Oregon may have seen its playoff chances come crashing down last week, but hope is still alive and well for a shot at the Pac-12 title.
No. 12 Oregon held off No. 10 Utah 20-17 on Saturday in Eugene to move into prime position for the conference title game.
All the Ducks needs is a win over rival Oregon State next week to advance to the Pac-12 championship, where it would face USC in Las Vegas.
Saturday’s win was a big bounce-back for the Ducks (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) coming off a devastating loss to Washington a week ago on the same field. That loss knocked Oregon out of playoff contention and, at the time, looked like it may have knocked star quarterback Bo Nix out as well.
But despite an ankle injury suffered last in the Washington game, Nix made the start against Utah and came out firing. He and the Ducks’ offense marched down the field for a quick touchdown on the opening drive of the game to grab a 7-0 lead.
That lead ballooned to 17-3 by halftime as Oregon’s defense smothered Utah.
That made things easier on Nix, who looked less mobile than usual as he was likely not 100% healthy, but he largely avoided mistakes — other than a fourth-quarter interception — and mostly kept the offense on schedule.
He completed 25-of-37 passes for 287 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
The biggest mistake the Ducks’ offense made came on a play when Nix wasn’t even on the field. On its first offensive play of the second half, Oregon brought backup QB Ty Thompson on the field to run a tricky reverse play, but the handoff was botched and Utes linebacker Karene Reid scooped up the fumble and scored. It cut Oregon’s lead to 17-10.
Utah then tied it at 17-17 later in the third quarter on Jaylen Dixon’s 18-yard run.
Despite all that, Oregon answered with a long, methodical drive that was capped with a go-ahead Camden Lewis field goal with 12:07 to play. It wound up being the difference as the Ducks picked off Utah QB Cam Rising twice in the second half to help seal it.
Rising struggled all night, finishing 21-of-38 passing for 170 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. Bennett Williams snagged two of those picks for Oregon.
The Utes (8-3, 6-2) are now likely to miss out on a shot to repeat as conference champions.