Ducks win playoff semifinal in dominating fashion Staff

January 01, 2015 at 11:04 pm.


Jan 1, 2015; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) and linebacker Tony Washington (91) celebrate with the Leishman Trophy after defeating the Florida State Seminoles in the 2015 Rose Bowl college football game at Rose Bowl. Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

PASADENA, Calif. — Don’t get him wrong, Oregon linebacker Derrick Malone Jr. was very happy when fellow Ducks linebacker Tony Washington snatched the football Florida State quarterback Jameis Wonston had coughed up and ran it 58 yards for a touchdown.

Malone, and everyone else in the Rose Bowl, had a sense that Washington’s score, which gave Oregon a 45-20 lead late in the third quarter, virtually sealed a victory for the Ducks in the first college football playoff game.

But Malone knew that it also sealed something else: the defensive MVP for Washington and one lost bet for him.

“Tony and I had a bet who was going to be defensive MVP,” Malone said. “I thought I had a chance until I saw him take that fumble and run it in. I was happy of course but I was thinking, ‘Dang! There’s goes the MVP.”

While Washington’s play resulted in immediate points, Thursday’s game seemed to turn on Malone’s stripping the ball from Florida State running Dalvin Cook in Ducks territory. With Oregon holding a 18-13 lead at the beginning of the second half, Florida State was driving when Malone met Cook.

“I just saw the ball, grabbed for it and then, all of a sudden, it was in my arms,” he said. “That was the easiest fumble recovery ever.”

Malone’s play started an avalanche of turnovers — five — by Florida State that turned into five touchdowns by Oregon, making what had been a close game an eventual 59-20 blowout.

Malone, a senior, ranked second in tackles for the Oregon defense, an outfit that doesn’t always get its due in the flurry of attention paid to a high-powered Ducks offense led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.

“We’ve played a lot in the shadows of our offense, but people are starting to see that we have an elite defense,” Malone said. “This was a real complete game for us. I wanted more, to be honest. I was angry that I didn’t get a (interception.)”

Still, Malone was a key cog to the Oregon pass defense that limited Florida State’s All-American tight end Nick O’Leary to just one reception for four yards.

“I just knew I was going to be around him a lot so I knew I needed to step up my game,” Malone said.

Which is what Oregon will likely have to do for its next game and though, immediately after the game, Malone didn’t know who he’d be facing in that next game, he knew one thing he’d be doing for sure to prepare.

“Tony and I, we’re gonna have to make another bet for the championship game.”