Bo Nix and the greatest run of the season
Two yards for the Ducks makes all the difference as Nix adds to his growing Oregon legend. So, what if he sticks around another year?
Let’s begin with an answer to the question seemingly everyone in America had when the Oregon Ducks opened up the second half last night with Ty Thompson at quarterback.
You know, the play designed as an end-around for Dont’e Thornton that resulted in a fumble and quick six points for Utah.
The one with Bo Nix on the sideline.
“You can critique that one,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said after. “That was poor. It didn’t work out well, obviously. I’m glad that didn’t cost us the game.”
And the best run of Nix’s career, he could have added.
See, No. 12 Oregon’s 20-17 win over No. 10 Utah, the one that kept the Ducks in control of their Pac-12 title game destiny, didn’t come easy. Just a week ago Washington snatched the Ducks’ souls and disqualified them from the College Football Playoff on grounds of defensive incompetence. And it was just a year ago that Utah demoralized the Ducks twice in the season’s final three weeks.
And then there’s the Nix thing.
First, what hadn’t he done yet this season? Especially with those legs. He’s had runs out wide. He’s had runs up the middle. He’s followed blockers, trucked through linebackers and pulled away from DBs in the straights. With 14 touchdowns on the ground coming into Saturday, only the likes of Mariota and Masoli can claim to have made as much of an impact on the ground as Nix.
But Bo had one leg Saturday.
“I’ve never been a part of a game-time decision,” Nix told reporters after the win. “But it was a legitimately game-time decision.”
And to be honest, Nix looked like a game-time decision for much of the game. It wasn’t until the second half that the former Auburn QB rolled anywhere near outside the pocket, as Kenny Dillingham’s game plan for the Ducks’ offense relied on quick-strike passing and some heavy running from Noah Whittington and Bucky Irving.
Nix didn’t have his fastball. He left throws short, was off target on others and didn’t have the zip to get a ball in past Utah corner Clark Phillips III on what could have been a back-breaking interception in the fourth quarter. He was so visibly limited that it didn’t seem out of the world when Thompson, Nix’s backup, began the third quarter in the huddle with the Ducks backed up in their own zone.
Of course, the play blew up, Utah brought the game within a score and one of the wildest second-halves in recent Autzen history was well underway. But for one of the first times this season, the defense had Nix’s back every step of the way making stops on Utah’s final three drives.
It all set up the play: With Oregon facing a 3rd-and-1, up three with under two minutes remaining, Nix took the snap, watched the defense bite on a fake to Whittington and then dove forward for a 2-yard gain.
“I felt like my team deserved my shot,” said Nix. “I felt like the team deserved for me to give them what I had.”
Of course, he wanted that a week ago, too, when he was seen begging to return to the Washington game, just before Whittington slipped when needing a yard.
What if Bo didn’t get hurt against Washington? Add it to the list of greatest “What ifs” in Oregon history, but the quarterback made sure there was no questioning him in his Autzen finale.
“We asked Bo right before that play if we could run the play knowing that the two options were to hand it off or for him to keep it and he said ‘absolutely,’” Lanning said. “That guy’s got heart, he cares about the game, he cares about this team and I think it shows in the way he plays.”
It makes you wonder what things will look like a year from now. Thompson has yet to show any of the flashes that made him such a highly sought after recruit, yet he’s ahead of Jay Butterfield on the depth chart. Dante Moore, Oregon’s committed 5-star savior, has yet to sign. It seems clear that Lanning and Dillingham are a pair of talented and aggressive coaches. And it also seems clear that Nix’s play this season has made up for some of the lessons they’ve had to learn throughout their first season at the helm.
What if Nix sticks around?
Seems unlikely, but that’s a question I’d really like to see answered.
— Tyson Alger
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Coming back to play college ball might be a tough thing for a guy like Nix, who is clearly talented enough to play at the next level but suffering greatly from perception bias. These days though a good NIL offer and an insurance policy against loss of draft status could be a better deal than becoming a 6th round pick for a team that might not need a QB. The incentive will be there to stay if he's willing.
Clearly the job is far from settled next year. While Thompson hasn't had the fairest shot to play a full game with a plan tailored for him, he's not looked ready at all out there. Moore might be the second coming of the Almighty but relying on a true frosh QB would be foolish.
Super impressed with the grit & guts that Nix displayed. He simply willed just enough offense into existence to win the game.
Ty Thompson has has 3 years in the program to make it onto the field. Every time he takes the field, I cringe, expecting disaster [and often, Ty delivers on that expectation-- including the botched pitch on the one play he ran]. Quite frankly, he has consistently shown that he's not an FBS quarterback. Plain & simple, he's just not good enough.
Hopefully a big enough NIL package can be put together for Bo and he stays for one more year to tutor Moore. If not, the Ducks need to mine the portal again for a capable replacement.