No desert jinx, hex or mythological powers of a Sun Devil could prevent Bo Nix and No. 6 Oregon from winning in Tempe.
Nix threw for 404 yards and a career-high six touchdowns in the most efficient performance of his career while leading the Ducks to a 49-13 demolition of hapless Arizona State in front of 44,741 at Mountain America Stadium Saturday afternoon.
“Bo played exactly how you’re supposed to play in this game,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said. “You talk about efficiency, you talk about getting the ball to the right people at the right time, protecting the ball. He has a big belief and trust in the people around him and Bo would be the first one to tell you the people around him make him special, but Bo Nix is special.
“He’s getting better and better by game. His intelligence is extremely impressive. His efficiency is really impressive. We talk about striking when the iron is hot and playing your best football at the end of the season and right now we’re playing really good football with Bo Nix.”
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Nix’s 268.1 efficiency rating is the best in his five-year career, topping his 240.91 against Akron in the 2021 season opener while at Auburn. He tied the program record for passing touchdowns in a game, which had been done seven times, most recently by Justin Herbert at California on Oct. 21, 2016.
“It’s a complete team win,” Nix said. “We played really well on offense. They protected great, we ran the ball great early and our receivers did what they do every week. Efficiency is key in a game like that and it’s good to keep the ball off the ground.”
The first-ever November win for Oregon (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12) proved easy, snapped a six-game losing streak in such games and stood in extreme contrast to UO’s last visit to Tempe, a stunning upset of another No. 6-ranked team.
Bucky Irving ran for 63 yards and topped the 1,000-yard plateau for a second straight season and Troy Franklin had eight catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half, to break the program’s single-season record for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and tied the career scoring mark in receptions.
“It feels really good,” said tight end Patrick Herbert, who had three catches for 78 yards and Oregon’s first two scores. “We had a great week of preparation. Coaches did a great job putting us in position and we were always confident in our ability. It’s good to see it in the play.”
Nix (24 of 29) completed 12 straight passes, including three touchdowns, to give Oregon a 21-0 lead after one. He connected with Herbert on a 23-yard strike and a screen that broke for a 49-yard touchdown, then found Franklin for a 16-yard score.
Arizona State defensive lineman Deshaun Mallory noted how Nix was checking in and out of plays on his own and credited his ability to “truly be a mastermind” for the Ducks.
“Give a field general out there,” Mallory said. “Got nothing but respect for the guy. He obviously was controlling the entire game from the first snap to the last snap. Give respect where respect is due. Bo Nix is that guy.”
Nix’s 45-yard touchdown to Franklin with 9:40 to go in the second quarter made it 28-0 and gave Franklin the program record for receiving touchdowns in a season.
“We saw they had switched the corner in and we thought we could take advantage of it,” Franklin said. “Got a good play call in, everybody executed and we got a touchdown.”
The Heisman Trophy favorite, Nix added two more scores to make it 42-0 at halftime, a 71-yard touchdown to Gary Bryant Jr., who spun his way to the end zone, and a 17-yard score to Tez Johnson. Oregon gained 444 yards and all six of its drives in the first half ended in touchdowns.
“We talk about playing to our standard, I think the first half is the definition of standard play for our team,” Lanning said. “I think we were 6 of 6 touchdowns on offense, were able to get stops on defense, handle a lot of stuff that you’re not able to practice because you don’t know what you’re going to see. I thought our guys handled it really well. … It’s pretty hard to say that he’s not the best quarterback in the nation. Incredible performance.”
Arizona State (3-8, 2-6) broke the shutout on a 38-yard Dario Longhetto field goal with 5:33 to go in the third quarter. Former Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham’s Sun Devils added 10 points in the final 8:39 against Oregon’s backups.
“I challenged our guys at halftime, ‘Let’s go in the second half, let’s just win the second half,'” Dillingham said. “That was it. They went out there and they won the second half and that’s not a win, I understand that. You know what it shows, the guys are actually trying to do what I ask, they’re trying to compete. That’s the big thing, right? They did that and I was proud of them, but for us that’s exactly what championship teams look like. The highest level of teams across the board. Big, strong, firm, good QB play. That’s what you strive to be as a program.”
Dillingham shared pre- and postgame embraces with many of his former colleagues and UO players and told them to win the Pac-12 championship and national championship.
“(Dillingham’s) doing his thing and I’m so happy for him,” said Nix, who came to Oregon to reunite with Dillingham last season. “He’s done so much in my development and he’s gotten me a long way. I’m happy to see him really live out his dream.”
Dillingham admitted his bias, but said Nix should win the Heisman Trophy.
“He actually threw the deep ball as good as I’ve ever seen him throw the deep ball today,” Dillingham said. “He threw it at an elite level; man-to-man deep balls, man-to-man posts, fades, deep outs. We were going to challenge him to throw versus man-to-man and put our guys in the ability to win one-on-ones in man-to-man coverage on early downs and he made unbelievable throws. He’s in my opinion the Heisman Trophy winner.”
Top performance: Bo Nix was 24 of 29 for 404 yards with a career-high six touchdowns and added three carries for 7 yards.
Key contributors: Troy Franklin had eight catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns. Patrick Herbert caught three passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Bucky Irving had 11 carries for 63 yards and three catches for 33 yards. Cole Martin had five tackles with an interception and pass breakup. ASU’s Trenton Bourguet was 20 of 37 for 142 yards. Cam Skattebo was 2 for 6 for 45 yards with an interception and had eight carries for 49 yards.
Key play: Nix’s 49-yard touchdown to Patrick Herbert made it 14-0
It was over when: Bryant broke free for a 71-yard touchdown to make it 35-0 with 7:22 to go in the second
Next up: Oregon hosts Oregon State on Friday (5:30 p.m., Fox).
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