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With just under 20 minutes of game-time left on the clock, things felt like a dream for the Oregon Ducks. They were leading the rival Oregon State Beavers by a score of 31-10, and had seemingly just put the game away with a field goal from Camden Lewis to make it a three-score game. A win would have cemented their place in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl.
That dream turned into a nightmare quickly.
Over the next 19 minutes on the clock, Oregon State rushed for 4 touchdowns and completed one of the most insane comebacks in the history of the rivalry formerly known as the Civil War.
It all but ended Oregon’s chances at making it to the Pac-12 title game, barring a win from Washington State over Washington on Saturday night. It also left a sour taste in the mouth of everyone wearing green and yellow throughout the nation.
What followed after the game was best described as hectic.
While fans stormed the field in Reser Stadium, Oregon DL D.J. Johnson allegedly punched someone in the back of the head. Not 20 minutes later, it was reported that Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham would be accepting the head coaching job for the Arizona State Sun Devils. Not long after that, WR Chase Cota declared that he planned to play in Oregon’s bowl game, and QB Bo Nix danced around questions about his future in Eugene, or Tempe, or the NFL.
You get all of that?
If your head isn’t swimming, mine certainly is. As I try to parse through all of the news, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest takeaways from the game on Saturday.
Run Defense was Non-Existent
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Oregon’s defense has been spotty this season, to put it nicely. However, one of the things that they were best at on that side of the batt was stopping the run, where they ranked No. 19 in the nation.
That didn’t look to be the case on Saturday against the Beavers.
While most teams mount comebacks by passing the rock all over the field, Oregon State stayed true to itself and ran the ball, over and over again. In fact, the Beavers completed just 6 passes on the day, and only attempted 13. Likewise, they had 43 rushing attempts, which they took for 275 total yards, which is 6.2 yards per rush.
It wasn’t just one guy doing it, either, Freshman Damien Martinez led the way with 103 yards on 15 carries, while Jam Griffin had 8 carries for 75 yards, and Deshaun Fenwick had 8 carries for 53 yards.
In the second half alone, Oregon State had rushes of 43, 16, 17, 15, and 11 yards. It got to the point where the Ducks knew that the Beavers were going to run the ball, but they still couldn’t stop it.
That was the biggest failure for Oregon on Saturday. The most dominant part of their defense failed to show up in a big moment, and an embarrassing loss was the result.
Bo Nix's Immobility Impacts Run
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Ever since Bo Nix went down with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the game against Washington, it’s clear that the Ducks have been severely limited on offense.
That limitation resulted in just 59 rushing yards last week against Utah, and it led to just 143 rushing yards Saturday against Oregon State. With Nix unable to run — he had -5 net rushing yards vs. the Beavers — it has allowed defenses to remove him as a player that they need to defend and rather key on other players, like Bucky Irving or Noah Whittington. While those two had some success on Saturday — Whittington ran for 82 yards, while Irving added 53 — it’s clear that this offense just wasn’t clicking how it used to when Nix was a threat to keep the ball every down.
Chase Cota has Rivalry to Remember
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Welcome to the rivalry formerly known as the Civil War, Chase Cota.
For an Oregon-born boy, it’s a tough thing to swallow that this is the only chance that Cota will ever get to play against the Oregon State Beavers, but you can feel happy that he made the most of his opportunity. Cota, the son of Oregon legend Chad Cota, finished the day with 9 receptions for 136 yards, the second-most of his career (147).
That stat line included a wild highlight grab in the first quarter where Cota skied over the defender to bring down one of the best circus catches you’ll see in a while.
While there are a lot of things to be frustrated by for Oregon fans, it was nice to see Cota come back from an injury that caused him to miss 3 weeks and have the game of his Oregon career.
Complacency was Clear
The Ducks had this game in the bag. With 4 minutes left on the clock in the third quarter, they had mounted a 21-point lead and seemed able to get whatever they wanted on offense, while also stopping Oregon State’s offense with ease on the other side of the ball.
I think they got complacent.
Oregon’s offense stalled out, and after putting up 31 points on the board, their final four drives ended in one field goal and three turnovers on downs. The play-calling grew predictable, and the Beavers we able to key in on what the Ducks were doing. There was a time in the final drive of the game when Oregon had a first and goal from the 5-yard line and were stuffed on three straight runs up the middle.
The Ducks took their foot off the gas, thinking that they could coast to the win. It ended up giving Oregon State an opening, and the Beavers took advantage.
In rivalry games, you have to know that you can never leave a door open.
Nothing but Questions Remain
Going forward, a lot of questions need to be answered for the Oregon Ducks. I’m not sure where to start.
Does Oregon have a game next week in Las Vegas against the USC Trojans? That will be determined by whether or not the Washington State Cougars can beat the Washington Huskies in the Apple Cup.
What bowl game will Oregon get to? Impossible to say just yet, but the options are a wide array, with the ceiling resting at the Rose Bowl, and the floor likely all the way down at the Alamo or Holiday Bowl.
What type of impact does Kenny Dillingham leaving for Arizona State have on this program? Will Bo Nix change his decisions about his future with Oregon because of it? Does Dante Moore reconsider his commitment to the Ducks now? Who is the next OC in Eugene?
Where does Dan Lanning go from here? It’s unclear, but losing to both of your biggest rivals in your first year with the Ducks is a tough, tough look.