The best game of the weekend came and went up in Seattle, as Kalen DeBoer's Washington Huskies held on to defeat Dan Lanning's Oregon Ducks, 36-33. With the USC Trojans falling to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish a few hours later, Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is the halfway Heisman Trophy winner. As for Lanning's Ducks, they need to pick up the pieces and play better in critical situations.
This may only be Lanning's second season as a head coach, but he is starting to gain a reputation as a risk taker and a guy who will always find a way to lose games to a bitter rival. No, we are not going to put the Week 1 disaster last season in Atlanta vs. Georgia on him, as he was put in an unwinnable situation vs. his former team. However, his Ducks are 0-2 vs. Washington with Oregon State looming.
A few questionable decisions to go for it on fourth down allowed for an inconsistent Washington team to stay in the game and later win it. This game may have not only cost the Ducks a shot at a Pac-12 title, but it might be enough to keep Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Bo Nix from getting his invitation to New York City in very early December. Either way, Lanning had some explaining to do.
Here is what the Oregon head coach had to say about going for it on fourth down a bunch of times.
The one before the half that cost Oregon points deep in Washington territory was certainly regrettable, while the opportunity late in the game was head-scratching to say the least. Then again, Lanning did say there was a check that did not happen, which resulted in the play getting stuffed by the Washington defense. Penix would go on to score the game-winning touchdown the following series.
Dan Lanning opines on Oregon's two questionable fourth-down calls
No matter what Lanning says about the two fourth-down calls in question, the execution of both were sloppy. Any time you leave points on the field at the end of the half, it is almost certainly going to come back to bite you, which it did in the case of Oregon. As far as the one very late in the game, what are you doing??? Punt the ball, pin Washington back and play defense!
I think what this game illustrated more from the Oregonian perspective is the Pac-12 is probably going to cannibalize itself once again. Washington may get to Las Vegas unscathed, but seemingly everyone else in the league has at least one blemish now. Furthermore, Oregon State and USC have six wins already and Utah is one off their pace at five. Those teams could make it to Las Vegas, too.
Ultimately, these games are far too precious to give one away like Lanning seemed to do for Oregon. To have Washington on the brink on the road, you have to find a way to come out on top. A win in Seattle would have had Oregon pushing towards a top-five ranking, as well as being the presumptive favorite to get to Las Vegas and win the final Pac-12 Championship game. Oh, what could have been...
Lanning will grow from these mistakes, but Oregon may no longer be a real national title contender.