Nix commands No. 15 Oregon in Holiday Bowl comeback win

Lanning trusted Nix and it payed off for the Ducks.

SAN DIEGO — The No. 15 Oregon Ducks displayed the brilliance of communication in their 28-27 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Holiday Bowl.

Quarterback Bo Nix stepped up and displayed his talent while his team pivoted without their offensive coordinator, Kenny Dillingham, who accepted a head coaching position at Arizona State.

As the Ducks trailed 27-21 with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter, they faced a fourth down on the Tar Heels’ six-yard line. Nix was the player who head coach Dan Lanning trusted to call the play. 

“You believe in your quarterback,” Lanning said. 

Failure to convert for a first down would mean he would have a stain on an arguably otherwise successful season; Lanning would fall short of 10 wins. 

As the fans anticipated the snap, their cheers turned into silence. Every person in attendance zoned in on Nix. Then, the senior quarterback took a few steps back. Seconds felt like minutes before Nix dropped a soft sidearm pass into wide receiver Chase Cota’s hands across the center of the field. The quiet broke as a standing crowd of nearly all Ducks fans erupted.

“They were bringing house blitz… It was perfect,” Cota said. “Bo saw it.”

The Ducks would make the extra point after giving them a one-point lead which they would never lose. Nix delivered the Ducks their tenth win. 

Nix’s presence was felt all evening as he threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns. 

While Nix shined, he relied on his running back, Bucky Irving, to exchange scores with the Tar Heels early. The running back ran away with the spotlight with his first five rushes, which netted the Ducks 107 yards. Irving displayed impressive vision, cutting for significant gains, including a 66-yard touchdown. The big run also pushed his season total rushing yards over 1,000. 

“Coach Lanning came up to me and asked, do I want to be great? I said, of course. Do you really want to be great? I said yes. Then he told me to trust the guy in front of me,” Irving said. 

He believed in his lineman as Lanning relied on Nix. It worked out for both of them. 

Irving finished with 149 yards on 13 rushes. He also scored the Ducks’ first two touchdowns. 

Even with Irving’s early contributions, the Ducks fell behind 24-14 before Nix rallied his team to victory. 

While the Tar Heels also missed their offensive coordinator Phil Longo, now at Wisconsin, and their starting wide receivers, Josh Downs and Antoine Green, they found ways to score.

Why? Mostly, Drake Maye. 

He rescued the Tar Heels’ depleted offense even though his efforts came short. Maye may be a redshirt freshman, but he competed with the poise of a senior in a hostile environment. 

He threw elegant passes but also hit the ground hard with his runs. Maye improvised excellently when the Ducks pressured him and elevated his inexperienced freshman receivers, who were thrust into prominent roles.  

They would fall short of a touchdown on the drive but made a field goal to build a ten-point lead. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, it was a lead they conceded to the Ducks.

Maye ended with 206 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 45 yards,  

The Tar Heels will have Maye return next season. The Ducks can also look forward to another year with their quarterback Nix after ending this one on a high note. 

Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown was furious after ending last season with a loss to South Carolina in the Mayo Bowl because he felt his team failed to respect the bowl. Despite their loss last night, the Holiday Bowl was a different story.

“We were ready to play tonight,” Brown said. “(We) played our hearts out.”

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