead.
“Great play by (Hollins),” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “He has come up big this year. He plays with relentless energy. He got after it and caused a lot of problems for UCLA.”
Hollins’ hit knocked Thompson-Robinson out of the game after he completed 9-of-23 passes for 135 yards and one touchdown with one interception. The true freshman was replaced by grad transfer Wilton Speight, who went 13-for-25 for 147 yards and a touchdown.
“When they made the change we knew they would try to take more shots so we had to tighten the defense,” Oregon safety Jevon Holland said.
UCLA’s two quarterbacks combined for 297 passing yards while completing 46.9 percent of their passes. Hollins had the only sack, marking the fourth straight game that Oregon had one sack or less.
“I thought our pass rush was better tonight,” Cristobal said. “We put the quarterback in uncomfortable situations and got to him and forced that fumble. Our front seven came up big in a couple of different ways.”
Defensive lineman Austin Faoliu returned after missing last week with an injury to tie for fourth on the team with six tackles against the Bruins.
“He’s an explosive guy,” Cristobal said of the sophomore.”You watch him when we are out there and he changes the line of scrimmage. … Austin is a big piece, no doubt.”
Two of UCLA’s three touchdowns came on blown coverage when Caleb Wilson got open for a 63-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter and Theo Howard scored on an 11-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
“There was some miscommunication, but that happens,” Holland said. “As long as we recover, then we will be fine.”
UCLA had 496 yards compared to 492 for the Ducks as Joshua Kelley ran for 161 yards on 26 carries. UCLA ran for 199 yards, an average of 5.2 per carry.
“They had some chunk runs of eight, 10, 12 yards, but we tightened up a bit and shored some of that up,” Cristobal said. “Their tempo puts pressure on you.”
UCLA had three touchdowns while the other 11 drives ended with five punts, three turnovers, two failed fourth-down conversions and one missed field goal.
“The emphasis was trying to keep them in front of us,” Hollins said. “UCLA has a great offense and system, they know how to read defenses. We wanted to keep everyone in front of us and play to the whistle.”
UCLA drove to Oregon’s 14-yard line on its second possession when Holland intercepted Thompson-Robinson in the end zone.
“Your back is against the wall and that is a momentum change,” Holland said. “Goal-line stops are always the biggest for the defense. That one was huge.”
Holland’s fourth interception broke a tie with Ugochukwu Amadi and Deommodore Lenoir for the team lead, prompting sophomore cornerback Thomas Graham to interrupt Holland’s postgame interview with a question.
“How does it feel to lead the team in interceptions as a freshman,” Graham asked.
“It feels good to know I have some bragging rights,” Holland answered.