Ken Go: The Oregon Ducks’ loss to rival Oregon State belongs to Coach Dan Lanning

Oregon players made a slow, agonizing march off the field at Reser Stadium on Saturday, making their way through the players’ celebration through excited students.

Once off the field, their path took them up the long ramp towards their locker room at Gill Coliseum, fans on either side.

The Ducks coughed up a three-way lead they held late in the third quarter and lost to rival Oregon State 38-34 before a raucous crowd of 28,840.

It’s hard to see how Oregon won just by looking at the stats. Oregon edged the Beavers’ 470 yards to 328 yards and limited OSU to 60 yards.

These numbers do not tell the story. This loss belongs to UO head coach Dan Lanning. His fingerprints are everywhere.

Lanning made an inexplicable decision after OSU cut Oregon’s lead to 34-31 in the fourth quarter. The Ducks had 29 balls facing fourth and 1. Lanning elected to go for first.

To be fair, UO’s punting game has been an issue all season. Up to that point in the game, Oregon forward Alex Bales had one punt blocked, and it was tackled by his side 2 after he mishandled another.

Still, the bet seemed like a safe option given Oregon’s position on the court.

Instead, Lanning cast caution and common sense aside. Quarterback Bo Nix, playing on his right ankle, pulled the ball and held it in an option play.

OSU safety Jaydon Grant was waiting for the Nix and buried it for the one-yard loss.

It took five plays for the Beavers to score from there. Ohio State University was ahead of her retention.

Nicks took the blame, saying he made the wrong decision to keep.

If he could have run the play, Knicks said, “I probably would have handed the ball over.”

He shouldn’t be in this position. Even a 30-yard kick would have given the Oregon defense more to work with – especially given the state of the game.

“We’ve been aggressive in nature most of the year,” said Lanning. “We’ve been very successful a lot of times. If you also look back and say, ‘Okay. Fourth down. We had two points a complete mess.

“I like my 4th-and-1 chances to try and get it instead of lining up another kick that probably won’t work.”

Sorry. Not good enough.

If your starting team is going to be a big deal in Week 12, your best bet is to gamble on playing a fourth deep in your territory against the Pac-12’s best running defense, well, that is it, too.

Lanning is new to this. He’s a 36-year-old first-year coach who’s done a lot of things right. It’s elegant. He brings a lot of energy to the job. He has a nice rep as a recruiter.

UO athletic director Rob Mullens certainly knew when he hired an inexperienced youngster to head the program that Lanning would need to grow in the job. Sometimes growing pains are excruciating.

The Oregon season isn’t over yet. Postseason awaits. The Ducks are 9-3, 7-2 in conference, and are clearly not upside down.

The Knicks packed them down the field to get into OSU’s end zone in fading moments in the fourth quarter before the drive expired on OSU’s 3rd downs. Then the Beavers put him away and the students rushed onto the field.

Oregon did a lot of things right. The Knicks threw for 327 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of them was a 44-yarder to Chase Cota, who made a sensational catch in the end zone.

But this is a good Oregon State team. The Beavers (9-3, 6-3) refused to give up, even after a 31-10 lead in the third quarter.

It was with OSU on full comeback mode and Oregon leading by three points in the fourth quarter as Lanning delivered the Beavers the ball and short field.

Ducks never came back from that.

“In the end, we didn’t get it done,” Lanning said. “We have to go back and evaluate ourselves and do better.”

fair enough. First, though, the ducks had to walk long, slow, and painfully downhill and away from the rivalry game they kicked away.

— Ken Joe of Corvallis reported to The Oregonian/Oregon Live. | Twitter: @KenGoe

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