Three takeaways from No. 10 Oregon's blowout win over No. 9 UCLA
Oregon blasted the ninth-ranked UCLA Bruins inside a rocking Autzen Stadium on Saturday, handing the Bruins their first loss of the season, 45-30.
Quarterback Bo Nix was marvelous, completing 22 of his 28 pass attempts for 283 yards and five touchdowns while adding eight runs for another 51 yards. Nix had as many real incompletions as he did passing scores. (The sixth and final one was a heave out of the back of the endzone killing the clock on the final play of the game.) Oregon ran for 262 yards as a team.
In honor of Chip Kelly’s return to Eugene, Oregon put forth arguably its best offensive performance of the season to win and move to 6-1 on the year (4-0 Pac-12).
It’s the Ducks’ sixth consecutive victory and moved the team into sole possession of first place atop the Pac-12.
Here are three takeaways from the win.
That was one of the best-called games I’ve seen this season. If he wasn’t already on lists for head coach-needy programs looking for an up-and-coming guy, offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham is after the Ducks’ win over UCLA.
It feels like “tremendously” or “remarkably” aren’t strong enough to describe just how efficient that offensive performance was, both in its execution and its strategy. UCLA got three first-half possession. They got seven total in the entire game. What’s the best way to neutralize Chip Kelly? Turn his offense into a spectator.
Oregon averaged nearly 8 yards a play against UCLA (7.7). It didn’t punt until six minutes left in the fourth quarter. It had possessions that found the endzone in less than two minutes and it had possessions that found the endzone after sitting on the field for more than four minutes.
The Ducks stole a possession in the middle of the game with an onside kick that was perfectly executed and dialed up at the exact right moment. It immediately followed an explosive play touchdown — a 49-yard pass from Bo Nix to Troy Franklin — and led to another touchdown that put the Ducks up 24-10 and completely changed the complexion of the game.
Oregon was aggressive without opening itself up to compromising spots. The Ducks didn’t let it get to third down, but when they did they picked it up. (Oregon faced nine third downs through the first three quarters and converted six.) You hear coaches talk about self-scout all the time, and sometimes it’s lip service. It certainly wasn’t during the bye week with the Ducks. They broke tendency in spots and kept the UCLA defense on its heels all day.
The sixth touchdown of the day — the one that put the nail in the coffin in the fourth — was a play Dillingham ripped straight out of the Chip Kelly playbook. Oregon ran Mesh and Nix hit the Rail route (Bucky Irving) for his fifth touchdown pass.
I was curious as to how Oregon’s linebackers would hold up against Dorian Thompson-Robinson. They’ve been sort of disappointing this year, and Justin Flowe was caught out on a touchdown early that’ll surely show up in film review. (Noah Sewell had a few nice plays late, though.) Dillingham effectively made that concern null and void. UCLA couldn’t stop Oregon, and Oregon didn’t let UCLA on the field enough for it to keep pace.
That was a masterclass from Dillingham.
Oregon’s o-line gets the game ball
The best offensive line in the country suits it up in Eugene, Oregon.
Argue with the wall.
Oregon averaged 6 yards a run and didn’t give up a sack. It was the fifth time this season the Ducks have been over 5 yards per run and the sixth time in seven games they’ve gone without allowing a sack. I would qualify the rushing number by telling you the average is adjusted to account for sacks (in the year 2022 why are we still counting sacks as lost rushing yardage instead of passing yards?) but Oregon has only given up one sack ALL SEASON so it doesn’t really change anything.
Every single team since Georgia has looked the same against this offensive line, which is to say ineffective.
Dillingham’s gameplan doesn’t quite work the same if the line isn’t winning that battle up front, and there were very few occurrences on Saturday when Oregon didn’t win the battle at the line of scrimmage.
UCLA entered the game as the best run defense in the Pac-12. The Bruins allowed 3.1 yards per rushing attempt through their first six games. (That mark ranked 17th nationally.) The Bruins had a guy in Laiatu Latu on the edge who was tied for the second-most sacks in the country (6.5) and another in Grayson Murphy who led the Pac-12 in overall quarterback pressures.
No one on the UCLA defense popped. They spent the whole game getting popped.
Oregon controls its destiny
The Ducks are the only remaining unbeaten team in Pac-12 play. They stand alone in sole possession of first place in the league.
Oregon doesn’t face USC in the regular season. It has Cal and Colorado up next before a three-game stint to close out the regular season against a trio of 5-2 clubs — Washington, Utah, and Oregon State. Oregon is in a spot where it doesn’t have to worry about what happens between USC and UCLA on Nov. 19. It only has to worry about handling its business, identifying problems, and ironing them out of the game each week.
Fortunately for the Ducks, that’s exactly what they’ve done since the loss to Georgia.
And because of it, not only is Oregon in the most enviable spot in the Pac-12 championship race, it is lurking right on the edge of the College Football Playoff field.
Kirk Herbstreit said it on ESPN’s College GameDay earlier Saturday morning; it’ll depend on what happens with Georgia to close out the year. Oregon needs the Bulldogs to be unbeaten at the end of the year. It can’t be an either-or situation.
But this Oregon team is currently playing like the best team in the Pac-12 and I wrote earlier this week that the CFP committee, if they want to, can find reasons to explain the lopsided nature of the game in ways that aren’t so damaging to the Ducks, and that the CFP committee has shown openness in the past to looking more favorably on early-season disappointments than you’d think.
No. 7 Ole Miss lost to LSU. UCLA will obviously drop behind the Ducks. Tennessee and Georgia still have to play each other in the regular season, as do Ohio State and Michigan. Clemson looked vulnerable, falling behind early to Syracuse and then benching its starting quarterback.
How many teams are playing better football than Oregon, right now?