7 takeaways from Oregon’s versatile blowout over Colorado Buffaloes

The Oregon Ducks won that game in many ways. They did it through the air; they did it on the ground; they did it with the defense. Oregon used trick plays to get into the end zone, slipping offensive linemen past the defense for receiving touchdowns and lining up a physically imposing linebacker as a fullback and letting him punch it in for six. The Ducks even got their QB into the mix, letting Nix corral in a pass from RB Bucky Irving and trot in for a touchdown.

It was a versatile, entertaining, dominant, and convincing blowout win over the Colorado Buffaloes that surely earned some style points in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee. Mission accomplished, right?

Mostly.

Despite all of the positives, there are still some things — mainly on defense — that need to be cleaned up going forward. Here are our biggest takeaways from the afternoon of football.

Style Points

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We’ve been saying it for a couple of weeks now, but the Oregon Ducks are in a situation where they not only need to win every game left on their schedule, but they need to do so in a stylistic fashion that impresses the College Football Playoff committee.

They certainly did that on Saturday.

Against a bad team like Colorado, walking out of Boulder with a 28-10 victory wasn’t going to be enough. Seeing a final score of 49-10, though, with almost 500 yards of total offense and another 5-TD game for the quarterback is a different story. The Ducks got it done on the ground (195 rushing yards, 4 TD), through the air (284 passing yards, 3 TD) and they did well on defense, picking up two interceptions while holding Colorado to just 10 points and 367 total yards. Moreover, the Buffaloes were just 8-for-15 on 3rd down, and 0-for-3 on fourth.

You can look at this victory and pass it off as just another game against a lowly Pac-12 team, but the Ducks made a statement with how dominant they can be.

Trick Plays

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It became clear pretty early on in the game that Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham was going deep in his bag for this one. It’s not that he wanted to show what he’s capable of drawing up in order to garner some attention as a head coaching candidate, but rather throw as much material as possible at Washington, Utah, and Oregon State in the coming weeks, hoping to overload the circuit boards.

On the first drive of the game, the Ducks slipped freshman OT Josh Conerly — wearing jersey No. 94 rather than No. 76 — out from the jumbo package and put him on the receiving end of a touchdown. On the next drive, it was Bo Nix who was on the receiving end of a score, hauling in a pass from RB Bucky Irving that the Ducks’ QB virtually walked into the endzone for an 18-yard TD. The drive after that, Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell — who was an incredibly talented former high school RB — lined up as a fullback and took the ball over the pile for a 1-yard score.

Hey Huskies, did you get all of that?

So far this year, we’ve seen a multitude of formations, personnel groups, and offensive schemes in Eugene that can hurt a defense in numerous ways. Sometimes before a big game, coaches will choose to keep some of their best plays up their sleeve in hopes of surprising the opponent on gameday. Dillingham and Lanning went the opposite way and laid it all out there on the table for everyone to see.

Take your pick Washington. Choose which facet of the offense you want to stop, Utah. Find a player or two to key in on Oregon State.

The Ducks have more ways than one to beat you.

Defensive Issues

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It can’t all be roses and sunshine. While the Ducks were dominant in almost every facet of the game on Saturday, their defense still left a lot to be desired, notably in the secondary and the pass rush.

For starters, the Ducks had exactly zero sacks on the day, proving unable to get a hand on the opposing QB, or let alone make him feel the pressure.

Colorado QB J.T. Shrout threw for 247 yards and a TD while also having two interceptions, but Oregon’s defensive backfield proved to be porous at times. The Buffaloes had 5 total chunk-yardage plays in the passing game, with completions of 15, 16, 17, 17, and 81 yards, the last of which went for a touchdown. It’s clear that opposing offenses are able to get what they want if they have a dominant receiver, with Colorado’s freshman Jordan Tyson hauling in 5 catches for 137 yards and a TD.

It didn’t prove to be an issue this week, but next week the Washington Huskies come to Eugene boasting the No. 1 ranked passing offense in the nation. QB Michael Penix Jr. has an NFL-level arm and he’s certainly going to use it. If the Ducks can’t figure out how to slow some things down in that facet of the game, it could be a different story a week from now.

