Nix leads No. 15 Oregon to Holiday Bowl win vs. North Carolina

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SAN DIEGO – The Holiday Bowl emerged from a two-year pandemic hiatus with a new home and the same reputation for thrilling finishes.

Bo Nix threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Cota on fourth down with 19 seconds left and Camden Lewis‘ PAT bounced off the left upright and went through to give No. 15 Oregon a wild 28-27 victory against North Carolina at Petco Park.

Cota caught the ball at about the 1 and got it across the goal line as he was being tackled by Don Chapman. The play was upheld on review. Lewis then banked in the PAT.

Nix called it “just one of our favorite plays” that the team practices a lot.

“It’s an option route and there’s a lot of different angles, so it’s hard to stop,” Nix said. “That’s what I want to call because we have the most reps at it and I know exactly where each guy is going to be, and Chase did a good job getting over across the field in man coverage and hooking the ball in and catching it and getting in the end zone. Extremely proud of Chase, he deserved that one.”

Cota said that when he saw the Tar Heels bringing a house blitz, “I knew. It was perfect and Bo saw it. Just an easy touchdown from there.”

Said coach Dan Lanning: “All we needed was time on the clock. It took every fourth down, it took every yard, it took every inch, it took every ounce of effort that our guys had to finish the way they needed to finish.”

North Carolina (9-5) got the ball to the Oregon 42 with one second left before Drake Maye‘s desperation heave into the end zone fell incomplete.

“Very disappointed that we didn’t win, but we’ve got to make a play here or there, and they’re a great football team,” said North Carolina coach Mack Brown, who brought Texas to the Holiday Bowl five times between 2000 and 2011. “Nobody gave us a chance in the game and we had a chance with one second left. That’s all we could ask for in this situation.”

The Ducks finished 10-3 thanks to Nix, who came up big late in the fourth quarter after being held in check much of the second half. He threw a 6-yard TD pass to Troy Franklin with 6:58 to go to pull the Ducks to 24-21.

The Tar Heels took a 27-21 lead with 2:34 to go on Noah Burnette’s 44-yard field goal, his second of the quarter.

Nix then moved the Ducks 79 yards in eight plays for the win, with the drive being aided by a pass interference call.

Nix was 23 of 30 for 205 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.

Maye, the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, was 18 of 35 for 206 yards and three scores.

The Tar Heels took a 21-14 lead on Maye’s 49-yard TD pass to Kobe Paysour just before halftime that was set up by an incredible interception by linebacker Power Echols. Echols’ jaw-dropping interception and 40-yard return gave the Tar Heels the ball at the Oregon 49.

With the score tied at 14 and Oregon driving late in the second quarter, Nix threw behind Terrance Ferguson and the ball bounced off the right calf of linebacker Cedric Gray toward Echols, who tipped it up with his right foot before bending over and grabbing it and taking off to the Oregon 49.

Maye then hit Paysour at about the 28 and he outraced the defense into the end zone, where he bowed to the crowd after giving the Tar Heels a 21-14 lead 26 seconds before halftime.

Maye also threw touchdown passes of 6 yards to Andrew Greene Jr. and 14 yards to Bryson Nesbit.

Oregon’s Bucky Irving had touchdown runs of 2 and 66 yards – the third-longest in Holiday Bowl history – in the first half.

THE TAKEAWAY

Oregon: The thrilling win was a nice finish for the Ducks, whose once-promising season fizzled out in November when they lost two of three after winning eight straight.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels ended with four straight losses, including a 29-point defeat against Clemson in the ACC title game.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Nix announced last week that he’ll return for his fifth season of eligibility. “There’s nothing like being an Oregon Duck. For 2023, I’m back,” he said in a video.

North Carolina: Maye recently batted down rumors that he had been offered a $5 million name, image and likeness deal to transfer. Maye had a breakout season that has made him a top prospect for the 2024 NFL draft.

After flip from ND to Oregon, five-star signs with Oklahoma

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Peyton Bowen, the highly-rated defensive back who backed off a verbal commitment to Notre Dame and said he was going to attend Oregon, ended up signing with Oklahoma on Thursday.

Bowen’s flip from the Fighting Irish to the Ducks during a ceremony at his high school in Denton, Texas, was one of the biggest stories Wednesday as college football’s three-day early signing period began. He was one of several high-profile recruits to make a last-minute pivot to Oregon.

But the five-star safety was never officially announced as part of Oregon’s top-10 class.

Bowen posted a statement on social media Thursday, saying he regretted some of his actions and apologizing to the fans of the schools he jilted.

“Navigating this process has been a rollercoaster. … Oregon and Notre Dame faithful, I am sorry for how I handled this process. Changing my decision on signing day, the hat pump fake, all of it could have been handled better. I can’t change what I did but this experience is something I will learn from,” Bowen posted.

Bowen thanked the coaching staffs at Notre Dame and Oregon.

“Oklahoma family, I am excited to join this wonderful program and represent this university going forward!” Bowen said.

Oklahoma later announced Bowen had signed with the school.

The other notable signing of the second day of the early period was by Alabama.

The Crimson Tide, which has already locked up the No. 1 class in the nation, got a commitment from a seventh recruit with a five-star rating, according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings.

Cornerback Desmond Rick, who is from Virginia but played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, was originally set to be a member of the 2024 recruiting class but reclassified to 2023.

Arizona State hires Oregon’s Kenny Dillingham

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State hired Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, making the 32-year-old the youngest head football coach in a Power Five conference.

“He brings the energy, knowledge and appreciation of our state and university that is valued by all of us,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “His knowledge of the current college football landscape, learned by coaching across the nation, is needed and wanted at ASU.”

A Phoenix native, Dillingham returns to the school he graduated from 10 years ago in hopes of turning around a program that fired Herman Edwards in September after a 1-2 start. Arizona State also is facing an NCAA investigation for alleged violations of recruiting rules committed under Edwards.

Dillingham began his coaching career at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, before being hired as an offensive analysis by then-Arizona State coach Todd Graham in 2014.

He has served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Memphis, Auburn, Florida State and Oregon.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be named the head coach at Arizona State University,” Dillingham said. “This is a special place to myself and my wife who is also a graduate. I truly believe the team we will build here is one that the state of Arizona and all Sun Devils can rally behind and be proud of as it will take everyone in the valley to help this program achieve the level of success it is due.”

Anderson took a calculated gamble in 2018 with the hiring of Edwards, a former NFL coach and TV analyst.

The loquacious coach won over Arizona State’s fan base his first couple of seasons, proving to be an adept recruiter while leading the Sun Devils to consecutive bowl appearances.

Arizona State couldn’t sustain the success on the field and the program fell into the NCAA’s crosshairs for hosting recruits on campus during an NCAA-mandated COVID-19 dead period in 2020.

Edwards was fired a day after the Sun Devils lost to Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference as heavy home favorites. He went 46-26 in five seasons at Arizona State, including 17-14 in the Pac-12.

Running backs coach Shaun Aguano served as interim coach and went 2-7 to close out the season, including a loss to rival Arizona in the finale.