Nix Accounts For Six TDs At Cal
BERKELEY, Calif. — Bo Nix accounted for six touchdowns and the Oregon football team won its seventh game in a row Saturday, as the Ducks remained the frontrunners in the Pac-12 Conference with a 42-24 victory at California.
Oregon's defense limited Cal to 74 rushing yards and 4-of-15 third-down conversions, helping the Ducks overcome a slow start offensively before scoring 28 straight points from late in the second quarter to midway through the fourth. Christian Gonzalez had eight tackles and blocked a field goal to lead the UO defense, DJ Johnson had two sacks on his birthday, and both Bryan Addison and Trikweze Bridges intercepted passes.
Addison's interception came on the first possession of the game, and helped the Ducks keep it close while the offense was finding its rhythm. Nix's first rushing touchdown put Oregon up 7-3 early in the second quarter, but Cal retook the lead at 10-7 before things clicked and the Ducks reeled off 28 straight to lead 35-10 early in the fourth.
"Bo did a good job today, but I think if you asked Bo right now he'd say he can perform better — and I think our entire team probably feels that way," UO coach Dan Lanning said. "There's some moments that, we could play at a higher level."
The Ducks' slow start included a turnover on downs in the red area in the first quarter, and an interception inside Cal's 10-yard line in the second quarter when Troy Franklin bobbled a pass and it was picked off. That start had echoes of Oregon's performance at Washington State, which required a dramatic late-game comeback.
Saturday saw the Ducks get going much sooner.
Nix finished the game 27-of-35 passing for 412 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions — one the dropped pass, the other a Hail Mary on the final play of the second quarter. Nix also rushed 12 times for 59 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the fourth UO quarterback with three TDs passing and rushing in the same game, and the first since Jeremiah Masoli at Arizona in 2009.
"He did a really job of just — and he's done it all year — of keeping us composed," UO center Alex Forsyth said. "We knew we were going to get the offense rolling at some point; we just hated to have a slow start, because we talked about it all week. It was a point of emphasis, and we kind of came out sleepwalking a little bit. But Bo did a great job today."
The Ducks were on alert for a letdown after their emotional win over UCLA the week before, a battle of top-10 teams with ESPN's "College GameDay" on hand. Saturday's game at California didn't garner the same attention, but it was for the same stakes — staying atop the conference.
The win helped No. 8 Oregon remain unbeaten in Pac-12 play at 5-0, the only team in the conference without a loss. The Ducks improved to 7-1 overall entering a trip next week to Colorado.
Cal featured a coaching staff and roster littered with Oregon connections, from head coach Justin Wilcox to his coordinators Bill Musgrave and Peter Sirmon. The latter's son, Jackson, had a game-high 13 tackles Saturday, while Orin Patu — son of former UO defensive lineman Saul Patu — intercepted the pass Franklin couldn't haul in.
Franklin had a relatively quiet day, catching three passes for 34 yards. But the Ducks relied heavily on their tight ends and running backs in the passing game, with those two groups accounting for 298 receiving yards — 176 of those by running backs.
"We did a good job formationally and schematically of getting those guys out for checkdowns," Nix said. "(Offensive coordinator Kenny) Dillingham actually said all week those guys could go for 150 yards collectively. Sure enough, that's what they did."
Running backs Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington each had receiving touchdowns during the "middle-8" period of the game, the last four minutes of the second quarter and first four of the third, during which Oregon has been the best team in the country this season. By then, the slow start felt like a distant memory.
"We were never really stressed about the offense," said Gonzalez, who became the first Duck to block a field goal since 2017. "We knew they were going to come out and eventually get going. It's a trust we have — we trust them and they trust us. … We know they're going to come out and do their thing. And that's what they did."
While the Ducks appreciated the effort and resiliency they showed on both sides of the ball Saturday, they know their execution could have been more consistent. And that it will need to be if they intend to stay atop the Pac-12, and ultimately work themselves into the College Football Playoff picture.
"We're going to celebrate our wins, but as an offense and as a defense there's things we've got to work on," Gonzalez said. "Seeing them frustrated is kind of a good thing, knowing they can do better. And then on the flip side, we can finish out a game better as a defense. It's just getting back to work, being humble and hungry."