What is the Appropriate Reaction to the Utah Game?

A Sad Day For Duck Fans


Okay, now that I’ve answered the entire question of the article I guess I’ll just go home …

… Kidding. But seriously, confusion is the only appropriate answer for how the Ducks game unfolded.

Over the course of this article, I will do my best to shine a light on some controversial moments, but trust me, I am not any better off than you. I am equally confused, a little hurt, but mostly scared. Now, here are a few reasons I’m confused:

1. Vernon AdamsPerformance

It feels like there's something missing to this Adams puzzle.

Tom Corno

It feels like there’s something missing to this Adams puzzle.

How does a guy, after two weeks of rest, perform so terribly against a defense far worse than the one he played when his finger was ‘more’ injured (presumably) than it is now?

It feels like the coaching staff isn’t telling us something, because Adams did not look like the same guy we all saw from the EWU highlight videos.

He looked uncomfortable in the pocket, he looked hurt, and honestly, he didn’t look like a starting QB. Now, after just a month and a half with an offense, that isn’t necessarily surprising.

The hook, of course, is how well he played in his first two games. Such a drastic regression must mean there’s something more to this story. Please, Lord, let that be true.

Adams completed just two-of-seven passes for one touchdown and no interceptions, but it was the passes he never attempted that are most worrisome.

He looked like he just didn’t want to throw, which is not an endearing trait for a starting QB to have. Whatever is wrong with Adams, whether it’s a confidence issue or an injury, must be fixed if the Ducks want to salvage this season.

2. Special Teams Miscues

This has been a weak-point for the Ducks for awhile but luckily, due to players such as Byron Marshall and Bralon Addison, the Ducks have, so far, been able to break-even by making big plays and exciting returns.

However, that luck ran out Saturday night. After Addison made a questionable decision to not call a fair catch on a punt that ended up netting the Utes 76 yards, the Ducks gave up two more huge plays on punts.

Now this is important, so pay attention.

At first glance, I thought the Utes were just poor sports. I thought they ran a fake punt — up 30 something points — just to mess with us, and then executed another fake punt play to perfection just to put the icing on the cake — they didn’t. They aren’t that poor of sports, despite how it may have looked.

Both plays, as seen below, are actually just unlucky bounces for the Ducks.

After a high snap, Utah punter Tom Hackett made an excellent catch and decided to hold on to the ball to make a run for it. Of course, due to Utah’s highly respected special teams unit, the Ducks put all their eggs into the “assume Hackett would get the punt off without issue,” basket.

No one was prepared for a Utah miscue, so Hackett scrambled for an easy 30 yards. I mean, the guy made it 15 yards before anyone even noticed.

On this next play, Utah did something truly impressive. Ducks punter Ian Wheeler shanked a punt, barely making it 30 yards down field. The Utes, prepared for a situation just like this, executed a fake punt play on the fly.

The play isn’t called before hand, because there’s no way Utah can anticipate a poor kick. Instead, they ran this play all game long due to Wheeler’s scouting report, with the Utes basically waiting for their opportunity to run it correctly.

The players were smart enough to notice this opportunity, and ran the play as the ball was in the air, a clear example of how well coached this team truly is.

The play didn’t make a difference either way, but it gave Utah a chance to practice a play that could actually prove to be dangerous against other competition, as well.

So again, don’t hate the Utes for being poor sports — they honestly just got lucky.

Those were not the only bad bounces for the Ducks, as they struggled to come out on top of any close play. The “should’ve-been,” punt where Hackett ran for 30 yards was actually a do-over, and came only after the previous punt was called back for hitting a camera wire, something that never happens.

And speaking of called back, I would just like to mention that the penalties in that game were Utah (6 for 54 yards) and Oregon (10 for 90). Just saying …

… Moving on.

3. The True Impact of Marcus Mariota

Look, no one was a bigger fan of Mariota than myself. Seriously, I worshiped the guy. I mean, I’ve even cried for this guy. I knew what he meant to the offense, and I sure as hell knew he was a better QB than Jameis Winston (Bucs front office, hire me!).

But seriously? Did the guy mean so much to the team that after his departure, a 51-27 victory in Utah becomes a 62-20 beatdown in Eugene?

Just how good was Mariota? Well, apparently, about 31 points better than his replacements.

Kevin Cline

Just how good was Mariota? Well, apparently, about 31 points better than his replacements.

