Aftershocks: How Can Oregon Recover?

Autzen

Let’s get this out of the way: Saturday night was an absolute debacle. Our Oregon Ducks were dominated in all phases of the game by the Utah Utes in front of a national audience.

I’d like to give Utah all the credit in the world for Saturday’s victory. They seem to be legit contenders for the conference championship. They played fantastically in all phases and deserved every bit of that win.

Jeff Lockie and Oregon couldn't get anything going on offense during Saturday's blowout loss

Craig Strobeck

Jeff Lockie and Oregon couldn’t get anything going on offense during Saturday’s blowout loss.

This was the worst home loss since 1977 for the Ducks, and the good guys fell out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009. And it was exactly as bad as the final score (62-20) reflected.

In the aftermath, Chantel Jennings of the ESPN Pac-12 blog delved into what this result means for both the Utes, who look to be surging, and the Ducks, who clearly aren’t.

“The worst part of this loss was the way in which Oregon lost,” Jennings starts. “Everyone across the country is now well aware of the youthful struggles the Oregon secondary is having and now every offensive coordinator is going to look to strike there even more.”

Oregon’s secondary was exposed yet again Saturday night, thanks in large part to missing starting CB Chris Seisay for the second straight game and playing first time starter Juwaan Williams at safety in place of regular starter Reggie Daniels, who stayed on the sidelines with a taped-up ankle, according to Oregon Live’s recap published Sunday.

The Oregon secondary could really use the stability and continuity brought by Chris Seisay

Craig Strobeck

The Oregon secondary clearly missed Chris Seisay against Utah.

Defensive coordinator Don Pellum described the loss in very few words, but I feel they encapsulate the collective feeling of Duck nation fairly well.

“Imagine your toughest day of work.”

After a demoralizing loss like this, all this team can do, and all we as a fan base can do is to look forward.

A loss like this often goes in two ways. It can cause a team to implode, get frustrated, and start blaming individuals for team failings. Or it galvanizes a team and causes them to push forward and play with some pride.

Look at Stanford this year! After an embarrassing opening-day loss at home to Northwestern in which the offense totaled six points (to be fair, Northwestern has played very well so far this season), the Cardinal has looked about as tough as anyone in the Pac-12.

That same anemic offense has averaged 38 points per game in its last three outings, including an upset win on the road against preseason darling USC.

Oregon must strive to emulate the Cardinal, as hard as that is to say. This team needs leadership, especially after losing veteran offensive weapon Byron Marshall to a knee injury Saturday.

A serious injury can also galvanize a team, but watching Marshall go down must have really deflated an already demoralized Oregon team.

I’m looking squarely at Vernon Adams to take up the mantle.

Vernon Adams needs to provide leadership to a Ducks team that looks lost.

Kevin Cline

Vernon Adams needs to provide leadership.

I know he’s played below expectations with his broken finger. And I know Mark Helfrich specified that decision-making got Adams yanked from yesterday’s blowout.

I also know that it’s totally unfair to expect this from a kid in his first year in the program. But Jeff Lockie isn’t capable of running this offense in an effective way.

There seems to be a shortage of dynamic plays when Lockie on the field and his decision-making leaves something to be desired. Adams is simply a more proven quarterback over his career.

He isn’t exactly Mr. Efficiency either, but he has previously shown the ability to create electric plays with his arm and his legs. It’s why Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost brought him in to begin with. And despite this being his first year in the program, it is also his last, so he should have plenty of urgency.

Adams will need the help of veteran leaders like Bralon Addison to right the ship in Eugene.

Craig Strobeck

Adams will need help from veteran leaders like Bralon Addison to right the ship.

The broken finger will heal with time, but Adams has to assert himself as an alpha in the locker room if Oregon wants to finish this season strong.

He’ll need help from more established players in the program (DeForest Buckner and Bralon Addison, among others), but this team needs someone, anyone, to lead these Ducks onto the field with renewed pride, focus, and energy.

