GLENDALE – Monday’s Vrbo Fiesta Bowl was a full circle moment for one of the top quarterbacks in college football.
As a kid growing up in Pinson, Alabama, Bo Nix dreamed of playing in a New Year’s Six bowl.
After watching multiple Fiesta Bowls, Nix would go outside and pretend he was playing in the big game. One in particular stood out: As a 10-year-old, he attended the BCS title game at University of Phoenix Stadium, now State Farm Stadium, to watch Cam Newton lead the Auburn Tigers over Oregon and to their first national championship since 1957.
Now here he was, in the final game of his illustrious college career, representing Oregon and playing in a New Year’s Six game in the same stadium that he once attended as a fan.
“Pregame when I was warming up, I thought back to that championship game and it was a full circle moment, being back here in my fifth year and final game ever,” Nix said.
Nix took full control of the moment as he had a record-setting day in Oregon’s 45-6 over Liberty.
When Nix stepped onto the field for the final time of his collegiate career, he extended the NCAA record for most games started by a quarterback (61).
After Liberty jumped out to a 6-3 lead going into the second quarter, Nix started to show why he was a Heisman finalist.
“We had to settle in,” Oregon coach Dan Lanning said following the Ducks’ lackluster start. “Once we made sure we weren’t beating ourselves, it was easy to operate and that makes it hard to stop the Ducks.”
Leading Oregon on an 82-yard drive to start the second, Nix threw his first touchdown of the game to Gary Bryant Jr. The 2-yard score gave the Ducks their first lead of the day.
After taking a 10-6 lead, Oregon’s offense never looked back. Following the touchdown, the Ducks defense forced a quick three-and-out from Liberty.
This led to another lengthy drive that ended with Nix tossing a 2-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Ferguson. With that completion, Nix tied 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota for the most pass touchdowns in a single season in school history (44).
The tie with Mariota did not last long as Nix set the record on the next Duck drive. A 3-yard toss to Kenyon Sadiq gave Nix his third passing touchdown and extended Oregon’s lead to 18.
With moments left before halftime, Oregon’s defense forced another quick drive from Liberty. As the final seconds of the second quarter trickled down, Nix, for the fourth time, passed for a touchdown.
Oregon went into the locker room at halftime up 31-6. Nix had 257 yards through the air and four touchdowns through the game’s first 30 minutes.
This is not the first time that Nix had a monster first half in Arizona this year. Earlier in the season the Oregon quarterback went for 381 yards and five touchdowns against Arizona State in Tempe.
On its first drive out of halftime, multiple Oregon school records were broken.
On a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tez Johnson, Nix tied the Fiesta Bowl record for most passing touchdowns in a game (five). Nix also set the record for most passing touchdowns in a bowl game in Oregon history.
After making 11 catches for 172 yards, Johnson set the record for most receptions by an Oregon receiver in a single season (86). He passes his teammate Troy Franklin, who set the record earlier this season.
Johnson made sure to let Franklin know about his accomplishment afterward.
“I told him today after the game, I was like, ‘Boy, I didn’t even know I beat your record,’” Johnson said. “He was like, ‘What do you have?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know, I think it was yours.’ He said, ‘Because I didn’t play, fool.’”
Nix ended the game with 363 yards passing. With that, he also set the Oregon record for most passing yards in a single season (4,508), passing Mariota’s 2014 season once again. Nix also set the NCAA record for completion percentage in a season (77.44%).
With the game well out of reach at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Nix left the game to a curtain call from the Oregon faithful and smiles from Lanning and offensive coordinator Will Stein.
“We were just going through the memories,” Nix said. “I’m grateful for allowing me to have one of the best years of my life. To be in that situation, you see it a lot and you think one day that could be me and today that happened.”
After the game, Nix was named the offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl.
Despite Oregon missing the College Football Playoff due to its three-point loss to Washington in the Pac-12 championship game, Nix and the Ducks are happy with how their season ended, even if it did not live up to expectations.
“I grew up watching the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day and dreamed of being one of those guys in that position,” Nix said.
“Even though you may say that the season didn’t end exactly how we wanted it to this year, we went out here and did everything we could with the opportunity that we had.”