Nix Those Heisman Thoughts, Caleb

I unapolgetically support both the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans, and regular readers know exactly why.  And for eleven out of eleven times so far in 2023, I’ve come away from watching them happy.  Yesterday, I actually had a rare opportunity to watch with a friend because, these days, simply finding other people with time and a comfort zone to hang out is more difficult than ever.

Well, perhaps I should go back into isolation.  Because both of them went down to defeat yesterday, and the hopes for a second consecutive Heisman trophy to land in the lab of 2022 winner Caleb Williams all but evaporated in the process.

In chilly, damp South Bend, for the first time in his storied college career, Williams proved to be mortal, as NBC4 Los Angeles’ Curt Rallo reported:

Xavier Watts intercepted Caleb Williams twice and returned a fumble for a touchdown as No. 21 Notre Dame harassed the Heisman Trophy winner and handed No. 10 Southern California its first loss in a 48-20 victory on Saturday night.  

Having lost twice in the three games, the Fighting Irish (6-2) bounced back against their longtime rivals in a big way. Watts had two of Notre Dame’s three first-half picks against Williams and then a 15-yard scoop-and-score with 3:27 left to add an exclamation point.  Williams had only been intercepted once (prior to yesterday), but he was sacked four times by the Fighting Irish and finished with 199 yards passing and a TD.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day in equally dreary Seattle, the Ducks’ saw their undefeated season hopes end, thanks in large part to some highly questionable coaching decisions.  As WHISKEY RIFF’s Matt Fitzgerald, well, riffed:

Multiple goal line stands. Wild two-point conversions. No shortage of dynamic playmaking from Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix.

The highly anticipated Pac-12 duel between Oregon and Washington definitely lived up to the hype.

Alas, somebody had to lose, and Ducks coach Dan Lanning had a lot to do with the outcome.

In addition to turning down a chip shot field goal to end the first half on fourth down, he decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from Washington’s 47 with 2:11 on the clock.

The Huskies had already burned all their timeouts. Kicking it deep and forcing Penix to drive the length of the field would’ve been a prudent strategy. Hindsight is 20/20 of course. That said, this was downright reckless behavior. The scoreboard indicates most of what ensued from there.

Two incredible downfield strikes, including the winning, back-shoulder TD to Rome Odunze, sent Seattle into a frenzy.

And so Nix, arguably the second-best quarterback in the Pac 12’s monumental final bow, was given a herculean task.  As Fitzgerald chronicled, he was nearly up to the task:

Credit Nix for taking what Washington’s defense gave him to position the Ducks for a game-tying field goal with mere seconds on the clock. A successful kick and overtime period could’ve saved Lanning from a lot of grief and scrutiny. The football gods had other ideas…

A missed field goal, as time expired.  And, in the throes of moving to the top of the Pac-12, a new best-in-class, in truly heroic fashion, emerged:

It’s far from a nonzero chance that Penix has a cracked rib or two based on how he was laboring from some of the hits he took. To still hang in the pocket, wait for deeper routes to develop, and send in some absolute seeds with everything on the line? NAILS.

And that from an Oregon fan’s perspective.

Try on the more objective perpsective offered by Ross Dellenger of YAHOO! Sports:

Purple Majesty turned into Purple Madness.

A purple field-storming. Purple people everywhere. Purple shirts. Purple hats. Purple signs and purple shoes, even.

A purple sea, moving and swaying, laughing and crying. And then there was Mr. Purple, needing to get from one side of this purple ocean to the other. He had no boat, no plane, no car, just one security man cutting through the bodies like this quarterback through a secondary.

“You’re the man, Mike!” one fan yelled toward him.

“Mike! Mike! Mike!” another group chanted.

A woman stumbled upon the quarterback, realized the celebrity before her and yelped, “MICHAEL PENIX!!”

Of all the feats that Michael Penix Jr. accomplished on Saturday at Husky Stadium, his deft maneuvering through this purple mosh pit stands among the most impressive. And he’d like to apologize to all of those field-stormers who found themselves on the end of his security guard’s forearm.

No apology is necessary from Washington’s wizard. A purple magician. A football sorcerer. To Oregon and all of those he leaves in his wake, a purple-clad necromancer.

Purple?  Try green.  As in the color of money, which he’s likely to make a LOT more now and upon gradulation.    As in the dominant (well, sometimes) color of the team he beat, Lanning’s inner Brandon Staley notwithstanding.  As in the color of envy.  The envy that fans of Nix, Williams, the Trojans and Ducks now have this morning of the Huskies and their warrior-like quarterback.

Yes, Penix envy.


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