There was a lot of disappointment in Eugene on Saturday night. Not only did Oregon put an end to their winning streak this season, they also put an end to a home winning streak that stemmed back to 2018. The Ducks plainly lost a game in which they shouldn’t have lost, but the aftermath may be of concern moving forward.
The first half was surprisingly a defensive battle, with Washington holding a 13-10 edge heading into the break. In the third quarter, Oregon’s offense came back to life. The problem was, no matter what the Ducks did on offense the Huskies quickly matched it.
Early in the fourth quarter Oregon finally got a break with an interception in the red zone while UW was threatening to score. The Ducks methodically ran the ball all the way down the field but couldn’t punch it in and settled for a field goal and a 7 point lead.
Washington had no issues tying it up with a touchdown bomb from Penix Jr. (his second of the half), but still Oregon had a chance to drive for the win.
Or, at least, it appeared they did, but Bo Nix tweaked his leg on the previous drive and was held out in favor of Ty Thompson, who has not shown in any of his playing time this season that he is capable of moving the offense.
A head-scratching call to go for it on fourth down without Nix ended in failure, and UW was easily set up for their game-winning field goal. Nix returned for Oregon’s final drive, but his final desperation attempt to win the game was short by a mile, and Oregon had lost 37-34.
There is a good amount of frustration towards the play calling in the game, which is understandable, considering Oregon tried to be “cute” in several situations that simply called for basics. However, what may have been the most concerning was Oregon’s complete inability to even slow Washington’s passing attack.
Penix went off for 408 yards passing, a record for Washington against UO, and the number of over-the-middle pass plays given up by the Ducks was flat-out embarrassing.
Any film of the Huskies in 2022 will reveal that their offense flows through the air, and the routes that UW receivers were running weren’t anything Oregon hasn’t seen before. But somehow, watching this game, Duck fans would groan as soon as Penix released the ball from his hand, knowing that it was likely going to be caught for a big play.
There is no way a team should compile 592 yards of offense at home and lose, but because of their anemic pass defense, Oregon was able to do it. The concern now is, will we see this from the Ducks again?
Utah, a team that realistically is better than Washington, comes to town next week. Early forecasts call for dry weather again and who’s to say the Utes may not look at game tape and figure “hmm, let’s just let it fly”?
If Oregon is able to win their final two games, it’s likely that either USC or UCLA await them in Las Vegas, and both teams have potent aerial attacks. The play calling can be fixed in a week’s time, but the play of the entire defensive backfield? That may take a little longer.
Last season, Oregon was on a path to a New Year’s Six bowl game and came unhinged at season’s end.
Let’s hope history isn’t in line to repeat itself.