The Dan Lanning era at Oregon may yet be marked by stunning victories, Pac-12 championships, and the rise of one of the West Coast’s most storied programs back to the level of national title contender.
But it ain’t happening just yet.
Duck fans joined a national television audience this afternoon in learning that the defending national champions remain very, very good at American football, as the Bulldogs returned to the scene of their SEC title defeat to roast the Ducks 49–3.
It was an effort that was equal parts workmanlike and savage. The Bulldog offense hummed exactly as we hoped it would being a sixth year senior quarterback behind a veteran offensive line. The ‘Dawgs converted each of their first eight third down attempts and moved the chains on nine of ten third downs overall, and every one with Bennett leading the unit.
Many of us suspected that Kenny McIntosh would make an impact both on the ground and through the air. But I’m not sure anyone expected the senior tailback to snag a team leading 9 passes for 117 yards. Just getting KMac in space and letting him roll is a sound strategy, one we’ll likely see employed again as teams try to bottle up the Bulldogs’ downfield threats.
Stetson Bennett, as expected, did Stetson Bennett things, completing a tidy 25 of 31 passes for 368 yards and 2 touchdowns. He had no turnovers, nor did any Bulldog players. In fact there weren’t really many glitches at all offensively. Georgia scored seven touchdowns on its first seven offensive possessions. You just can’t do it better than that.
Defensively the Bulldogs gave up some yardage, but as we’ve come to expect from them stiffened when it mattered. The Ducks cracked the UGA twenty yard line twice, once resulting in a second quarter field goal, the other a fourth down turnover on downs late in the fourth when things were well in hand.
If he had it to do over, Bo Nix might consider transferring somewhere Kirby Smart and his defense can’t torment him. Nix was 21 of 37 passing but didn’t really look comfortable after the first five minutes of the game. His two first half interceptions didn’t lose Oregon this game. But they certainly helped put the Ducks in a hole they were never going to be able to afford.
There are still questions about the defense and there will likely be days with missed assignments and worse penalties than those we saw today. But it’s safe to say that Oregon OC Kenny Dillingham’s plan to pick on true freshman Malachi Starks was not a good one. Starks got the Bo Pix party started with a beautiful leaping interception then looked solid in coverage for the rest of the day. He has to do it consistently, but there’s reason to believe Starks is going to be a fixture.
This is obviously where I would normally review the special teams. But there’s not a lot to say in a game where you only punt once, and late in the fourth quarter at that. Jack Podlesny still kicks a mean touchback. So that’s awesome.
Again, I would caution against reading too much into the evisceration of a team that traveled across the country under a first year head coach and dealt with some adversity very early in the game. But the early returns certainly indicate that Georgia has some room to get the defense ironed out, and if the offense continues to click this team could be a match for anyone when it matters most. Until later…