EUGENE — Darren Carrington’s return to Autzen Stadium resulted in lots of catches for lots of yards for the former Oregon receiver, but the only touchdown he was responsible for on Saturday went the other way.
Ugochukwu Amadi’s strip, scoop and score off Carrington was a turning point in Saturday’s 41-20 Pac-12 victory against Utah at Autzen Stadium, and highlighted a standout performance by the Ducks’ defense overall.
“Watching film on him, he was very vulnerable having the ball out,” Amadi said. “And in practice, coach (Willie) Taggart always emphasizes stripping the ball no matter who it is.”
On the play, a swing pass to Carrington on the Utes’ side of the field, Amadi knocked the receiver back for a six-yard loss before reaching in with his right hand and ripping the ball away just before Carrington’s left knee touched the turf.
The junior cornerback scooped up the loose ball and went 47 yards unchallenged into the end zone to put Oregon up 17-3.
“That was a big momentum change in the football game for us,” Taggart said. “That was big.”
It was also was gratifying, Taggart said, since the coaches “harp on that so much in practice. We have coaches running after our guys all the time in practice telling them to strip the ball, strip the ball, strip the ball. … We’ve been preaching it for a while and we hadn’t done it. We finally did it in a game.”
Carrington was dismissed from Oregon in July after being cited for driving under the influence of intoxicants.
The senior, who had already graduated, transferred to Utah and has been having a solid season for the Utes, with 45 receptions and a Pac-12 leading 92.7 yards per game coming into the day.
But his former teammates were fired up to play Carrington, who is projected to be an NFL draft pick next spring.
Even though he finished with nine catches for 130 yards, Carrington was kept out of the end zone and without a victory.
The Utes didn’t get many chances to celebrate thanks to a defensive effort by Oregon that held them to 384 yards on offense. Utah was 4 for 14 on third down, had 10 plays result in negative yards and were held to field goals on a pair of trips deep into the red zone.
“All week long we said we weren’t making this thing about Darren Carrington coming back,” Taggart said. “We had to play total defense and play their entire offense, and I thought our guys did a great job of containing their entire offense.”