The Georgia Bulldogs are good. Who knew?
Unfortunately, it appears that the Oregon Ducks may not be as good as we thought. That was proven over and over again Saturday afternoon as the defending national champions trounced Dan Lanning’s squad in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It resulted in a 49-3 loss that saw Oregon go without scoring a touchdown for the first time since 2017. There were a few positive moments — the Ducks’ offense was able to move the ball well in the first half — but they were overshadowed by an endless list of things that need to be cleaned up in a hurry.
There weren’t many people who expected the Ducks to walk out of Atlanta with a victory on Saturday, but I think a lot of people expected more of a game than this.
Here are some of our biggest takeaways following the game:
Ducks Defense Has Explaining To Do...
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We knew that Georgia was good, and that their offense was going to be hard to stop. I didn’t think that they were going to be this good, though. Maybe I didn’t think that Oregon was going to look this bad?
You pick which one is the truer statement, but I’m actually going to focus on the negative here for Duck fans. We came into this season touting the Oregon defense. With Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe in the middle, Brandon Dorlus up front, and Christian Gonzalez and Bennett Williams in the secondary, this unit was supposed to be among the best in the nation under Dan Lanning.
They were anything but on Saturday afternoon.
Georgia finished the game with 49 total points, 439 total yards, a 90% conversion rate on 3rd down (9-for-10) and points scored on 7 of their 8 drives.
Sure they’re the defending champions. Sure they are more talented and had a good game. Even a bad game for Oregon shouldn’t result in those types of gaudy numbers.
If the Ducks are going to be successful in 2022, it’s going to have to come on the back of the defense. The offense can be decent, but the defense has to be great.
On Saturday, they were downright terrible.
The Bad Bo Nix
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We all knew this was possible. We knew that, after his up and down three seasons at Auburn, it was possible that Bo Nix would come to Eugene and continue to be a mediocre quarterback, at times capable of making jaw-dropping plays, but constantly throwing in a face-palm-worthy mistake for good measure.
His nickname in SEC country was ‘Bo Picks’ for crying out loud. You can’t tell him Oregon fans weren’t aware of the possibility that a bad Bo Nix would show up for them.
Unfortunately, he showed up at an inopportune time on Saturday.
I may be being a bit harsh, too. That’s fair. In the first half, Nix looked pretty good aside from a couple of mistakes, which we will get to. He ultimately threw for 173 yards on 21-for-37 passing, but felt like he had good control over the offense at the start of the game.
But then things went off the rails, and the bad decisions snowballed.
The first came on an interception when targeting Seven McGeen on a deep-route downfield. Nix threw a jump-ball to one of Oregon’s smallest receivers, and the defender was able to make an impressive play on it.
The next came not long after, when Nix had the offense moving, but sat in the pocket a split second too long and completely telegraphed a pass to Terrance Ferguson, giving Georgia an easy interception.
From there, the Ducks could not get momentum on their side once again, and the route was on.
I’m not saying that Nix will be bad all season, and it’s important to note that he is going up against an all-world defense in the Bulldogs. But I didn’t see enough on Saturday to be convinced that Nix will hold the starting job all year either. He still has a lot to prove to win over Duck fans in Eugene.
Explosion Plays, Where Art Thou?
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After a few years of Mario Cristobal’s vanilla offensive scheme in Eugene, the new offensive coordinator provided a jolt of energy for the Oregon fanbase this offseason when he proclaimed that his new offense would be explosive. That meant downfield passes that stretched the field, and getting the ball to playmakers while in open space.
One way to track how good the Ducks were at executing this game plan is by following “explosion plays,” or plays that go for 25 or more yards.
On Saturday, Oregon had exactly zero of those.
Was it just because Georgia’s defense is so dominant? Potentially. There weren’t many play-calls or vertical passes that stretched the field, though. Does this mean that Dillingham was selling us a false bill of goods in the offseason? Unlikely.
I’m interested to see what the offense looks like next week against the Eastern Washington Eagles, an FCS team that Oregon should do away with early. If the Ducks don’t stretch the field in that one, we may have problems. For now, I’ll chalk it up to the opponent.
Young Experience, Or the Lack-There Of
One of the benefits of a blowout is that it often seals the result of the game early on, giving both sides ample time to try and get some young players a chance to experience the bright lights and get a feel for the moment. Fortunately, the Ducks got a chance to do that on Saturday, getting guys like Jahlil Florence, Marcus Harper, and Jordan James in the game during the second half.
However, there was one young player who stayed on the sideline, even though about 99% of the Oregon fanbase would have been elated to see him take the field and get some much-needed reps.
Ty Thompson once again did not get a chance to play in a blowout game.
In four of Oregon’s last 5 games, which have been lost by an average of 30 points, the Ducks have refused to get Thompson in the ball game. The major knock on the quarterback has always been that he is inexperienced and needs to grow more before he can become a starting QB, but yet again, we saw the Ducks ride with a graduate transfer until the final whistle rather than allowing the redshirt freshman to take his lumps.
I’m not sure of the reasoning, but I understand the frustration felt by the fanbase. I’ve got to imagine that Thompson feels pretty frustrated himself.
The Sky is Not Falling
This loss was brutal, make no doubt about it. For Dan Lanning to go up against his former team and fail to record a touchdown, instead losing by a total of 46 points, it leaves a lot to be desired. This one should hurt for Oregon fans, and there should be questions about both the offense and defense going forward.
For everyone writing off the season, though, I would encourage a deep breath, and maybe a couple of weeks worth of patience.
Oregon isn’t supposed to beat teams like Georgia. They aren’t as talented, and aren’t as well-coached. That’s not to say anything bad about the Ducks, but rather to prop up how good the defending national champion Bulldogs really are. I’ve seen a lot of Oregon fans on Twitter proclaiming that they are done with this season, and out on Dan Lanning and Bo Nix after this one game. I suggest waiting a little bit until you make that decision final.
The truth is, things are going to get better. That certainly will be the case next week with Oregon taking on Eastern Washington, and FCS school. And then in Week 3, I think we will really find out who this team is against a good BYU team.
If the Ducks still look like a mediocre squad that will struggle to compete for a top spot in the Pac-12, then you have my blessing to turn the channel and find a new team. I think you should wait, though. Chip Kelly, arguably the best coach in Oregon history, lost his debut game to Boise State 19-8, and had his star running back punch an opposing player after the game, leading to a season-long suspension.
The sky wasn’t falling then, and it isn’t falling now. Exercise some patience.