SAN DIEGO, CA – For the first time ever, Petco Park was used as a football field for the Holiday Bowl last night. The Oregon Ducks defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels in thrilling fashion 28-27.
Receiving the ball with 2:24 remaining in the game, in a six point hole, quarterback Bo Nix was in prime position to lead the Ducks on a game winning drive. The four year starter marched the offense down the field to take the lead with 19 seconds remaining. The drive was almost derailed by an extra point that bounced off the upright. Fortunately for the Ducks they had holiday luck on their side.
Nix’s veteran presence was shown throughout the final quarter but especially on the last throw to Chase Cota. He would complete five of his seven passes on the drive and throw the touchdown at the end of it. After the game, head coach Dan Lanning shared that, “Bo did a good job calling what he wanted on that one.” Insinuating that Nix was the one to choose the play on the 4th and 2 that decided the game. “That’s one of our just go-to plays. We feel really good about that play. We’ve run it multiple times. It’s hard to stop against guys and good situations,” said Nix.
Nix came alive late for the Ducks, but in that first half running back Bucky Irving carried the load for the offense as he tailed over 100 yards and two touchdowns. He broke the second one off for 66 yards. The sophomore started to get less carries as the night went on because Oregon has a deep running back room, but his impact was heavily felt.
Irving ended his night with 149 rushing yards to go along with his two scores. Following the win he talked about the impact that coach Lanning had on him in the game. “Coach Lanning came up to me and asked, do I want to be great? I said, of course. Do you really want to be great? I said, yes. Then he told me to trust the guy in front of me. I just want to thank him for telling me what I can do,” stated Irving.
The feeling that Bo has for coach Lanning can probably be echoed in that locker room. Lanning prides himself on building relationships with his players.
“I coach for the relationships,” said Lanning. “I love to win, but we have relationships on this team. Everybody says blood is thicker than water. I sure love these guys. Maybe not true blood, but I share blood with these guys. These guys are my family. ”In his first season as head coach, Dan Lanning led the Ducks to a 10-3 record. A lot of the players will be returning to Oregon including quarterback Bo Nix, and a pursuit for the national championship will be in the calling card for next season.
Tar Heel quarterback Drake Maye put on a really strong performance, giving North Carolina fans hope for the future. The redshirt freshman had 249 total yards and three passing touchdowns in his first career bowl game.
Head coach Mack Brown spoke glowingly about his young quarterback after the game. “Drake is an absolutely amazing person. He is a better person than quarterback. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and we had two of the best quarterbacks in the country tonight, and they showed that. They put on a show that everybody thought they would put on,” said coach Brown.