Ducks Less Than Perfect But Victorious
EUGENE, Ore. — Bo Nix threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more as the No. 13 Oregon football team extended its winning streak to four games with a 45-27 victory Saturday over Stanford in Autzen Stadium.
After a slow start to a game marred by 14 penalties on the Ducks, Oregon took a 31-3 lead into halftime. The Ducks led by that 28-point margin early in the fourth quarter, 45-17, before working some younger players into the game.
Nix accounted for three touchdowns in the first half, then answered Stanford's first touchdown of the game in the third quarter by breaking free for an 80-yard touchdown run. He finished the game 16-of-29 passing for 161 yards and two scores, plus 141 rushing yards — becoming the first Duck to rush for 100 yards in a game this season.
"I think it just shows the offensive style that we have, what could be," Nix said. "We show a lot of highlights and we show a lot of really good things. But at the same time when you score 45 points and we have that many penalties and that many turnovers, you're just kind of like, what if we don't have that? How much better could we look? How explosive could we actually be?"
The Ducks improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Pac-12 play, extending their home winning streak to 22 games overall and 16 in conference play. Oregon goes on the road next to play at Arizona, before reaching its bye week.
Though Saturday's game mostly felt in control for the Ducks, there were enough breakdowns to keep them focused on improvement.
"We say go to the doctor — on Sunday and Monday it's going to the doctor, and it's realizing that yeah, we won, but it's really not going to be that fun of a Monday," receiver Chase Cota said. "There was so many mistakes. Stanford's a really good team. But if you play a very, very good team or a great team, it just won't fly like that. So I think everyone's aware of that. We have a lot of veterans on both sides of the ball that I think will keep everyone up to the standard, and so I'm not too worried about it."
Bucky Irving also had a strong night Saturday running the ball, piling up 97 yards on just 10 carries. Jordan James and Sean Dollars rushed for touchdowns, behind a UO offensive line that allowed a sack for the first time all season and contributed to some of the early penalty woes.
But that line also helped the UO offense pile up 515 yards, including 351 on the ground. The Ducks averaged 9.5 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per play, overcoming 135 yards in penalties.
"Obviously we gotta eliminate the shooting ourselves in the foot," UO coach Dan Lanning said. "It's showed up in the past, it show up again this game, and we've got to do a better job of coaching that. The penalties can't happen. It has to be something that we improve on. We're gonna take it serious, we're gonna do a good job of it, and I can promise that."
Penalties limited the Ducks to three total points on their first two drives Saturday, but the UO defense kept Oregon from falling behind led by the efforts of Brandon Dorlus, who had two sacks. Oregon's offense got untracked when Cota took a screen pass 49 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter.
After Stanford made a field goal midway through the second quarter for its first points of the game, Troy Franklin made an acrobatic touchdown reception for a 17-3 lead, laying out in the end zone and keeping both feet inbounds while falling out of bounds.
Nix and James scored rushing touchdowns later in the second quarter, with Bennett Williams forcing a fumble that Noah Sewell returned to set up Nix's rushing touchdown just 23 seconds after Franklin's TD reception.
"That was big; I didn't even know the ball was out until Noah was running down the sideline," said Williams, who finished with seven tackles, one behind the team-leading eight by Bryan Addison. "That was big. We want to create as many turnovers as we can to get momentum, to help the offense a little bit. That was a big play, definitely."
On a night when the Ducks sometimes struggled to establish momentum, the two touchdowns in 23 seconds gave the Ducks some breathing room. The team was similarly opportunistic after Stanford's first touchdown, when Nix improvised on the first play of a drive, saw a large swath of running room in the middle of the field and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown run.
"We've definitely got to execute better as a team — as an offense specifically," UO center Alex Forsyth said. "But I think Bo did a great job on that play of just making something happen. That wasn't really the play call, but he just kind of made some plays with his feet. So that was fun to see. He got us out of a lot of inopportune scenarios. So he did a good job of controlling us and making sure we're all on the same page, and really just kind of keeping us at ease — because we definitely got frustrated a little bit there."
As the game wore on the Ducks were able to work in younger players on both side of the ball. Ty Thompson quarterbacked the offense in the fourth quarter, and several young defenders got their first reps against a Pac-12 opponent.
"This is a program that's about development," Lanning said. "We want to develop players, and you develop players through experience. So having an opportunity to put some guys in there at the end of the game and create some experience for them to grow from, that's something we want to be able to do."