The Utah Utes’ Saturday night 62-20 thrashing of Oregon was a monumental win for the program, just as it was a monumental loss for the Ducks.
Programs’ approaches to post-game press conferences vary to a degree. Sometimes it’s just the head coach, but most coaches bring out two or three of the key players of the game. The Utes decided to one up that and put together a parade. By the time I left the conference they had brought out no less than six players — one at a time — and Head Coach Kyle Whittingham had yet to appear.
It is difficult to have an objective outlook toward the Utes’ post-game victory parade. Travis Wilson said that they liked the matchups of their bigger receivers against Oregon’s inexperienced secondary.
Another player said that Oregon was all about the two “f’s” — flash and finesse — and that Utah was all about power, and that teams like theirs and Stanford’s are Oregon’s kryptonite.
For the most part it was repeated doses of back-patting. It was well-deserved, as the Utes were clearly the better team Saturday night, and it has the appearance of a truly major win for the program.
How major of a win it turns out to be in fact will depend upon what Oregon does with the rest of its season. If the Ducks play the rest of the season the way they played Saturday night, a certain amount of the luster of victory will slip away.
For the Ducks the game was the perfect storm. Beyond being over-matched on offense, defense and special teams, the Ducks drew one bad hand after another with the bounce of the ball. Utah punted only four times. The first one rolled for a 76-yard change in field position. The next one was downed on Oregon’s one yard line. The third one got called back because it hit the camera hovering over the field and then the re-try ended with the Utes running a fake half the length of the field. And the last one was killed on Oregon’s four yard line.
All in all, most everything was the reverse of what we’ve come to expect from Oregon football. It was the Utes, not the Ducks, making the big plays and getting the turnovers, driving the opposition into submission and dominating the second half of play.
I wonder about the appropriateness of turning a post-game press conference into a victory parade, but it’s not for me to judge. I will just say that it’s something I haven’t seen before and it’s certainly not in the same class as dancing on the “O.”
Utah has a good program, and I suspect that as they become more accustomed to big wins they will take a more level approach to the post-game pressers.
As for the Ducks, they have a lot of issues to deal with. This loss was reminiscent of losses of years long gone, days when Oregon couldn’t pretend to have talent on par with most of the teams on its schedule.
No team plays for the national championship every year, and Oregon definitely had a peak year in 2014. The 2015 Ducks have to prove their mettle, but there is no way that this game can be viewed as a step forward.
How Utah handles its wins is Utah’s business. How Oregon’s players and coaches respond to this loss is the coaches’ and players’ business. All we can do as Duck fans is manage how we respond to the loss. For many it will be beyond tempting to lash out at players and coaches. There is nothing to be gained by doing that. I saw Don Pellum right after the game as he left the booth, and trust me, he wants solutions at least as bad as the fans do.
So as fans, we need to get real with ourselves. Nobody is going to get fired in the middle of the season, and Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota are not coming back. The only productive thing to do is to support the coaches and the players. And it’s times like this — much more so than right after Rose Bowl victories — that they need the support.
Top photo from Craig Strobeck