Oregon, Nix show courage as Ducks turn back Utah with 20-17 win – Portland Tribune | Team Cansler

Quarterback Bo Nix plays injured but leads Ducks to a bounce back win that starts a very meaningful game at Oregon State.

Saturday’s 20-17 win over Utah at Autzen Stadium improves Oregon to 9-2 (7-1 Pac-12) and keeps the Ducks’ Rose Bowl hopes alive.

Trib’s opinion: This is one of Oregon’s more significant and satisfying victories in recent memory. The Ducks had several opportunities to hang their heads and wonder if this would be their night, but Bo Nix, Bennett Williams and others wouldn’t let it happen.

Sure, Oregon was held at just 20 points and didn’t score a touchdown in the last 40 minutes. Sure, the Ducks gave up momentum on several occasions, most egregiously the first offensive snap after halftime when they handed the Utes a touchdown. But pinned down by an injured right ankle, Nix seemed to push the Ducks into victory. It was appropriate that it was his only run of the night, earning the 20-17 win over two yards on a third and a 1.

In his post-game interview on ESPN, Nix admitted that during the week he wasn’t sure he could play and that the theme of the evening was toughness. He embodied that by throwing 25 of 37 throws for 287 yards and one touchdown with an interception. On a night when Utah stacked the box and ended Oregon’s ground game (59 net yards, 2.4 per carry), Nix moved the offense by quickly taking the ball out of his hand and letting playmakers play.

If this was the last game Nix plays at Autzen Stadium, it should be his most memorable. Sure, he’s had all sorts of big stat days in his one season as a Duck, but Saturday’s courage and leadership should long be remembered by Ducks faithful.

In many ways, this is a game the Ducks should have lost. Utah had the ball for 12 more games and seven more minutes. The Utes converted 8 of 15 third downs and had four drives with 10 or more plays. But they only produced 10 offensive points.

Let’s also give credit to the Oregon Line of Defense. The Ducks could disrupt Utah quarterback Cam Rising without blitzing much and held a ground play from Utes that could dictate the game at 4.3 yards per carry. And let’s give credit to the much-maligned defensive backfield, most notably safety Bennett Williams. A week after being beaten for two long touchdowns in the loss to Washington, Williams had 14 tackles (seven solo) and twice intercepted Rising.

We’d also like to mention Oregon kicker Camden Lewis, whose field goals of 30 and 41 yards, the second breaking a 17-17 tie, were crucial. Lewis is 12-13 in field goals this season.

Big picture: Beating Utah was emotional in part because the Utes did to the Ducks in 2021. For 2022, that means Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) will return to the Pac-12 championship game if it can beat Oregon State (8-3) next weekend. Make no mistake, this will not be an easy task. The Beavers’ defense is the best in the Pac-12 and is particularly awkward in games at Reser Stadium. And if Oregon’s offensive line is as battered as it was Saturday (center Alex Forsyth, that unit’s leader and the man who shouts signals up front, couldn’t play in his last game at Autzen Stadium), success at Corvallis will be so be much harder.

But the ducks’ toughness shouldn’t be questioned. They still control their destiny, which is a big deal. (Oregon also secures a berth in the Pac-12 title game if Washington State beats Washington in Pullman next Saturday).

And while several managerial decisions have been questioned, by and large it should not be overlooked how Dan Lanning and his young associates have pushed the team to react after each of their two heavy defeats.

Oh yeah!: For a man who throws with his right hand, an injured right ankle impairs his ability to step into throws. Still, Nix made some impressive throws, including a couple of deep balls that Dante Thornton caught well. The most memorable pass, however, was his jump pass to Troy Franklin for the second Oregon TD, on a third and scoring from the 4 in the second quarter.

Oh no!: Oregon’s first offensive game after halftime was an example of coaches getting too cute. Ty Thompson lined up as quarterback (his only snap of the game, as it turned out) and tried to pitch the ball to Thornton, but the receiver couldn’t handle the pitch and Utah’s Karene Reid grabbed the ball and carried it 11 yards to the end zone. The game completely changed the feel of the stadium, breathed life into Utah and will result in plenty of head scratching.

Look, we applaud Lanning’s audacity, and we still defend his decision-making in the loss to Washington. But that was an untenable managerial decision.

Next game: Oregon in the state of Oregon, time TBD. Saturday, November 26 (TV TBD).

For more: Read our weekly column On College Football on pamplinmedia.com almost every Monday, in print every Wednesday.

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