Washington is headed for the playoffs after beating Oregon
December 7, 2023
In what has been a fun and entertaining season for the Pac-12 conference, the Washington Huskies defeated the Oregon Ducks, 34-31, in the Pac-12 conference football championship game.
The game was played last Friday Night, December 1st, before a sellout crowd of 61,195 fans at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. The stadium was rocking with what seemed to be an even split of fans from both sides. The Huskies and Ducks, besides having two of the best teams in the nation, have two of the best fan bases in the country.
The game matched up the undefeated 3rd ranked Huskies versus the 5th ranked Ducks, who came into the game with an 11-1 record. The Ducks lone loss was to the Huskies by three points in Seattle earlier in the season.
The game lived up to the hype, with the Huskies jumping out to a 20-3 lead in the first half, behind running back Dillon Johnson, who rushed for a five-yard touchdown and also threw a four-yard touchdown pass. The Ducks were favored by 9.5 points and the Huskies felt disrespected.
But the Oregon Ducks came back, scoring a touchdown with nine seconds left on a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bo Nix to tight end Terrance Ferguson to cut the lead to 20-10 at halftime. The Ducks received the open kickoff off in the second half and drove 75 yards in 15 plays, with the drive culminating on another two-yard touchdown pass to Fergusson.
The Ducks took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter, scoring late in the 3rd quarter on a six-yard touchdown run by Jordan James. The touchdown was set up by a 44-yard run by Nix. But in the end, quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and Johnson were too much for the Ducks.
The Huskies took the lead for good on a one-yard touchdown run by Johnson with 12:23 remaining in the game, to take a 27-24 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Huskies added a touchdown on a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Quentin Moore with 2:44 left in the game, to give the Huskies a 34-24 lead.
The Ducks responded thirty seconds later, on a 63-yard touchdown throw from Nix to wide receiver Traeshon Holden, to cut the lead to 34-31 with 2:14 remaining in the game. But the Ducks could not stop Johnson. The Huskies got two first downs and never gave the ball back to the Ducks. Johnson ended up with 152 yards rushing on 28 carries.
This was not only a great matchup of two teams, but it was also a matchup of two of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Nix and Penix are two of the four finalists for the Heisman trophy, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding college football. Nix was chosen as the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and was first team All-Pac-12. Penix, who led the nation in passing yardage, was second team All-Pac-12. Nix was second in the nation in passing yardage.
It was a tough loss for the Ducks, who were dominant during the 2023 regular season. The Ducks were second in the nation in average margin of victory. The loss for Ducks head coach Dan Lanning was tough to absorb, the second to the Huskies by three points this season.
"All right," Lanning said. "That one hurts. I thought our guys fought for the entire game, four-quarter fight. You can't start off slow against a really good team. We obviously started off slow."
Lanning added, "They won a lot of critical situations as far as third down. We thought third down was a place we had to be good. They were effective running the ball. We didn't do a good job stopping the run. We weren't able to run the ball. You got to be able to run the ball in games like this."
The response from Huskies head coach Kalen DeBoer seemed more like exhaustion. "Wow, what a game," DeBoer said. "Didn't expect anything less. Just got to give a nod and tip of the cap to Coach Lanning, Bo Nix, the entire Oregon football team. They've had an amazing year. We've had two battles with them that just, as you know, went down to the wire. We knew it would be that."
DeBoer was asked what it means to be undefeated. "It means so much, with the 13-0. It's hard to do. It's hard to go 12-0. To have to beat a really good football team a second time in one year, that's just the tip of the cap to our guys, just how they didn't worry about the last game, didn't worry about who was supposed to win or anything like that."
"Just focused on us," DeBoer said. "It's always been about us. We believe that we have what it takes. If we just play in the present and control what we can control, that's what happens is what you see out there today."
The victory by the Huskies put them into the four-team college football playoff to determine the national champion in college football. The 13-0 Huskies will take on the 12-1 Texas Longhorns, the Big 12 Conference champions on Monday January 1, 2024. The game will start at 5:45 pm PST and will take place at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game will be televised on ESPN.
The other playoff game will be played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena between the 13-0 Michigan Wolverines and the 12-1 Alabama Crimson Tide. That game will also be televised nationally on ESPN and will begin at 2:00 pm PST, on Monday, January 1. 2024.