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Win Streak Ends With Heartbreaker

Nov 12, 2022

EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon went from driving to a potential game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter to dropping a heartbreaker to Washington and worrying about the status of its quarterback Saturday night in Autzen Stadium.

The Huskies kicked a field goal with 51 seconds left to beat the Ducks, 37-34, and end Oregon's perfect start to Pac-12 play. The Ducks were up 31-27 and methodically driving the field when quarterback Bo Nix limped off with an injury late in fourth quarter, and though he gamely returned in the final minute, momentum was lost.

The Ducks fell to 8-2 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12 play, losing for the first time since the season opener. They remain in the thick of the hunt for the conference title but are almost certainly out of the running for the College Football Playoff after being ranked No. 6 earlier in the week.

"Certainly not the result we hoped for," UO coach Dan Lanning said. "I think our guys played the entire game; they certainly didn't quit, they didn't throw in the towel. I think you have to give Washington credit. They played a complete game and we made more mistakes at the end of the game that hurt us. This game 100 percent falls on me."

An expected shootout was slow to develop, with UW leading 13-10 at halftime. But the offenses came to life in the third quarter, and Oregon took a 31-27 lead. The Huskies were in the red area to open the fourth when Noah Sewell tipped a pass that Jeffrey Bassa intercepted at the 1-yard line, giving the Ducks the chance to make it a two-score game.

The Ducks proceeded to put together a 20-play, 91-yard drive that took 10:33 off the clock, shades of the final possession at California in 2010. But after Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington did most of the work on the drive, Nix tried to run on third-and-five from the UW 10-yard line, came up short and had to be helped off the field.

Camden Lewis kicked a field goal to put the Ducks up 34-27, but Michael Penix Jr. threw a 62-yard touchdown pass for UW to tie it up with 3:07 to play. With Ty Thompson at quarterback in place of Nix, the Ducks stuck with the run and ultimately tried to convert a fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line, where Whittington slipped down short of the line.

The Huskies kicked a go-ahead field goal after taking over with 1:26 to play, and though Nix returned to lead Oregon's final chance with the ball, time expired with the Ducks just past midfield.

"We knew we're going in that situation," Lanning said of the decision to roll the dice on fourth down in their own territory. "You look back and you can say in retrospect we should punt there, have a chance. But you also feel like hey, you get that first, you probably got a chance to win the game."

The call was one of a series of the type of decisions that were so key to Oregon's eight-game winning streak, but which didn't work out as well Saturday.

In the second quarter the Ducks were inside the UW 5-yard line, lined up in a swinging gate formation, motioned back into a more traditional look as the play clock was expiring and fumbled the ball away when the snap was mishandled. Oregon also attempted an onside kick later in the second quarter that was unsuccessful.

"We've sat in his room and talked about it when they worked out," Lanning said in his postgame press conference. "And now we're sitting in this room and talking about when they didn't."

Nix finished the game 19-of-27 passing for 280 yards with two touchdowns, and also ran for 59 yards and a touchdown. Irving had a career-high 143 rushing yards and Whittington added 108 plus a touchdown, giving the Ducks their first 100-yard rushing tandem since 2018. Christian Gonzalez led the UO defense with nine tackles.

Troy Franklin had 139 receiving yards including a 67-yard touchdown during Oregon's third-quarter rally into the lead, a 21-point period that also included a 46-yard TD reception by Dont'e Thornton. All told the Ducks put up 592 yards of offense, while Washington had 522 — including 408 through the air by the nation's No. 1 passing offense.

The Ducks next turn their attention to their home finale next week against Utah, still in control of their chances to reach the Pac-12 Championship Game.

"We've got a tight locker room," Lanning said."I think our players recognize that and realize that, and this won't change their approach."