Bo Nix

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At some point, if you start seeing something happen over and over again, you should start to get used to it, or at least cease being surprised when it happens again. We’re not to that point yet when I watch Bo Nix play. Week after week, I leave the Ducks’ game incredibly impressed with the stats that he puts up, and amazed with his growth in the Oregon offense and ability to avoid disaster.

It’s just so different from what we saw of him at Auburn.

On Saturday, Nix had another Heisman-worthy performance, completing 20-of-24 passes (83%) for 274 yards and 2 TD. He also had 2 TD on the ground and even caught an 18-yard TD pass from Bucky Irving. Those numbers don’t stray far from the ones we’ve seen him put up in the past, but the fact that he was able to have that type of performance this week — notably when both Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud and Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker struggled — is a big deal.

Over the past few weeks, Nix has been picking up Heisman buzz. I think his campaign is about to really take off, though. At this point, the veteran QB has proved that he can play at this elite level, and he’s done so on a consistent basis while his team continues to climb in the standings. If you were a proactive sports gambler and put a ticket in for Nix to win the Heisman Trophy a couple of weeks ago, I would advise you to buckle up. Things may be getting interesting on that front soon.

Tight End Usage

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A couple of weeks ago during Oregon’s win over UCLA, I made note of how the way that the Ducks were using Troy Franklin and other wide receivers was not only helping the team win on the field, but it was offering a major boost in the recruiting world, showing highly-rated prospects that if they come to Oregon, this is how their talents might be utilized.

The same can now be said for the tight end room as well.

Oregon hasn’t traditionally touted the best tight ends in the nation. While there are a handful of Pro Ducks at that position in the NFL, it’s rare that you see your George Kittle’s or Kyle Pitts’ in Eugene. That could change though, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Ducks are willing and able to put tight ends in a position to succeed under this new regime.

On Saturday, it was Moliki Matavao who got into the end zone for the TE group, giving that position 11 total touchdowns on the season for the Ducks, tied for the national lead. Three different TEs caught passes, and all were major components in the offense throughout the day.

Might someone like 5-star Duce Robinson see this and make a note? We already know that Oregon 4-star TE Kenyon Sadiq has taken notice. It will be interesting to see over the coming year or two whether or not the Ducks see a boom in the tight-end recruiting world. It’s easy to see that any player at that position is going to get a chance to shine in Eugene.

Jamal Hill Targeting

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In the third quarter of the game, an unfortunate and potentially costly penalty went against the Ducks.

Oregon safety Jamal Hill was called for a targeting penalty. It’s hard to argue the call, as Hill loaded up and delivered a strike to Colorado WR Jordan Tyson, who was defenseless at the time, knocking him to the turf and out of the game for a little bit. As a result, Hill was ejected for the rest of the game, and will subsequently be suspended for the first half of next week’s game against Washington.

That’s not ideal when the Huskies will bring the No. 1 ranked passing offense into Autzen Stadium for a heated rivalry game.

Hill is one of the more important cogs of the defensive secondary, which we’ve made not already has it’s issues. Going two quarters without him back there helping to quarterback the defense is going to potentially be a big deal, and it will force the other players in the secondary to step up in a big way. The Ducks will have an option of appealing the call, which they likely will, but Dan Lanning is 0-for-2 so far this year on appealed targeting calls. We will see how that ends up playing out over the coming days.

A Helping Hand from Georgia

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This takeaway obviously doesn’t have to do with Oregon’s game on Saturday, but it will still impact the Ducks in a major way.

The Georgia Bulldogs won on Saturday, offering a big boost to the Ducks. Ever since Oregon lost to the defending national champions in the first game of the year, it has acted as a black mark in Eugene. However, if this Bulldogs team can host the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers and lay the smack down on them, it shows that the Ducks may not be viewed in as poorly of a light as they once were. It’s clear that Georgia is undoubtedly the No. 1 team in the nation, which is not a bad loss to have on your resume.

A lot will still happen between now and the end of the season when it comes to the College Football Playoffs, but Tennessee taking a loss is a big deal for the Ducks, as it potentially knocks out the possibility of the SEC getting 2-3 teams in the playoff and knocking the Pac-12 out of contention.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire