Sophomore safety seals Ducks’ upset at Ohio State

DALLAS (FWAA) – Oregon safety Verone McKinley III posted six tackles and helped seal a 35-28 win at No. 3 Ohio State with a late interception that gave the Ducks one of the young season’s highlight wins. For snagging the game’s only turnover and being a key to Oregon’s first win over a top-five team in 10 years, McKinley earned the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honor for games in the weekend of Sept. 11, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.

This is the first time for an Oregon player to earn this weekly honor since it began in 2001. Oregon had a Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist, Haloti Ngata, in 2005. McKinley has been added to this season’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list.

McKinley, a 5-11, 194-pound sophomore from Carrollton, Texas, also forced a fumble and had two of Oregon’s five pass breakups as he turned into a field general for a defense that was missing standout starters Kayvon Thibodeaux, an All-America lineman, and linebacker Justin Flowe. McKinley keyed in on run-stops as well with the six tackles that helped contain an Ohio State offense that gained 612 total yards but never led in the game. The Ducks had three fourth-down stops and held OSU to 6-of-15 third-down conversions.

The Buckeyes had just crossed midfield with four minutes remaining on what was a potential game-tying drive before one of Oregon’s two sacks pushed them back. Facing third-and-18 at the Ohio State 45, McKinley got under a poorly-thrown ball in coverage to make his sixth career interception. He is just the second Oregon player since 2000 and the first since 2007 to finish with an interception, a forced fumble and multiple pass breakups in a single game.

McKinley showed his nose for the ball last year in six starts among the Ducks’ seven games, finishing with 21 solo stops among his 41 total tackles that was third on the team. He snagged four interceptions as a redshirt freshman in 2019.

The win is Oregon’s first over a top-five team since beating Stanford in 2011 and snapped Ohio State’s 23-game home win streak.

The Ducks host Stony Brook at 4:30 p.m. PT Saturday in a Pac-12 Network broadcast.

The FWAA has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from the University of Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football then became a star for professional football’s Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

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