Plenty of this responsibility falls on the coaching staff, which did not have its best day Saturday, either. But ultimately, the players have to play the game. With the right leadership, this team will bounce back.

The  Ducks have an opportunity here. We are down, that is for sure. It remains to be seen whether we are out. It’s going to be a tough road ahead and the remaining eight games will reveal plenty about the character of this football team.

If nothing else, a gritty performance for the rest of the season should help show the young recruits that this is a program built for the long haul. I look forward to seeing the Ducks show their pride as Pac-12 play continues next week in Boulder against the Colorado Buffaloes.

If the Ducks come out angry, the Buffs better watch out.

Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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Jay Garnett

Jay Garnett

Jay is a transplant to Duck Nation. He grew up in southern Maine, tragically knowing nothing of Oregon football prior to the 2007 college football season, when Dennis Dixon willed the Ducks into the national consciousness before tearing his ACL late in the year. Since then, the Ducks have consumed every Saturday from August to February. Jay graduated from the U of O with a degree in Journalism in the spring of 2014. Perhaps more impressively, he didn't miss a single game in Autzen stadium during his four years in Eugene.

  • duckusucker

    Couldn’t disagree more, Jay.
    Did you watch the GA St. game? Lockie was better-than-just-good. He was fine.
    If you think Adams’ finger will heal from a BREAK in another week, you’re puffing on the same pipe as Scott Frost and Helfrich: it ain’t gonna happen. It takes weeks and weeks. It may take an entire season, according to what I’ve read of other QB’s situations after similar breaks.
    Lockie has all the tools we need; of course, he was brought in when it was already 20-6 and then watched, after he led the Ducks immediately to a score, the Utes match it, easily.
    You know, he’s a young guy who probably didn’t get a confidence boost from the coaching decision to start an “80%” Adams over him, especially considering his flawless play 7 days earlier.
    Our only chance, for the foreseeable future, is Jeff Lockie.
    He has the tools.
    He’s only started one game, for goodness’s sake.
    Cut him some slack.

    • Dylan

      Completely agree. Lockie’s not a spectacular athlete and his arm does leave a bit to be desired. But what happened to this staff’s ability to tailor the offensive game plan to maximize the strengths of the players on hand? It almost feels as if the coaching staff has bought into the offseason dreck that this offense needs a Mariota to function to its potential, which I just don’t buy (neither Masoli nor Thomas were anywhere near Mariota).
      So the option was, a) VA, for whom we’ll have to cut half our offense, but who may be able to improvise more, or b) Jeff Lockie, who, with experience, could become the quiet distributor that could make this offense roll (a “glue guy,” if you will). And I have a gut feeling that they made the wrong call, especially when Lockie could grown into a more confident player and been a second year starter next year. Of course he’s not gonna play perfectly when he’s thrust into the game at a deficit and the situation just reeks of desperation, of needing a spark. I’d rather lose three or four more games this season than continue with this Vernon Adams charade — he’s not going to be healthy in time to become fully immersed in the offense before he’s gone.
      Wacky thought of the day: Why not throw in some triple option packages with Freeman and the Griffins? Ty’s spent at least a little time running it, and having to choose between he and Taj is not the place a defender wants to be. Use the talent on the roster, not who you wish was still here.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Jay this same team should of beaten the NO.2 Team in the Nation and when they were there they were the better team and played like it. The coaching was good in that game. There is NO Excuse for how this team played against Utah, NO EXCUSE for this Coaching staff to reach or pull the right string’s and all of them get that credit because they all sucked. I think their still in la la land as in last years season and think or thought they could just show up and not coach. Hey this staff needs to stop patting itself for last year as we still came in 2nd and that just means you sucked as Coach’s in that last game where you came to that game with your B Game and left your A Game against FSU. Also Danials was sat because he wasn’t making plays not because of injury so I have no idea where you git that info. Oregon we will see if they have any chance of representing the North again against Colorado. So basically these players should have BLOOD in their collective mouths and beat the you know what out of the BUFFS. Because on paper we are way more talented.