Flat and outplayed in Pac-12 territory.
On Saturday at Autzen Stadium, Oregon popped No. 12 BYU’s balloon, ending what was a 5-0 run for the Cougars against the Pac-12 dating back to last season with a 41-20 convincing victory.
BYU’s post-Baylor act on the road was ugly.
The Cougars came out sapped, played Keystone Kops defense on the first possession and the usually efficient Jaren Hall offense sputtered big time without a run threat against the Ducks, who were ranked No. 11 in the preseason AP poll before losing the opener to a scary Georgia team.
No. 25 Oregon, playing with high octane energy in the stadium where the Ducks had won 20-straight, were fired up and clearly faster, more physical and more focused than the Cougars.
BYU’s defense featured missed tackles, wrong gap assignments, little penetration, failure to hold the edge on both sides of the line of scrimmage and could not put pressure on Oregon’s star quarterback Bo Nix.
The former 5-star QB cut the Cougars asunder with his arm and legs as a result. Nix completed 13 of 18 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns through the air, and ran nine times for 33 yards and three touchdowns.
Oregon outgained BYU 439 to 366 total yards.
Oregon was 3 for 3 on fourth down tries. BYU was 0 for 4, which tells a story in itself, including the first try early in the game in Oregon territory.
On Nix’s 4-yard TD run to start the second half, which gave the Ducks a 38-7 lead, his option fake had four BYU defenders confused as to where the ball was as he drove in from 10 yards in the backfield after his fake handoff.
It was a circus for BYU. On some Oregon offensive plays, you could count three or four missed tackles from Cougar defenders, who struggled with the Duck misdirection and countermotion blocking.
This was a game BYU really, really needed a run attack to soften up Oregon’s defense.
As a result, the Ducks controlled the entire field on the Cougars for most of the game.
Hall completed 29 of 41 passes for 305 yards and two TDs, but BYU’s run game averaged just 2.5 per attempt, with Chris Brooks gaining just 28 yards on 10 carries.
BYU’s defense was a sound tackling team in wins over USF and Baylor. The difference had to be Oregon’s speed and execution, but part of it had to be what Baylor took out of the Cougars in two overtimes a week ago.
That defense you saw stop Baylor’s power run game late in the fourth and two overtimes in Provo? It didn’t go to Eugene.
Even if BYU had been able to field injured players, receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney, and defensive linemen Earl Tuioti-Mariner and Tyler Batty, it may not have been enough for the Cougars on this day.
This whole narrative about not making any adustments is absurd.— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) September 17, 2022
Lanning even said in the 2nd half to the sideline reporter that Oregon was able to run no matter what "heavy sets" BYU's defense employed.
Oregon was a better team today and BYU didn't capitalize when given opps https://t.co/Pv5D49SVL1
Oregon’s pass coverage was also outstanding. BYU’s pass pro was good enough, but BYU’s offensive line, for the second straight game, could not push around a Power 5 opponent effectively enough to establish a run attack.
That could be a concern going forward.
Hall’s 18-yard touchdown to Issas Rex in the second quarter cut Oregon’s lead to 10-7, but when the Ducks were busy scoring on what would be their first four possessions of the first half, Jake Oldroyd missed a 38-yard field goal that could have cut Oregon momentum.
Hall’s 18-yard touchdown pass to freshman Kody Epps early in the fourth quarter was a perfect route and strike that cut Oregon’s lead to 38-14. When Brooks ran for a short TD late the Cougars trailed 38-20.
Oregon put Nix back in after they’d taken him out of the previous two series, one of which resulted in a pick by Ben Bywater off reserve freshman Ty Thompson.
On Thompson’s first possession, he messed up with a lateral that ended up on the turf, but BYU’s defenders couldn’t get to the ball deep in Oregon territory and looked like they didn’t know where the ball was at all.
To me, this game reminded me of BYU’s loss in Autzen with Ty Detmer in 1990. That season, BYU came to Eugene 4-0 and ranked with lofty heads having defeated UTEP, defending champion Miami, Washington State and just put up 62 points on San Diego State the week before.
On that day, a fired up Oregon team deflated Detmer and the Cougars 32-16. Detmer used the word “flat” to describe his Cougars that day. You could see material evidence of that in this loss.
Football is a game of momentum. Oregon had it for 90 percent of Saturday’s game, and BYU could not create a serious threat.
BYU’s 5-1 record over the past two seasons against the Pac-12 came with wins over Utah and ASU in Provo, Arizona in Las Vegas, USC in Los Angles and Washington State in Pullman.
This trip to Eugene was a big ask.
The key to BYU’s setback on Saturday, which certainly will lead to taking a hit in the rankings leaving Autzen at 2-1, is how this team handles a week of prep for Wyoming, then Utah State, before facing Notre Dame and Arkansas.