May 24, 2024

EUGENE, Oregon — Dan Lanning did not hesitate.

Moments after Oregon outlasted USC thanks to a 412-yard, four-touchdown performance from quarterback Bo Nix, the second-year head coach leaned into the burgeoning narrative with full force.

“A Heisman-worthy performance from Bo,” Lanning said. “We got a special one on our sidelines.”

Nix’s numbers told one side of the story — he completed 74% of his throws, averaged 13.3 yards per pass attempt and posted a 96.1 QBR. But the way in which he paced Oregon’s offense — from drives punctuated by explosive plays to methodical ones — displayed how dynamic the Ducks attack can be on their way to their ninth win.

Nix leads the nation in completion percentage at 77.7% and has 3,135 passing yards and 29 touchdowns passes this season, matching his total from last year. The fifth-year senior was a -150 favorite to win the Heisman at ESPN BET as of early Sunday morning.

But Nix still wasn’t satisfied after the sixth-ranked Ducks’ 36-27 victory Saturday.

“I thought we left a lot on the table,” he said. “We got a little bit complacent, have way too many penalties. Somehow we got to find ways to fix that.”

The game began with a bang for Nix, who threw long touchdown passes — a 74-yarder to Tez Johnson and an 88-yarder to Troy Franklin — on the Ducks’ first two drives. At one point, Nix was averaging 80.5 yards per pass.

But for every drive that started and stopped before the Ducks’ defense could catch their breath and get back on the field, Nix and Co. also sprinkled in multiple scoring drives of over six minutes to ensure that the game was played on their terms.

And it was. In fact, the Ducks did not have to punt until late in the third quarter.

“We can play two different games,” Lanning said. “We can be an explosive offense that goes and scores quick, but we can also pound it down your throat and be able to take advantage of you from that front.”

If there was any way Oregon kept a struggling USC team in the game, it was through those penalties — 13 of them for 120 yards — but they ultimately would not matter. The Ducks offense totaled 552 yards and was too efficient to be contained, let alone overcome.

“We move fast,” said Johnson, who referred to Oregon’s offense as the best in college football. “You got to keep up with fastest team in the country.”

The Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) still has a blemish from a close loss to Washington on their record, but their path to the Pac-12 title game and the College Football Playoff are clear: win out.

Nix, perhaps more than anyone, knows the goals they want to accomplish will require an even higher level than the one they’re displaying from week to week. It’s why any mention of the Heisman, from his teammates or even his coach, will prompt a head shake from Nix and a claim that he doesn’t think about the award at all.

Nix says his concern is with being more efficient, more sound, more mistake-proof in anticipation of tougher matchups ahead.

“We can even be better,” he said. “I think that’s the part to where it keeps you coming back on Monday and making you go back for another week. We know we’re not there yet.”

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