No. 11 Oregon got a picture of life without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on Saturday, and it was a scary proposition for the Ducks, who survived an upset bid from Fresno State by outlasting the visiting Bulldogs 31-24. Quarterback Anthony Brown scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:57 left on a 30-yard option keeper as Oregon coach Mario Cristobal's gamble to go for it on fourth-and-2 paid off.
Thibodeaux, the Ducks' star edge rusher and a top projected pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, left the game in the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury. After returning briefly, he did not play in the second half and was seen on the sideline in street clothes and a walking boot. Without him, the Ducks struggled to contain a gamely Fresno State offensive attack led by quarterback Jake Haener. The Washington transfer led the Bulldogs back from an early 14-0 deficit to take a 24-21 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, the Ducks' defense stiffened when it mattered most, as Fresno State came up just short of the sticks on a fourth-down attempt with 2:19 remaining. Oregon ran the clock out from there to survive with a 1-0 record ahead of next week's showdown at No. 4 Ohio State.
Looming large for that game will be the status of Thibodeaux. The 6-foot-5 junior earned numerous All-American honors last season and was named MVP of the Pac-12 Championship Game. He registered as the No. 1 NFL Draft prospect for 2022 in an aggregation compiled by CBS Sports this week. Thibodeaux made his presence felt early in the game with a strip sack that set up an Oregon touchdown, and it was only after his injury that Fresno State found a rhythm offensively.