Ducks Shine In National Spotlight

By Rob Moseley

EUGENE, Ore. — In a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, the No. 10 Oregon football team won its conference opener against visiting No. 19 Colorado on Saturday, 42-6, before 59,889 fans in Autzen Stadium.

Playing a Buffaloes team that had commanded the spotlight this season due to its resurgence under head coach Deion Sanders, the Ducks dominated the matchup of top-25 teams. Head coach Dan Lanning spoke all week about wanting to see his Ducks “play the game, not the occasion.” On Saturday, they obliged.

“From the start, we were prepared,” said UO quarterback Bo Nix, who accounted for four touchdowns. “We knew the moment was going to be really big, we knew the occasion was going to be really big. But we just wanted to go out there and play (to our standard).”

The Ducks (4-0) led 35-0 at halftime, at which point Oregon had more first downs (22) than Colorado had total yards (21). Through three quarters the UO lead was 42-0, and the advantage in yardage was 481-72.

Oregon’s defense held the Buffs to 199 total yards, 127 of those coming in the fourth quarter. The Ducks had seven sacks, broke up six passes and didn’t allow a point until just 2:51 remained in the game.

“It feels amazing,” UO linebacker Jeffrey Bassa said. “Coach had a plan for us, and we bought into the plan. So it feels amazing to go out there and perform as a defense like we should and how we expect to.”

Nix finished the day 28-of-33 passing for 276 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception for Oregon’s first turnover of the season but also a rushing touchdown. Jordan James and Noah Whittington also rushed for scores. Troy Franklin caught eight passes for 126 yards and two scores, and Bucky Irving had 89 rushing yards on 10 carries.

Jordan Burch and Evan Williams each got in on two sacks defensively, and Khyree Jackson broke up three passes as Oregon held Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders almost completely in check.

“They were outstanding today, applied a bunch of pressure, made great open-field tackles,” Nix said. “They just played really solid football — and we see that at practice, every day those guys fly around. They play really good together. It’s exciting to see those guys have a game like they did.”

Whittington, who would go down with an injury in the second half, opened the scoring for the Ducks on the first drive of the day, and tight end Casey Kelly scored later in the first quarter. Nix threw two TD passes to Franklin in the second quarter, and the UO quarterback also rushed for a score just before halftime as Oregon took a 35-0 lead into the break.

“We have the best quarterback in the nation,” Lanning said. “I know that, I can see that. You see all the throws and all the plays he makes with his feet, but you guys don’t see all the checks that he makes, you don’t see what he does with this team — you don’t see his leadership. … We’re so blessed to have him.”

Nix played two series in the second half, driving Oregon to the rushing touchdown by James on the Ducks’ first possession after halftime. Oregon turned it over on downs in the red zone later in the third quarter, after which Nix gave way to backup quarterback Ty Thompson for some game reps against a Pac-12 foe.

The Ducks didn’t score again, but the game remained one-sided as the UO defense relentlessly attacked Colorado’s offense. The Buffs came into the day averaging 42.0 points per game, but Oregon held them in check.

“We knew they were going to air it out; that’s what they do,” Williams said. “And really our plan up front was just to let our big guys eat. We’ve got a really talented group of guys up front. … We like to think that we (in the secondary) have a little effect on how we rush the passer, but I’m giving most if not all the credit to the guys up front.”

Oregon’s third touchdown of the game capped a drive that included a fake punt by the Ducks from inside their own red zone, on which defensive lineman Casey Rogers ran 18 yards to move the chains. The Ducks did commit another nine penalties for 80 yards, which figures to remain a point of emphasis entering next week’s trip to Stanford.

“Certainly,” Lanning said of the performance overall, “that’s something you can build off of. Now it’s about, can you do that consistently.”