Anytime a team allows 21 points in the fourth quarter, there are questions about what happened. In the case of the Oregon Ducks, those final 15 minutes will be a painful memory for fans for years to come. The Ducks just needed to hold onto a 31-17 lead against their rivals in Oregon State, and they could book their tickets to the PAC-12 Championship game.
But a brutal final 15 minutes, where they were outscored by 18 points, tanked this team and gave the Beavers one of the great upsets in the history of this rivalry. Ducks fans have had a few days to think back on this game, but the depression from this loss won’t go away anytime soon. Oregon’s chances of playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl are completely gone. Instead, they are looking at something like the Holiday Bowl. It hurt the fans, and the players, like Bo Nix.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Ducks quarterback Bo Nix said. “Losing sucks. Losing in that way, there’s no fun in it. It’s difficult. There are a bunch of ways you can learn and grow from it and get back to the drawing board. … It’s frustrating because we had our chances. You never want to lose like that, but it’s part of football.”
So, where did it all go wrong? If we look back at the fourth quarter, the Ducks had four possessions, and the Beavers had four. In those four Oregon possessions, they kicked a field goal, fumbled once, and turned it over on downs twice. They ate up nearly half the quarter with almost nothing to show. On the other hand, the Beavers scored three times, and on their fourth possession, they kneed it out and won the game.
The Ducks got close on their final possession. They had a first-and-goal from the Oregon State 5 and couldn’t punch it in. The final offensive play was an incomplete pass from Nix. There are many takeaways from this game and certainly lots of concerns. Not to mention, the Ducks lost their co-offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, less than 24 hours after this one ended. Let’s break down the three most significant things that went wrong.
What on Earth happened to special teams?
I am not sure I’ve seen a single unit have more of a collapse than that of the Ducks’ special teams in those final 15 minutes. Their first chance to impress in the final frame was spoiled by a massive kick return with a 15-yard penalty tacked on that gave OSU the ball inside the Ducks’ 40. And you guessed it; it led to a score.
As soon as the Ducks went back to return their kick, it was taken at the 1-yard-line, and a penalty backed them up to the eight. Not great. So when they went three-and-out very quickly, they just hoped for a great punt. They didn’t get it. The snap was fumbled, and punter Alex Bales was tackled at the two-yard line. Oh..and Oregon State pretty much scored immediately.
So a quick recap – terrible penalties, bad return tackling, fumbled punt. But it doesn’t end there.
On the next Oregon drive, they returned the kick to their own 10-yard-line. After a quick five plays, the Ducks had a fourth down at the 29-yard-line, and instead of punting it, Lanning clearly lost his confidence and went for it instead. Turnover on Downs.
The special teams didn’t execute, gave the coaching staff 0 confidence, and clearly couldn’t be trusted in their eyes.
4th Down Fumbling
The modern college game really encourages teams to go for it on fourth down. If you are flipping through channels on any given Sunday and there is a fourth down of four or five yards or less, it’s almost guaranteed that you will see a few conversions a game. So I understand the Ducks being aggressive and trying to convert.
However, going 0-for-5 and still thinking that plan would work was an absolute killer for this team. Lanning said after the game that being aggressive throughout the year has worked for them most of the time, but sometimes you have to adapt, boot it away, and trust your defense to make a stop.
That simply wasn’t the case on that 4th-and-1 at the Ducks 29, where they had a 34-31 lead over the Beavers and gave it right back to them. That was their fourth attempt, and it failed miserably.
Of course, they had to go for it on fourth down on their final offensive snap of the game on fourth-and-goal, but once again, it didn’t work. There was no great execution in this fourth quarter.
Where did the run defense go?
The Ducks couldn’t buy a run stop in this game. 268 yards on the ground was the damage done by Oregon State. They were averaging over six yards per carry. The Beavers only had 60 total passing yards in the game alone and could still score 38 points. Again, this is where the short field killed the Ducks in that fourth quarter.
This defense has been shaky all year, but it was fully exposed in this matchup. One Oregon State rusher had just seven yards but scored twice. Their leading rusher had 103 yards and no scores. At least three rushers went for more than 50 yards. The Beavers got help from everyone, and Oregon didn’t have an answer.