For the second week in a row, the Oregon Ducks made a game-changing play heading into halftime.
Last week, Tyler Shough found Jaylon Redd on a 57-yard pass play to set up a CJ Verdell 3-yard touchdown run with three seconds left in the half. The sequence cut the Washington State Cougars' lead to just five.
This week against UCLA, the Ducks trailed by four points with just six seconds left. Ball on the UCLA 44-yard line.
With an aggressive head coach like Chip Kelly, the Bruins tried to score more points by attempting a "Hail Mary" rather than run the clock out, a decision they would soon regret.
Bruins quarterback Chase Griffin was hit as he threw and the ball wobbled into the hands of senior safety Jordan Happle, who had a lot of green in front of him.
"My first thought when I caught the ball was 'I got to get into the endzone,'" explained Happle.
"I could tell where [Griffin] was throwing it and I was like 'Oh this might be another interception or something,'" said McKinley who was protecting the deep part of the field on the play. "Then it got tipped and Hap gets it. And I'm like 'He has a lot of grass.'
"He just started running. Good block by KT [Kayvon Thibodeaux]... we're trying to be the best return team in the country and [Happle] scored."
With the score, the Ducks turned a four-point deficit into a three-point lead despite not possessing the ball with six seconds left in the half.
With the Ducks getting the ball to begin the second half, a score three minutes into the third quarter gave Oregon a ten-point, and more importantly two-possession, lead which was instrumental in Oregon winning the contest.
The lead gave Oregon a positive game script and allowed the Ducks to hold on for a hard fought, 38-35 win in Autzen Stadium.
If Happle doesn't return that interception for a touchdown who knows what happens, but it's a lot less likely Oregon remains undefeated on the season had the play never occurred. For example, ESPN says the play increased Oregon's win probability from 59.3% to 78.9%.
Following the contest, redshirt sophomore Verone McKinley praised Happle, who joined the program shortly into training camp after transferring from Boise State.
"Hap's done a great job. He's come in and he hit the ground running," explained McKinley. "He's made some plays. He did his job."
Now the 3-0 Ducks will turn their attention to Oregon State, who they play at Reser Stadium on Friday, November 27th at 4:00 p.m. PT.