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.
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.
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.
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.
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