And here’s the deal: Yeah, the defense gave up 62 points blah, blah, blah. The guys were straight up exhausted. They’re a young defense that needs more time and more rest. They’re not as well conditioned as veterans would be, and they’re still learning the nuances necessary to be elite.

Oregon’s longest offensive drive in the first half was 2:40 seconds and, seriously, that was twice as long as most of the other drives they put together. Oh, and it didn’t help that Utah started four out of their seven first-half drives, past their own 35.

Short fields and little rest does not make for a good defense. Utah’s defense is actually slightly worse than last year, especially after the departure of now NFL players Nate Orchard and Eric Rowe, so Oregon’s struggles to execute offensively were especially troublesome.

The truth of the matter is that the same offense from last year, minus Mariota and a couple linemen, managed 20 points (at home!) compared to 51 last year. I felt that I had reached a point of inner-zen, able to appreciate the fact that we ever had Mariota in the first place, instead of lamenting the fact that he’s gone, but nights like Saturday’s do not make it any easier.

Now look, every team has off days. The game against Michigan State was not an off day. Our team played well and we lost a close one. Had Adams been healthy, maybe he completes that touchdown to Marshall and maybe we even win.

Saturday was an off day. That was not the same Ducks team you should expect to see moving forward, and it’s important you keep that in mind as Monday rolls around.

So instead of being angry, be like me — confused as to how it happened, but unwilling to indict my team for one bad game. They’ve given us a lot of great ones over the past couple of years, more so than most universities — by far. That doesn’t excuse losing, but it does give us a reason to pump the brakes just a little on the “hate train.”

And, as my friend’s girlfriend from Corvallis mentioned last night, “That game felt like an OSU game.” So relax, let out a deep breath, and appreciate the fact that you’re not used to this feeling — sorry Beavers.

Top photo from Kevin Cline

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Caleb Couturie

Caleb Couturie

Caleb is a sophomore at the University of Oregon intending to double major in Journalism and Sports Management. He is the Managing Editor for FishDuck.com, along with being a lifetime Saints and San Francisco Giants fan, as Caleb fell in love with sports at a young age and developed that love into a passion for sports analysis. He is looking forward to cheering on the Ducks throughout his career at Oregon, and is always willing to talk sports with any fellow fan.

  • dreambeliever11

    You are in denial, this was a horrendous embarrassing loss!

    • Caleb

      Yes, but I felt the offense’s struggle to move the ball is the ultimate cause of the dramatic score.

      • Connor D

        Combination of that and then mental errors on defense. I lost track of how many times we overcommitted on read options and how often corners wouldn’t turn for the football. Ultimately these are fundamental issues that need to be addressed.

  • dreambeliever11

    I have not given up hope, my wish but not my expectation would be to have Oregon and Utah in the PAC12 championship game this year so we would have a chance to redeem ourselves!

  • guest00

    Passing the Utes off as, “poor sports” hmmm sounds like a desperate rationalization. Being merciful towards a football program who lacks mercy. The Utes have to win big to be taken seriously in a college football landscape that favors bias voting towards the historical hierarchy. So, with that in mind score at will!
    Oregon has plenty of talent and a strong foundation for future success. I would expect them to have learned a lesson from this debacle and respond by beating Colorado soundly.

    • Caleb

      Well let’s hope so!

    • GoDucks

      As one who watched the game closely, I was very impressed with the Utes’ sportsmanship. They would help Ducks up or pat them on the helmet after plays. Tough as nails, but very well mannered, in my opinion.

      • guest00

        I totally agree.

  • GoDucks

    My take might not be appropriate, since it isn’t in sync with the prevailing ‘what have you done for me in the last five minutes?’ mentality.

    First of all, it’s my firm opinion that this team is going to be hard pressed to be anything above middling. As far as the offense goes, it’s not mainly about our qbs either. Both are turning out to be average or mediocre, depending on whether or not your glass is half full or empty. But a huge problem is the offensive line and the collapsing pockets they routinely create for our qbs. I seriously doubt that Marcus Mariota would have fared anything close to Heisman level with that crowd in front of them. And the number of penalties they create is just embarrassing.

    The last time we got beat like we did against Utah, routinely as far as my memory serves, came just after the Joey Years – that is, soon after we beat mighty Texas and Colorado, finished second in the nation one year and should have played in The Game. In other words, the previous recession came right after we had our first taste of The Summit that student Ducks of this era seem to have come regard as their birthright.

