In a thrilling game that will be remembered as one of the best of the 2023 college football season, the Oregon Ducks suffered a 36-33 defeat to the Washington Huskies. What makes this loss more agonizing is that on three occasions, the Ducks had fourth-down opportunities to potentially change the outcome. Unfortunately, they were unable to convert any of them, leading to their first loss of the season.
Had just one of those conversions gone the other way, the conversation surrounding the game would be much different. Head coach Dan Lanning, despite facing criticism for his aggressive play-calling, remains steadfast in his belief that being bold is necessary to win games.
On the decisions made during the game, Lanning said, “If I knew that none of them were going to work, you’d change every situation, right? When you sit in this seat, criticism is inevitable. I trust our players, I trust our coaches, and when we have opportunities to win games, I’m going to be aggressive to win games.”
The first critical decision came in the second quarter when the Ducks opted to go for it on fourth and goal from the Washington 3-yard line instead of kicking a field goal. The pass was incomplete, leaving Oregon without points before halftime.
Reflecting on the choice, Lanning shared, “Ultimately, the field goal before half, that’s one that I feel we certainly could have gone either way. You could easily turn around and say kick a field goal there and feel good about it.”
In the second half, the Ducks faced two more crucial fourth-down situations. Trailing by 11 points in the third quarter, they decided to go for it on fourth and 3 from the Washington 8 rather than attempting a field goal to narrow the gap. Once again, the pass fell incomplete, denying them crucial points.
With just over two minutes remaining in the game and holding a lead, the Ducks had another fourth-down opportunity at Washington’s 47-yard line. A successful conversion would have sealed the victory, but the pass was incomplete. Washington capitalized on the turnover, scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
Explaining the last call, Lanning stated, “At the very end of the game, I don’t think there’s any scenario where I wouldn’t go for it on fourth down there when you have an opportunity to put the game away. It gives our offense a chance and prevents Washington from making a comeback.”
The result was a second consecutive loss to their rival team, the Huskies. Despite the frustration from the fans, Lanning stands by his decision-making, emphasizing that the choices were made based on careful analysis and maximizing the team’s offensive capabilities.
Lanning acknowledged the criticism he faced, saying, “When I make those decisions, it affects everybody in our program and everyone who cares about Oregon football. I understand that and I’m deserving of the criticism. But it’s not like those decisions are made on Saturday in that moment, you know. Those decisions were made earlier in the week.”
In conclusion, Lanning remains resolute in his conviction to make aggressive calls that give the Ducks the best chance to win. He believes that despite the unfavorable outcomes this time, the team’s offensive capabilities make such decisions unique and he will continue to pursue victory in upcoming games.
Alex Martin is your guide to the global phenomenon of football. With a focus on international leagues and tournaments, he provides match commentary, player interviews, and behind-the-scenes stories from the world of football.