Canzano: Dan Lanning's Oregon Ducks out-Chip UCLA
Ducks beat Bruins 45-30.
EUGENE — Chip Kelly did a lot of wonderful things at Autzen Stadium over the years. But something new happened on what might be his final visit.
He got out-chip’d.
It was Oregon 45, UCLA 30 on Saturday in front of the fourth-largest crowd in stadium history. Talk all you’d like about the offense and defense, but it was Dan Lanning’s coaching that I went home thinking about.
An onside kick.
Three ‘go-for-its’ on fourth down.
It was the most Chip-Kelly-performance ever, wasn’t it?
“It was there,” Lanning said of the first-half onside kick, “we saw it after the first kickoff.”
Give Oregon’s first-year coach some credit. Lanning conducted a master class on Saturday. His team rushed for 262 yards. Bo Nix threw five touchdown passes. The Ducks executed on both sides of the ball, but that sneaky onside kick flipped a back-and-forth game on its head.
It was clever and well executed. Also, the kickoff caught UCLA napping. There were several times on Saturday that I thought, “Mario Cristobal would have never…” but none of them more impactful than that little tumbling kick that rolled 11 yards as 59,000-plus witnesses picked their jaws up off the stadium floor.
“We felt like there was a chance to steal a possession,” Lanning said.
Nix was terrific, completing 22 of 28 passes. Troy Franklin, his favorite target, caught eight balls for 132 yards. Franklin scored two touchdowns, including a 49-yard TD reception on a pass from Nix that soared so high it could have brought rain.
“Man, that was fun,” Franklin said later. “All I had to do was catch it.”
Simple game, isn’t it?
Throw, catch. Block, tackle. A day that started with College GameDay and a lot of national-television build-up, came down to simple execution. Lanning’s team didn’t wilt on the big stage, it stole the show.
Bruins’ athletic director Martin Jarmond paced the hallway of the fifth floor of the stadium press box in the second half. His team came into the game with a 6-0 record and a No. 9 ranking. With seven minutes to play, UCLA hadn’t yet punted. The Bruins had scored on every possession — and still, they trailed by 22 points.
“I had no idea Oregon’s offensive line was this good,” Jarmond said.
It’s true. The Ducks offense moved the chains in chunks, including 10 running plays of 10-plus yards. UO blew UCLA’s defense off the ball, averaging more than six yards per rush until a series of kneel-downs at the end.
Under the goal posts near the end of the game, former women’s basketball star Sabrina Ionescu stood alongside Oregon AD Rob Mullens, smiling and watching the final few plays. Boosters slapped backs. Ionescu waved to the crowd. Former UO star Ahmad Rashad was there, too. So was former long-time UO assistant Gary Campbell.
It felt like old times, didn’t it?
By “old times” I mean, like when Autzen Stadium was Kelly’s castle.
Lanning owns Lane County’s biggest chateau now. After the game Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham skipped around at mid-field, belly-bumping and celebrating with his lineman. Guard Marcus Harper came along, saw the scene, and picked Dillingham up. He lifted the assistant coach off the turf and spun him in a circle in the air.
There’s bound to be discussion today about whether there’s anything Oregon (6-1) can do to play its way back into the College Football Playoff conversation. The Ducks season-opening back-alley whipping by No. 1 Georgia cast a dismal first impression.
Would a 12-1 Oregon make the selection committee forget that 49-3 hiccup?
Don’t answer yet.
There’s more work to do.
Oregon goes on the road at Cal next week. After that, the Ducks play at Colorado, then its home vs. Washington and Utah. The regular-season finale is on the road vs. rival Oregon State (Nov. 26). Beyond that, Oregon may get a chance to showcase itself vs. USC or someone else in the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas.
Given that UCLA was the Pac-12’s final unbeaten team, it’s possible the conference’s playoff hopes died violently on Saturday. But UO sure looked like a team that wants to matter again. Playoff? Rose Bowl? Debate what you’d rather see happen, but what isn’t in question is how dominant Oregon looked vs. UCLA on Saturday.
The old adage goes: You can’t beat Chip Kelly with field goals.
Turns out field goals don’t beat Dan Lanning either.
Kelly sent his kicker on the field three times and got nine points for his trouble. Lanning matched that with TDs on five-straight possessions.
Said Lanning: “When you trade touchdowns for field goals, that’s a recipe for success.”
Oregon’s first-year coach needed this game. Not just because it represented another win and put the Ducks on top of the Pac-12 standings. But because it came against one of the ghosts of Oregon football’s past. Nobody won quite like Chip Kelly did at Autzen Stadium.
Nobody had Kelly’s swagger.
Nobody made opponents look quite as overmatched and unprepared.
It’s why Saturday’s double-digit win over UCLA felt so complete for Oregon and Dan Lanning. Offense, check. Defense, check. Special teams, check. That it came against Chip Kelly?
Checkmate, old pal.
(VIEW THE PHOTO GALLERY OF THE GAME)
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