EUGENE, OR – Following a heartbreaking loss last week to the now No. 5 Washington Huskies, the No. 9 Oregon Ducks (5-1) returned to Autzen Stadium Saturday where they hosted the Washington State Cougars (4-2). The Ducks had to shake off some rust early during their homecoming game but avoided the dreaded letdown after an impressive second half effort, defeating the Cougars 38-24.
The Ducks struggled early, leaving their first three possessions with only 3 points. Camden Lewis, who missed a field goal last weekend that would have sent the Ducks to overtime against the Huskies, missed a 47-yard field goal on Oregon’s opening drive. Lewis was able to shake the nerves on his second attempt, however, tying the game at 6 to end the first quarter.
Momentum shifted for Oregon as they finally found their spark in the second quarter, which was led by running back tandem Bucky Irving and Jordan James. Both running backs recorded over 100 rushing yards on the day.
In the second quarter, James quickly marched the Ducks from their own 28 yard-line on 5 carries for 57 yards, setting Irving up with short distance where he punched in their first touchdown of the day from the 2-yard line.
Washington State tried to answer Oregon’s score but failed to convert on 4th down as Oregon successfully defended a wide receiver pass by Lincoln Victor. Following the failed conversion, Oregon pulled out a trick play of their own when Bo Nix walked to the left side of the line as if to call out a blocking adjustment to his line, and a direct snap to Jordan James caught Washington State off guard, resulting in a first down for the Ducks. The drive was capped by a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Nix, giving the Ducks their first lead of the game at 17-10.
After the game Bo Nix spoke on the second quarter spark the run game gave his offense, stating “That was huge. We pretty much just ran the ball [in the second quarter]… Obviously got the scoring going, and that was good for us”.
Oregon pulled away in the second half, as the Cougars were unable to match the offensive success of the Ducks. To counter the run game, Washington State started bringing an extra man up in the box, which allowed Oregon’s passing game to get going. Bo Nix finished the day 18/25 for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns. Nix connected with Tez Johnson Bucky Irving on his two touchdown passes.
Autzen Stadium fell silent when Bucky Irving appeared to be unconscious after his helmet was slammed into the ground on a 3-yard rush. Irving was ultimately able to walk to the medical tent under his own power and return to the game, which is a huge sigh of relief for the Ducks. Irving is an integral piece of Oregon’s team, and finished the day with 180 all-purpose yards, and 3 total touchdowns. Head coach Dan Lanning described Irving after the game by saying “This dude is so passionate. He cares so much for his teammates. Never goes down on first contact. Really selfless player, and that shows up when you watch this guy play on the field.”
Washington State was able to score their second touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Cameron Ward found Isaiah Hamilton for a 16-yard score, then successfully found Kyle Williams on a two-point conversion, bringing the score to its final at 38-24.
Dreams of playing in the College Football Playoff are still very much alive for Lanning and his Ducks, but the road there won’t be easy. Oregon will head to Utah next Saturday, to face the No. 14 Utes at 12:30 PST.