    Our otherwise decent teams from around that time were undermined by what is Oregon15’s Achilles Heel: no pass defense. Pac10 qbs had field days against us.

    Take a look around this conference. It is widely regarded as the nation’s best and this is a passing league. Several of the teams we are yet to face this year will have qbs and receivers that will get drafted. And everyone one of them – like Neal, Pellum and Helfrich – knows that we are now most vulnerable in the air..

    The problem then is about the same as it is now. By and large we are working with 18-19 year old kids who are learning on the job as they seek to fill the shoes of All-Americans, all-conference players and others who either earned long looks or jobs from teams that play on Sunday. And don’t think they weren’t trying against Utah, as some have said. They were simply overwhelmed. You might be too, if you had to suddenly relearn the game at a much higher speed against far greater talent than you had ever seen.

    Here’s some news. There is no app that one can download to fix this mess by next weekend. Like anything in the real world, it’s going to take time.

    So here’s my advice as one who lived through the late 1970s, the Bottom Ten, the Toilet Bowl the worse part of 1980s, and the hangover that was circa 2002 to 2004: College ball is all about cycles, and we are almost certainly in a correction.

    Take this season one game at a time.

    That, as far as I’m concerned, is the most appropriate reaction.

  • John Wade

    If the fake punt was an impromptu play why were OLs pulling to block for the punter? I didn’t mind the call, but it was a planned run. If anyone was going to plant us in our own turf, I’m glad it was Utah. I think Whittingham is a really good coach who does things the right way. At this point is looks like we whiffed on OL, QB, LB, CB & S recruiting in 2011 -13 and none of the 2014 class came in ready to play.

    • Caleb

      What I’m saying is that they had called the play all game long. You can’t just predict a shank, despite how bad our punter is.

  • duckusucker

    I absolutely agree that this loss goes to the Duck O and not the D. NO defense indefinitely can stop a good, experienced foe time-after-time, especially with little break between efforts. I recall games when we had the sainted Marcus wherein we started very slowly and the D got torched— we did lose games w/him, some may not remember.
    If we start Lockie, we’ll be fine.
    Adams, my friends, is toast.
    That finger just ain’t got enough time to heal.
    A QB with an 80% or 90%, even, functioning index finger on his throwing hand isn’t going to cut it in the PAC-12.
    We have a few relatively easy foes coming up next, plenty of time for Jeff L to get some confidence back and develop more cohesion. The guy’s only had one start, for crying sake!
    We’ll do well with him.
    If Frost and Helf continue to go with a sub-par Vernon, our results will continue to spiral down, down, down…

  • hawkinsob

    The fake punt play (where Hackett keeps it) was not impromptu. It was called. Utah says so. It was written up in the Salt Lake Tribune. They didn’t call it the prior play when the wire was hit, but called it the next play after noticing something about how Oregon lined up. The high snap had nothing to do with why he kept it.

    • Connor D

      Yeah, you can tell from watching protection that it was a called play. The blockers in the backfield immediately move upfield to create blocks, rather than protecting for Hackett on the punt.

      It should also be established by the coaches that late in a game that the wheeler fake fair catch should not be run. I lost a lot of respect for Kyle Whittingham Saturday.

    • Caleb

      Ah, well I actually appreciate that. But now I’m just pissed off again.


    Everybody should of been PISSED of just how bad this Coaching has been in three of the games and the worst was saturday. This Coaching staff as a whole unit under acheived as in every position Coach did a terrible job preparing this team. Jeff Lockie is not the answer and Adams just needs to rest at least through 3 more of the easiest games and then NO EXCUSES for him because he really hasn’t looked that good when he has been on the field and it’s because he didn’t get on campus when he was supposed too and thats all on him.

  • Mark

    Did you really call Utah a poor sport for running up the score when Oregon has been doing it for years? Also, the punt return was practiced and Utah’s defense is better than last year do some research. The guy who is starting at CB for Rowe was the starter last year until he tore his ACL and Utah might have the best D-Line in the country. They have been rotating 9 guys this year that could all start at Oregon. I can’t wait to see the what you have to say when Colorado takes Oregon to the wire Saturday.

    • Caleb

      I purposely went out of my way to say they weren’t poor sports.