By SPENCER McLAUGHLIN
Contributor, 750 The Game
In almost every instance, winning by 36 points in a game in which you were favored by 21 doesn’t do much for staying in the national spotlight. That wasn’t the case for Dan Lanning’s Oregon Ducks on Saturday after their 42-6 thrashing of Colorado. It was the best coaching performance of Dan Lanning’s young career.
In front of a national TV audience, they derailed the Coach Prime/Colorado hype train – for now – and reminded everyone that the Buffs still have work to do in order to contend for conference titles. Colorado will be fine in the long run as long as Deion Sanders is their head coach. Oregon sure does feel the same way about the man who got an extension and a raise just before the season.
Coach Prime is an attention magnet, which makes them such a great villainous story arc in college football. But it was Lanning’s pregame speech to his team that stands out the most to me for quotes from coaches. “They’re fighting for clicks, we’re fighting for wins…rooted in substance, not flash.”
It was a message to motivate his team, and one that resonated with those college football fans who were fed up with Colorado’s hype machine. I understand those who feel that way – the national media’s infatuation with the Buffs can be over the top sometimes.
Lanning’s message was that middle bowl of porridge in the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: not too hot, not too cold – it was just right.
His team was focused from the opening possession. They had a negative play on their first from scrimmage, only to methodically and easily move down the field and score a touchdown. Then there was a 3-and-out forced by the defense which faced so many questions before the season. Then there was another touchdown drive. That formula continued for most of the first half.
Lanning pushed the right buttons for his team, and the tactical side of things was handled perfectly on both sides of the ball. Last year’s defense had good/great games against Utah and North Carolina, and also had major low points against Washington and Oregon State. Saturday was the best his defense has looked to date.
The strong showing against Utah last year featured 3 interceptions of QB Cam Rising and a couple of 4th down stops. I was more impressed on Saturday because the defense didn’t need turnovers or big stops to feel impactful. They were dominant in stifling a Colorado passing attack led by a future 1st-round NFL Draft selection in Shedeur Sanders. They were physical up front. The secondary covered extremely well across the board. Sanders didn’t have time to throw, and he didn’t have anywhere to go with the football.
The Ducks’ starters on defense didn’t allow a touchdown to one of the top 5 passing attacks in the country, who didn’t exactly have a schedule of 3 FCS opponents to pad the stats. They were motivated, disciplined enough (can still improve), well-schemed, and had their best players playing at a high level. Jordan Burch had 2 sacks. Khyree Jackson was doing his best impression of Christian Gonzalez and appeared to have massively improved his ball skills from that infamous pass interference call against Texas Tech.
Colorado didn’t even get to 200 yards offensively. Going in, I would have thought holding Shedeur Sanders under 250 yards through the air was a great showing. He finished with 159.
In a league with the best lineup of quarterbacks in the country, it sure was a statement sort of game for Dan Lanning and his team. They were dominant in all 3 phases of the game – thanks to a fake punt in the second quarter – and gave a rowdy Autzen crowd plenty to ‘Shout’ about all day.
Lanning was grinning after giving a fist pump to special teams coach Joe Lorig following the fake punt success. I imagine he did plenty of that in the postgame locker room as well.
He earned it.
Spencer McLaughlin is an Oregon Ducks football contributor to 750 The Game. He also hosts the “Locked On Oregon Ducks” and “Locked On Pac-12” podcasts and has work featured throughout the season here.