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DUCKS EXPLODE IN SECOND HALF TO BEAT SEMINOLES AND ADVANCE TO PLAYOFF FINAL

by Rob Moseley (GoDucks.com)

PASADENA  — Arguably the greatest season in Oregon football history continued Thursday evening at the Rose Bowl, where the No. 2 Ducks knocked off defending national champion and third-ranked Florida State, 59-20, to advance to the College Football Playoff championship game.

How It Happened: The Ducks (13-1) led nearly wire-to-wire, after Florida State opened the game with a field goal. Oregon took the lead on a Royce Freeman touchdown, made a goal-line stand to keep the Seminoles from answering and then went up 11-3 on an Aidan Schneider field goal. Florida State responded with another field goal, and then the teams traded touchdowns prior to halftime as the Ducks took an 18-13 lead into the break.

Oregon broke the game open in the third quarter by scoring three times off turnovers. Senior linebacker Derrick Malone Jr. stripped a ballcarrier to set up Freeman’s second rushing touchdown, and though the Seminoles answered it, the Ducks scored again on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota to Darren Carrington. Florida State turned it over again, with Erick Dargan forcing a fumble that Reggie Daniels recovered, and two plays later Mariota connected with Carrington again, a 30-yard touchdown play that gave Oregon a 39-20 lead. On FSU’s next possession, Jameis Winston dropped back under pressure, lost the handle while cocking back to throw and watched Tony Washington return the fumble 58 yards for a touchdown.

Incredibly, the Ducks forced yet another turnover early in the fourth quarter, when Dargan collected a pass tipped by DeForest Buckner and muffed by a receiver. Six plays later, Mariota used a brilliant ball fake to spring himself for a 23-yard touchdown run that put Oregon in front 52-20. Yet another FSU fumble gave the ball back to the Ducks, setting up Thomas Tyner’s second touchdown run of the game for a 59-20 lead.

What It Means: The Ducks advanced to their second national title game in five years, joining Alabama and Auburn as the three teams to do so in that time frame. Oregon won its school-record 13th game of the season, and will play a 15-game schedule for the first time ever.

Odds and Ends: Center Hroniss Grasu and receiver Keanon Lowe were game captains and returned to the starting lineup, after each missing multiple starts. Mariota and Buckner also were captains. … Bralon Addison went through warmups in full pads but was in sweats for the game. He remains on track to redshirt this season. … Chris Seisay made his second start of the season, after also being in the opening lineup against Wyoming. … Seisay started in place of the injured Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who attend the game and was on the sideline along with injured tight end Pharaoh Brown.

Up Next: The Ducks will face Ohio State, in the national championship game on Jan. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

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