EUGENE — It feels like it was just the other day that Bo Nix was a bum. He was the erratic, inconsistent, transfer quarterback gumming up the gears of the football machine at the University of Oregon.
“Nix — rhymes with picks,” one fan jeered.
“Mr. Hot Garbage,” another offered.
On Saturday, that guy punched back in a way few should ever forget.
It was Oregon 41, BYU 20.
Ducks’ coach Dan Lanning walked into the post-game news conference, plopped into a leather chair, and said: “Well, that was fun.”
I know some didn’t appreciate it when the No. 12-ranked Cougars stopped the clock in the final seconds and ran one more play. But I sort of needed the pause. I think we all did. It gave us a moment to reflect on Nix’s journey and embrace the idea that he was all kinds of wonderful in a knockout victory.
I don’t know what you did on Saturday. Pulled some weeds? Cleaned up the garage? Maybe you sat on a lawn chair and watched your kid play soccer?
Well, you’ve got nothing on Oregon’s quarterback. Against BYU, Nix ran with the ball, threw the ball, and even took off blocking downfield a handful of times. He was 13 of 18 for 222 passing yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for three other touchdowns.
Nix’s fingerprints were on five TDs, folks.
In fact, the quarterback made it look so easy that first-year head coach, Dan Lanning, interrupted the symphony by clanging some cymbals together. He pulled Nix and put in back-up Ty Thompson in the third quarter. You know, the guy fans were clamoring for a couple of weeks ago?
Turned out, the move was premature. I don’t know if we should blame Lanning. He was just giving the people what they wanted. Thompson took over, the Ducks tripped all over themselves. Thompson threw an unfortunate interception. The offense napped. A few minutes later, Nix put his helmet back on, ran on the field, and fans cheered the encore act.
Then, Nix proceeded to take the Oregon offense down the field and drive the Cougars’ psyche into a dimly lit corner of Lane County.
We’ve had the pleasure of watching some magnificent quarterbacks in Eugene over the years. I don’t know when you started following Oregon, but Dan Fouts, Chris Miller, Joey Harrington, Marcus Mariota and Justin Herbert all had impressive games early in their college careers.
I’ll never forget seeing Mariota throw six touchdown passes against Cal in his first season. Or Herbert passing for 489 yards and four TDs as a freshman while demolishing Arizona State. And who could forget Harrington’s four-touchdown passing game that beat USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2000?
This BYU game felt like a Bo Nix validation parade.
It’s Bo’s team now.
He won the starting job in fall camp, but won over the UO fan base on Saturday, one play at a time. I don’t know if he’s going to dominate at Washington State. Pullman is a tough place to play and WSU’s defense is disruptive. But if Saturday proved anything, it was that Bo Nix is capable of leading Oregon just about anywhere it wants to go this season.
“I think Bo is proving that he can do whatever we need him to do during a game,” Lanning said.
A few quick points:
The pundits are about to swing on the college-football pendulum and give us whiplash. Be sure of it. Oregon hadn’t even finished off BYU and already the world was wondering if Georgia — 49-3 winners over Oregon in Week 1 — might just be THAT good. It’s possible, sure. But it’s also possible that the Ducks have made some important strides.
Nix has seven TD passes and no interceptions in his last two games. Granted, one of those outings was against a Big Sky Conference opponent. But he’s looking comfortable in offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham’s offense.
Oregon effectively used tempo, particularly early on. I think the increased pace helped Nix. I’d like to see more of it in the coming weeks. When the Ducks plod along, standing around between plays, sipping coffee, they appear stagnant.
Saturday’s victory was Oregon’s most complete and impressive performance as a football team since… when?
Ohio State, last season?
It’s been a while, regardless. The Ducks’ defense tackled well against BYU. The Oregon offensive line took command of the game. And the offensive explosion — including five pass plays of 20-plus yards — was remarkable against a BYU defense that traditionally doesn’t easily give up yards.
Anyone notice what Kalani Sitake did after the game?
The BYU coach removed his hat as he congratulated Lanning on the field. Sitake kept his hat off through the entire exchange. I couldn’t help but see it as a sign of respect. Remember, Sitake, like Lanning, is a defensive-minded coach. Also, Sitake was among those that Oregon interviewed before it offered Lanning the job last December.
I watched Nix after the game, too. He walked off the sideline as time expired, hugged a couple of his offensive lineman, then just sort of wandered around the field, shaking hands with the BYU players.
Said Lanning: “It’s the small things that you don’t see that make him a great quarterback.”
Letting the clock bleed.
Changing the play at the line of scrimmage.
Throwing a pass away vs. taking a sack.
Did Bo Nix hear the cries for his job a couple of weeks ago? Did he know fans doubted he could win a big game against a ranked opponent? Did anyone tell him that UO fans were ready to see more of Thompson?
“I think our team is really good ignoring the outside noise,” Lanning said. “We only worry about the opinions in this room.”
I’m sure Nix heard some of the noise.
He sure played like it.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate all who have supported, subscribed and shared my new independent endeavor with friends and family in recent months. If you haven’t already — please consider subscribing.
My pet theory has been that this UGA team will replace 00/01 Miami as the best of all time.
Playing that many new players, in the first game for so many coaches at their position, and players at theirs.
Watching UW right now. Beavers later. WSU last week. The pac sure is having the kind of season it needs to have during media rights negotiations.
ESPN gives the ducks no love. Joey Galloway stated the only reason byu lost was because of their previous game against Baylor. So happy fox had the game. Even Brock Huard a noted duck hater gave Bo and the ducks some love. Next week will be interesting.