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Saturday’s matchup against No. 12 BYU felt like an important measuring stick for No. 25 Oregon in its first season under Dan Lanning, a test to determine whether the Ducks would be more like the team what got blown out by No. 1 Georgia to open the year or that overwhelmed an FCS opponent in Week Two.
The Ducks (2-1) passed with flying colors.
Oregon’s defense forced a turnover on downs on the game’s first possession, then the offense marched 64 yards in just four plays, with quarterback Bo Nix finding the end zone on a two-yard rush.
It would be a sign of things to come for the Ducks and their quarterback. An Oregon offense that scored on each of its first nine possessions last week picked up right where it left off despite a significant uptick in competition. Oregon advanced into the red zone again on its second possession before settling for a field goal. The Ducks then scored touchdowns on each of their next four trips. Oregon led by 31 points before a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns for BYU made the final score 41-20.
Nix, the Auburn transfer who drew the ire of some Duck fans for his two-interception performance in Atlanta to open the season, headlined the performance by playing not just the best game of his brief Oregon tenure, but likely of his career. Nix completed 12 of 17 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a career-high three scores.
Nix’s job was made easier by the fact that the Oregon offensive line manhandled BYU’s defensive front. Oregon rushed for 212 yards on 44 carries and the Cougars didn’t sack Nix.
Perhaps most important for Nix, he never put the ball in harm’s way. Nix was judicious with his decision-making, checking the ball down to running backs or keeping it himself if nothing was available downfield.
When he did get a chance to take a shot downfield, he took advantage. Nix hit Troy Franklin with a 50-yard play-action bomb in the second quarter, which set up his second rushing score of the game, a sneak from two yards out. The first completion of more than 20 yards for Nix all season drew particularly loud applause from a raucous home crowd of 54,463 fans.
Nix put the finishing touches on a nearly flawless first half by hitting tight end Terrance Ferguson up the seam for a 15-yard score with 24 seconds remaining in the first half. The Ducks then got the ball to start the second half and Nix scrambled into the end zone from six yards out on third and goal. After Oregon forced a turnover on downs on the BYU side of the field, Nix extinguished any remaining flicker of hope for the Cougars by finding Ferguson for a second touchdown, this one from the 9-yard line.
While Nix and the Oregon offense will likely make most of the headlines, the Duck defense more than held its own. Despite playing without leading tackler Justin Flowe, Oregon was particularly stout against the run. The Ducks held the Cougars to just 61 yards and 2.5 yards per carry.
Quarterback Jaren Hall found some success through the air, throwing for 305 yards and two scores. But the Ducks secondary did a good job of coming up with key plays at the right times, like when cornerback Trikweze Bridges broke up a pass in the end zone, which led to a BYU missed field goal.
Add it all up, and Oregon was able to pull its starting quarterback from the game prior to the fourth quarter for the second game in a row (although Nix came back in after BYU cut the lead to 18). In doing so against a top-15 opponent rather than an FCS program, the Ducks sent a message that they’re one of, if not the, team to beat on the West Coast this season.
10:21, Oregon: Bo Nix 2-yard run (Camden Lewis PAT), 7-0 Oregon
4:26, Oregon: Camden Lewis 28-yard field goal, 10-0 Oregon
14:53, BYU: Jaren Hall 28-yard pass to Isaac Rex (Jacob Oldroyd PAT), 10-7 Oregon
11:44, Oregon: Bo Nix 2-yard run (Camden Lewis PAT), 17-7 Oregon
0:24, Oregon: Bo Nix 15-yard pass to Terrance Ferguson (Camden Lewis PAT), 24-7 Oregon
11:54, Oregon: Bo Nix 6-yard run (Camden Lewis PAT), 31-7 Oregon
8:21, Oregon: Bo Nix 9-yard pass to Terrance Ferguson (Camden Lewis PAT), 38-7 Oregon
14:05, BYU: Jaren Hall 18-yard pass to Kody Epps (Jacob Oldroyd PAT), 38-14 Oregon
10:39, BYU: Chris Brooks 2-yard run (two-point conversion no good), 38-20 Oregon
2:16, Oregon: Camden Lewis 25-yard field goal, 41-20 Oregon
Midway through the second quarter, BYU advanced to the Oregon 21-yard line and looked as if it might cut the Ducks’ 17-7 lead to one score. Instead, the Ducks defense forced the Cougars to settle for a 38-yard field goal, which Jacob Oldroyd missed wide right. Oregon then put together a 13-play drive that culminated with Nix finding Ferguson in the end zone with 24 seconds left in the first half. The touchdown drive not only extended Oregon’s lead to three scores, but didn’t allow BYU a chance to answer before Oregon received the second-half kickoff and found the end zone yet again.
Ducks offensive player of the game
Nix has completed more passes in the vast majority of his college games, but he may not have played better than he did against BYU. Nix took what the BYU defense gave him, never throwing a pass that looked to be in danger of getting picked off. He used his legs to extend plays or take off running when no one was open. And when he did throw the ball, he was accurate.
Ducks defensive player of the game
It had been a quiet start to the season for defensive end Brandon Dorlus. The junior broke out in a big way against BYU. Dorlus led the team with seven tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks. His biggest play came when he beat a blocker and dropped Cougar running back Chris Brooks for a loss on fourth down and 1, which set up Oregon’s final touchdown of the game.
Play of the game
Duck fans had been waiting for Nix to connect on a deep ball this season. He finally did when he hit Franklin on the 50-yard rainbow. BYU’s defense bit on Nix’s fake handoff, giving him plenty of time in the pocket. He then delivered a perfectly-placed ball, which Franklin corralled despite taking a hit.
Why Oregon won the game
Oregon put forth its most complete game in recent memory, but the biggest advantage for the Ducks appeared to be its offensive line against BYU’s defensive front. Despite starting right tackle Steven Jones missing the game due to injury, Oregon dominated at the point of attack. The Ducks even went jumbo for several snaps, putting extra linemen into the game on running plays. The success on the ground, combined with the fact that he was not only not sacked but never even hit, made it easy for Nix to find openings through the air.
Bo Nix: 13-18, 222 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Ty Thompson: 1-2, 5 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Mar’Kiese Irving: 14 carries, 107 yards
Noah Whittington: 13 carries, 69 yards
Bo Nix: 9 carries, 35 yards, 3 TD
Jordan James: 6 carries, 33 yards
Troy Franklin: 3 receptions, 84 yards
Chase Cota: 2 receptions, 38 yards
Terrance Ferguson: 2 receptions, 24 yards, 2 TD
Cam McCormick: 2 receptions, 19 yards