Oregon Ducks Show Why They’re A Pac-12 — and Playoff — Contender


Contributor, 750 The Game

Oregon improved to 6-1 on Saturday with a 38-24 win over Washington State. They had pulled away even more than that until the Cougars scored with less than a minute to play, trailing by 22 points at the time. It was WSU’s first touchdown of the second half, and their first since taking a 10-3 lead early in the second quarter. Oregon then went on a 38-6 run that featured explosive offense and good defense. 

It was far from a perfect game from the Ducks, who seemed to be dealing with a little bit of emotional hangover from last week’s loss to Washington. WSU ended with 495 yards of offense, with Cam Ward throwing for 438. He was spectacular, making a lot of plays and throws where you just have to tip your cap to a heck of a football player. The good news though? Oregon only allowed two touchdowns on the day and held the Cougs to 5-for-18 on 3rd and 4th down — not too shabby.

I think it’s a good thing this game was played in front of a rowdy Autzen Stadium crowd or it could have gotten even tighter, though I think Oregon wins this game almost every time. Oregon eventually enforced its will on the Cougars running for over 240 yards on almost 8 yards per carry. It took longer to get going than Duck fans might have liked, and the defense allowed a lot of yards. In the end, Oregon showed why it’s a really good football team.

Jordan James went over 100 yards on the ground, and his 37-yard carry seemed to really serve as a spark for the Oregon offense and the team as a whole. His backfield mate Bucky Irving stole all the headlines with what I thought was the best game of his Oregon career. He had 180 total yards and three touchdowns, two of which generated highlights that are still flying around Twitter as we speak.

Oregon didn’t play anywhere near their best football on Saturday. They had a slow start, 7 penalties (one of which negated a touchdown), missed an early field goal, and watched Cam Ward make a bunch of NFL-caliber plays. Yet the Ducks didn’t have to worry about the outcome by the time the end of the 4th quarter rolled around. That’s what impresses me the most about Dan Lanning’s team right now, they don’t have to play their best football to win games like this. They’ll need an A/A- performance to win at Utah next week, but a B- effort that results in a multi-touchdown victory is the mark of a really good team. 

Also, this team has been described as the most balanced in the Pac-12. I completely agree. They’ve run for over 200 yards in 5 straight games, all with Bo Nix at the helm. Nix threw for 293 yards and 2 touchdowns, running for a touchdown as well. He continues to be perhaps the most consistent quarterback in the country, and his playmaking combined with Oregon’s ground game is making them as lethal of an offense as exists in the country. 

Oregon’s defense did rack up six sacks, though it didn’t feel that way on Saturday. Cam Ward is slippery and immensely talented, which defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus described as “annoying” during the lead up to the game. Hard to not agree with him after watching the game, he’s just hard to bring down.

Still, Oregon’s defense didn’t do themselves any statistical favors allowing 438 yards through the air. But Washington State was one dimensional, averaging under 3 yards a carry. There were adjustments made to hold Jake Dickert’s team without a touchdown for basically the entire second half. Plus, Oregon was without their best corner in Khyree Jackson and Jahlil Florence didn’t play until the second half. Linebacker Jestin Jacobs made his season debut, and looked like a difference maker for the defense.

The Ducks have five games left in the regular season, starting with a tough matchup at Utah this week. With more than one way to win and playmakers on both sides of the ball, going 5-0 feels within reach for the Ducks. 

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.