Three takeaways from Oregon's gutsy win over Utah
Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) moved within a win of the Pac-12 Championship Game on Saturday with a 20-17 victory over Utah (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12).
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Bo Nix has a defining moment
Watching a clearly hobbled Bo Nix on the field Saturday night, it was obvious the lack of clarity surrounding his status this week wasn’t about gamesmanship. Oregon didn’t know. The first-year Duck quarterback was a game-time decision, and you have to think that was 100% the truth of it given the non-existent QB run component of Oregon’s offense.
“There was a lot of moments this week where I didn’t think I was gonna play, to be honest with you,” Nix told ESPN in the postgame interview on the field.
But he played. And he authored the defining moment of a narrative-altering season in his career.
ESPN’s Bill Connelly wrote a mea culpa on Nix earlier this season. Everyone else needs to do the same. Nix didn’t have his center. He didn’t have his best stuff. He didn’t have his legs. And he helped engineer a win over a team that physically and mentally dominated the Ducks one year ago.
It’s possible this is Nix’s only year in Eugene. A three-year starter at Auburn, Nix took part in Senior Day festivities for Oregon. While that doesn’t mean he’s done — he does have a year of eligibility after this one — he has no doubt boosted his draft stock with Oregon in ways no one saw coming. He’s married, he will have played college ball for four years by the time this season concludes, and maybe the NFL is calling. We’ll see. Point being: if that was his last home game for Oregon, it was one that served to highlight just how special this year has been.
Nix completed 25 of his 37 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown. His only rushing attempt of the night was a third-and-one keeper on the final drive of the game that let the Ducks kneel out the rest of the clock. Nix has done everything for this Oregon team all season. He should be in New York City for the Heisman ceremony, coming out of Week 12 with 40 total touchdowns on the year.
The opposite kind of day for Utah’s QB
After an injury forced Cameron Rising to miss Utah’s game against Washington State on Oct. 27, he returned a week later and was said to be less than 100%. He still doesn’t look to be fully healthy, and whether that’s to blame for Saturday’s performance or something else, Rising had one of his poorest showings on the year.
He finished 21-for-38 (55%) for 170 yards. Rising had no touchdowns for the first time this season and three interceptions in a single game for the first time in his career.
On a crucial fourth-and-2 with less than seven minutes to play in the game, Rising had Dalton Kincaid for a first down and threw the ball in the dirt at Kincaid’s feet. It was an uncharacteristic day, and it came at the worst time.
Kincaid finished with 99 yards receiving on 11 receptions, but no one else was effective. Utah posted a season-low for total offense and points.
Physicality no longer a concern
When ESPN’s College GameDay crew unanimously picked Utah to beat the Ducks, Kirk Herbstreit said he was still in wait-and-see mode when it came to how Oregon under Dan Lanning would be able to match the physicality of Utah. Last year, the Utes battered the Ducks twice in the span of 13 days — ending both contests before halftime and turning the line of scrimmage into a bloodbath.
Oregon was the aggressor on Saturday inside Autzen. Specifically, the Duck front seven came to play. The defense had motivation from a number of fronts to show out. If it wasn’t mad over last year’s performances against Utah, it was certainly upset over last week’s against Washington. The defense spent all week getting skewered. Then it came out against a very good Utah front and won at the point of attack.
Oregon’s defensive line had multiple tipped passes that led to interceptions. (A week after getting burned, Bennett Williams played one of his best games.) Brandon Dorlus and Casey Rogers were forces on the line of scrimmage as Oregon registered six tackles for loss. Utah’s leading back, Tavion Thomas, had 19 carries for 55 yards. He had five rushing touchdowns against Oregon a year ago and none on Saturday.