Oregon’s Holiday Bowl victory eliminates late-season stumbles

When the bowl matchups were announced earlier this month, many focused on the Holiday Bowl, with No. 15 Oregon taking on ACC Coastal champion North Carolina. Not only was the West Coast playoff game back after a two-year COVID-induced absence, it offered the potential for a massive amount of offensive fireworks between a pair of top-25 offenses. best.

While the scoreboard didn’t quite light up as much as some had expected, the game nonetheless delivered plenty of late explosive and pyrotechnic plays, as the Ducks used a two-minute drive in the later seconds to take down the Tar Heels in a 28-27 thriller at Petco Park in San Diego.

[Related: Check out the highlights from the Holiday Bowl]

Quarterback Bo Nix, playing 10 days after announcing he would return for another season in Eugene, saved his best shot of the game for the dying Embers, finding receiver Chase Cota for a 6-yard touchdown pass at the fourth try that just slipped through. the goal line. Kicker Camden Lewis added the extra point to make it official the game winner, even though he gave the crowd brief cardiac arrest as he kicked the ball right and through.

Oregon vs North Carolina Highlights No. 15

Oregon vs North Carolina Highlights No. 15

“We were able to deliver because our defense stopped them,” Nix said after the game. “Everyone made a game, couldn’t have done it without each of them.

“Ten wins, to send our seniors this way… I couldn’t be more proud of how these guys fought today. It was a complete team win.”

Nix finished the game 22 for 30 for 205 yards and two touchdowns (one interception). The veteran flagger only ran five times for six yards, but he looked much healthier in the pocket after suffering a leg injury late in the regular season.

The narrow margin was nothing new for the Tar Heels, who played their ninth game with an FBS score this season.

While the 9-5 overall record plus a division title in ACC play will likely be considered a success for Mack Brown and company, little powder blue making the cross-country trip to southern La California will be happy with the way they let the game slip away with missed scoring opportunities and a questionable defense in stride. In many ways, it was somewhat emblematic of the season itself for UNC, which started 9-1 and threatened a college football playoff run before ending the year with four heartbreaking losses. consecutive.

Meanwhile, the Ducks are ending their first campaign under Dan Lanning with a 10-3 mark thanks to Wednesday night’s result, taking a bit of a beating from losing to rivals Washington and Oregon State last month.

Oregon running back Bucky Irving had 149 yards and two scores in the first half to help pace the team on the field, earning him Holiday Bowl Offensive Player of the Game honors. . Still, it was Nix who fans might remember best after taking over in the fourth quarter and leading a pair of touchdowns to erase a double-digit deficit in the final 10 minutes.

Oregon hoists Holiday Bowl trophy

Oregon hoists Holiday Bowl trophy

Here are three other takeaways from the Holiday Bowl:

1. The hype for Drake May is about to soar even higher

Even in the age of the transfer gate, opt-outs and early NFL departures, bowling games provide our last memories of the season and so can become a bit of a hype machine. That will no doubt be the case for UNC quarterback Maye, who was already receiving praise for his work as a first starter this season but could be even higher after making some incredible throws in the Holiday Bowl. .

The future third-year player finished the game with a respectable passing 206 yards and three touchdowns despite playing without prime target Josh Downs. It felt like Maye often carried the team offensively, and he looked silky smooth with just about every recoil. His offensive control was impressive, and he certainly looked a lot older than just a redshirt freshman with the way he moved through reads and found open receivers.

With a nationwide prime-time audience on FOX — many of whom likely haven’t seen much of the caller this season — tuning in to the release, they were treated to someone who will likely be the face of college football in the 2023 season right next to USC’s Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. Sometimes the hype that comes out of bowl games can be a bit too much, but in the case of the Tar Heels star, it’s probably justified.

Drake Maye passed for 206 yards and rushed for 49 more in the Holiday Bowl.

2. Oregon missed Kenny Dillingham

UNC entered the Holiday Bowl ranked 103rd in FBS in scoring defense and 115th in yards per play allowed. In other words, the defense wasn’t great and was facing a number of missing starters for various reasons.

Still, Oregon couldn’t capitalize on this group largely because they seemed to really miss former offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham (who left to become head coach at Arizona State). The Ducks basically had an entire month to come up with a plan for the game, but it felt like once the first scenario was exhausted, the combination of play calls from Coach WR Junior Adams and Coach TE Drew Mehringer didn’t have a ton of creative answers on what to do next.

Early on-field successes (9.8 YPC in the first half) dried up as the box became more crowded in the second half, and the downward passing element that was ever-present under Dillingham didn’t ever happened (only two passes over 15 meters at night).

Lanning has done a lot as a rookie head coach this season winning 10 games, but finding a veteran OC to help keep Nix and the offense humming will be a big offseason priority over the next few weeks.

Oregon’s Bo Nix hits Chase Cota for a 6-yard touchdown

Oregon's Bo Nix hits Chase Cota for a 6-yard touchdown

3. It’s time to stop bowling at baseball parks

There are four bowls taking place in ballparks this season, and a common theme that seems to be developing in 2022 is that it’s becoming less of a novelty and more of a health and safety issue in these premises.

During Tuesday’s Guaranteed Rate Bowl, dozens of players from Wisconsin and Oklahoma State appeared to be on a slide given the state of the turf at Chase Field, and it was much the same case Wednesday night at Petco Park. .

While the field crew did their best to get the temporary grass patches ready for a few hundred pounds of pushing, pulling and running football players, it was largely in vain. There were divots that would make a PGA Tour pro shudder and a fairly uneven surface that had sand seeping through in spots. A number of defenders slipped to allow scores, while a handful of third conversions failed after the turf monster contributed a tackle. In other words, it’s not the best way to play a college football game.

Luckily, it doesn’t look like anyone has torn a ligament in their knee, but maybe it’s time to limit the number of bowling matches that take place outside football stadiums that are purpose-built for the pitch itself. It is not even a script parallel to acting between the lines.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has covered college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets including NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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