Photos: WSU defeats Oregon Ducks Football 34-20

Oregon Ducks safety Jevon Holland (8) looks to tackle a Cougar. Oregon Ducks Football takes on Washington State University at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. on Oct. 20, 2018. (Devin Roux/Emerald)

After a heartbreaking loss to Auburn, it's tempting to label the Nevada game as an easy bounce-back win; Oregon is still one of the favorites in the Pac-12 Conference and Nevada plays in the non-Power-5 Mountain West. However, the Ducks can’t afford to look past Nevada, as the Wolfpack launched an impressive 34-31 comeback against Purdue last week and will roll into Autzen Stadium looking to pull off their second upset in as many weeks.

Key Matchups

Kicker: Oregon’s Camden Lewis vs. Nevada’s Brandon Talton

A reliable kicking game is essential in determining close games. Freshman kicker Camden Lewis missed a 20-yard field goal in the first half against Auburn. A 20-yarder is a must-make, and Oregon needs reliable kicking if they want a shot at the Pac-12 title.

Both Lewis and junior Adam Stack saw place-kicking opportunities against Auburn, and the rotation still appears to be fluid moving forward. The kicking struggles, coupled with some sloppy red-zone miscues, ultimately cost Oregon the game in Arlington.

Nevada’s freshman kicker Brandon Talton, on the other hand, stuck a 56-yard game-winner to seal the deal in the Wolfpack’s improbable come-from-behind victory against Purdue.

Quarterback: Oregon’s Justin Herbert vs. Nevada’s Carson Strong

Oregon’s prized quarterback Justin Herbert had a solid game against Auburn, going 28-for-37 with 242 yards and a touchdown. He also had a costly fumble that resulted in a 83-yard return by the Auburn defense, which the Tigers’ offense eventually turned into three points. Although Herbert’s fumble did not decide the game, it was one mistake in a series of sloppy plays that led to Auburn’s comeback.

Carson Strong led the aforementioned fourth-quarter comeback in Nevada’s game against Purdue, which was especially impressive considering he has not started a game since 2017, when he was still in high school. He went 30-for-51 with 295 yards and three touchdowns with no picks. 

Defensive back: Oregon’s secondary vs. Nevada’s secondary

Oregon made multiple defensive stands during the Auburn game and it forced multiple turnovers. The Oregon secondary successfully frustrated Auburn quarterback Bo Nix for the majority of the game.

Defensive backs Thomas Graham Jr. and Jevon Holland both grabbed their first interceptions of the year against the Tigers. If the Ducks can force some turnovers against Nevada, they should give themselves a good chance to be in position to win the game. Saturday also marks the season debut at Autzen Stadium of top recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux, who had a quiet game against Auburn, recording just one tackle. Oregon needs Thibodeaux to live up to the hype and become a defensive X-factor that will get after the quarterback.

The Nevada secondary was a mixed bag in their week-one matchup. On one hand, Nevada defensive back Daniel Brown had a two-interception game, however, the Nevada secondary gave up 423 yards and four touchdowns. If Justin Herbert limits his turnovers and can keep the Wolfpack honest through the air while re-establishing the power-running game, the Ducks should win this game.

Fourth-quarter play

Oregon had a disastrous fourth quarter against Auburn, surrendering two touchdowns on defense while being unable to put a single point on the board offensively.

Nevada had one of their greatest comebacks in program history, scoring 17 points in the final period and shutting out Purdue.

The Auburn game was the latest installment to an increasingly long list of Oregon squandering substantial leads. Ducks fans surely remember the primetime game against Stanford last year when Oregon blew a 24-7 first-half lead and eventually lost 38-31 in overtime. If the Ducks want to stay alive in the College Football Playoff picture, they need to close out games, especially against non-Power-5 opponents. Oregon can’t leave the door open for a comeback in this one, as losing a second game in a row would be catastrophic for Oregon’s national standing.

On the other hand, Nevada is confident coming into this game and they know that they can play well even if they fall behind.