5 takeaways from Oregon’s wild and miraculous win against Washington State

As with any game, we go into the week with a lot of predictions for how things are going to turn out. It’s the nature of the business that we are in. I for one, thought that this matchup between the Oregon Ducks and Washington State Cougars was going to be a blowout. I figured the Ducks would continue to roll, coming off of a big BYU victory, and put it on the Cougars in Pullman. Others figured that Washington State would keep things close and give the Ducks a run for their money.

I’m not sure anyone predicted this outcome, though.

Oregon was getting beat for most of the day. They fell behind as many as 12 points a couple of times, and only thanks to a miracle comeback attempt, scoring 21 points in the final two minutes of the game, were they able to walk out of The Palouse with a victory.

There was a lot to like about the performance, and a ton to be frustrated by. In the end, a win is a win, though, and the Ducks will roll into a relatively easy part of their schedule with a 3-1 record in tact.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the victory:

Ugly Wins Matter

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So far this year, we’ve seen an array of outcomes from the Ducks. There’s been a blowout loss, a blowout victory, and a comfortable win over a really solid, top-25 ranked team.

On Saturday we got another form of winning notched under the belt.

This was an ugly game for the Ducks. For the first three and a half quarters, they didn’t look comfortable, and hardly resembled the team that we saw last week inside Autzen Stadium. The offense moved the ball extremely well, but was incapable of capping off drives. The defense had some nice plays, but once against struggled with tackling, and allowed mental errors to put the outcome in jeopardy.

The Ducks played badly enough to lose this game, no question about it. But still, they found a way to win, which is a massive accomplishment. It won’t be every game where the defense is asked to coral a mobile QB who looked like a clone of Kyler Murray. It won’t be every game that Oregon is unable to punch plays in from the 3-yard line and has to settle for field goals. But the fact that they were able to put all of that bad play behind them and buckle down when crunch time came gives me a lot of confidence going forward.

You don’t always want 30-point wins where the outcome is never in question. Sometimes you want to be tested, and see your team step up when the pressure is on. Oregon did just that on Saturday.

Is it time to talk about Bo Nix?

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Just asking the question here…please tell me if I’m overstepping.

Are we giving Bo Nix enough credit?

Despite the struggles of the offense inside the 10 yard-line, and the one, egregious, EGREGIOUS interception that he had that went for a Washington State touchdown, Nix was pretty spectacular on Saturday. He finished the game with a career-high 428 yards and 3 TD on 33-for-44 (75%) passing. That’s an impressive stat line, no matter who you play. Let alone the fact that it was a defense that ranks inside the top-20 in most categories across the board.

If you want to harp on his interception, I won’t stop you. It was a telegraphed pass on a bad play call that will go on the teaching tape for young quarterbacks to learn what not to do in the red zone. Those are the type of plays that we knew came with the Bo Nix package, though. I didn’t know any of the other things we were getting from him were possible, though.

Working under OC Kenny Dillingham, it appears that Nix is comfortable and confident, and he’s willing to push the ball down the field when the defense gives it to him. Can he continue to improve? Of course. Every QB has numerous throws per game that they want back. The ceiling that we’ve seen from No. 10 through these first four games though has been remarkable, and completely unexpected if I’m being honest.

The Defensive Mistakes

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As much as I want to keep things positive in what was an impressive win for the Ducks, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the mistakes. None better sums up the day than Brandon Dorlus’ blunder in the fourth quarter.

With just over 8 minutes to play and Oregon trailing by 5, the Ducks were in a position to hold Washington State to a field goal keeping it a one-possession game. It was 3rd and 18, and a stop would have given Oregon’s offense the ball with a chance to tie the game.

Dorlus got the needed pressure on QB Cameron Ward, who threw the ball away. Dorlus then hit Ward in the face with his hands, getting flagged for roughing the passer. Fresh set of downs, more time off the clock. 3 plays later, WSU made it a 12-point game with a TD.

Those are not the type of things you can let happen if you want to win games. The Ducks got lucky and pulled this victory out, but when a veteran member of your defense has rookie mistakes in the biggest moments, it’s worrisome. Throughout the game there were penalties — DJ Johnson was ejected for a targeting call in the second half — and missed tackles galore.

Celebrate the victory now, but I wouldn’t want to be subjected to Oregon’s practices this week.

A spread-it-out offense

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I found it somewhat comical after the game to see Oregon fans relish in the fact that they finally have a WR1 like Troy Franklin to pepper with targets, knowing that he can step up when the moment matters. It’s not often that the Ducks have had elite wide receiver talent that is capable of breaking the game open like Franklin is.

What’s ironic is the fact that, despite this elite talent at the top of the WR depth chart, Oregon’s offense is as balanced as we’ve seen it in quite some time. Check out this list of touches for the Ducks on Saturday:

  • Bucky Irving — 16 touches

  • Noah Whittington — 11 touches

  • Chase Cota — 7 touches

  • Troy Franklin — 5 touches

  • Kris Hutson — 5 touches

  • Terrance Ferguson — 3 touches

It’s clear that the Ducks are able to spread the ball around and feel confident with whoever they’re going after. In the last couple of games, it’s been Franklin and Ferguson who have been on the receiving end of a lot of nice plays. Going forward, I would be shocked if we didn’t see Hutson pop up, or Dont’e Thornton make a splash. No matter where you look, the Ducks have someone to spread the ball out to. That can make them dangerous down the stretch.

Those unsettling red zone struggles

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As good as you feel about the Ducks right now, I want to try for a second to bring you back to reality. This was a thrilling victory, for sure, but don’t let the outcome blind you of the plays that made a wild comeback necessary in the first place.

If we’re being honest, the Ducks should have never been in that position, and it was the red zone offense that got them there. The stat sheet will show that Oregon was 5-for-7 scoring inside the 25-yard-line, but shall I remind you how a few of those trips into scoring position went?

  • Oregon ball, 1st and goal from the 5-yard-line. Ensuing plays: False Start; no gain; gain of 3; loss of 2; field goal.

  • Oregon ball, 1st and goal from the 2-yard-line. Ensuing plays: Loss of 1; loss of 2; loss of 5; field goal.

  • Oregon ball, 1st and goal at the 7-yard-line. Ensuing play: Interception, taken back for a WSU touchdown.

  • Oregon ball, 1st and 10 from the 11-yard-line. Ensuing plays: Gain of 2; gain of 1; loss of 3; field goal.

If you make it inside the opponent’s 10-yard-line a total of 4 times in a half and end up walking away with just 9 points, you’ve got some serious problems to fix. Whether it was the play-calling or the execution is above my paygrade to figure out, but I an certainly qualified to say that the Ducks were abysmal in the red zone on Saturday and they’re lucky that it didn’t cost them the game.


Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire