The I-5: Oregon's rolling, Colorado's plummeting and a tip of the hat to the OSU defense
The five things you need to know from this weekend in the Pac-12.
The Cougars’ defense bent and bent.
Finally, trailing 34-29 with under two minutes remaining, Bo Nix, Troy Franklin and the Ducks snapped their opposition in half with a 50-yard go-ahead touchdown.
“I see that they’re in man free or damn near (cover) zero, so [the] middle of the field is wide open,” Franklin told reporters. “I know I can take the post, so I took the post. The result was the result.”
The result in this case was a thrilling come from behind win in which Oregon turned a 12-point deficit with 3:48 left in the game into a 10-point lead with one minute left.
Last week the Ducks’ offense did it with power. This week they did it with flash and bravado. Oregon scored 28 points in the fourth quarter, including 21 in a 2:48 window to seal a 44-41 victory in Pullman.
“I said, ‘Hey guys, this is two-minute drill on Thursday, just like we did in practice,’” coach Dan Lanning said. “Those guys went down and executed.”
Nix shook off an early pick-six and the offense rebounded after coming away with just six points in their first three trips to the red zone. The defense helped shut the door with a pair of fourth quarter interceptions.
“I think the offense put the defense on their back today and did a great job turning those drives into touchdowns in the second half, the drives we didn’t turn into touchdowns in the first,” Lanning said.
Make no mistake, this Washington State defense isn’t a sieve like units of years past. The Cougars are well-coached, fast and there’s NFL talent at the linebacker position. They entered the afternoon with 14 sacks through three games, then met the immovable force that this Oregon offensive line has become. The group left Pullman as the only team in the FBS to not allow a sack yet this season and suddenly the Ducks have thrown their name into the running for the conference’s most potent offense.
Kenny Dillingham’s offense is putting up numbers that haven’t been seen in Eugene since the early Justin Herbert years. On the back of Nix’s 428 passing yards, Oregon amassed 626 total yards. It was the most in a game since they racked up 703 against Southern Utah in 2017.
It was also the first time an Oregon offense has turned in multiple games of 600 yards of offense in the same season since 2015.
The play calling is alluring. The skill position players, namely Troy Franklin and the deep stable of running backs, have gone from unproven to bonafide playmakers.
Oregon outran uncertainty and the potential of a 2-2 start right into one of the best comebacks in recent program history on Saturday.
Rock bottom in Boulder
How about this for a local headline in the Denver Post.
“‘Fire Karl! Fire Karl!’ CU Buffs football is a 3-ring circus…”
And the lede:
Owen McCown put up the best passing performance for a CU Buffs quarterback in almost two years Saturday. As far as we know, the kid didn’t celebrate by jumping straight into the transfer portal.
Hey, in Boulder right now, that’s progress.
Colorado lost 45-17. Which, technically is progress from the 49-7 loss to Minnesota the week before. The Buffaloes are 0-4 and losing by 31.5 points per game, they haven’t scored more than the 17 points they scored on Saturday and the defense has yet to hold an offense below 38 points. Once a national champion, it’s safe to wonder if Colorado has ever been this bad — and that’s saying something for a program that has three 10-loss seasons since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
The fans behind the Colorado bench chanted “Fire Karl!” throughout the loss to the Bruins, and probably the only thing that hasn’t kept it from happening yet is the Pac-12’s fifth-ranked recruiting class for 2023.
Don’t look now, but Chip Kelly’s Bruins are 4-0 for the first time since 2015 and have won seven consecutive games dating back to last season. It’s been easy to nitpick the Bruins this year with narrow wins like Week 3’s escape against South Alabama, but there’s nothing to complain about here. UCLA totaled 515 yards of offense and Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed 83 percent of his passes.
We’re about to find out real quick whether or not the Bruins are legitimate. UCLA’s next three games:
No. 15 Washington
No. 12 Utah
@ No. 13 Oregon
If Chip comes out of this trio of games still undefeated, it’ll rank among the more impressive accomplishments of his career.
A hat tip to Oregon State’s defense