The Oregon Ducks are sitting at 3-3 headed into Week 7. Duck fans didn’t see this coming, the college football know-it-alls didn’t see this coming and I definitely didn’t see it coming.
Usually, my articles focus on other teams around the country. They hopefully wish for specific teams to lose to benefit Oregon’s chance of returning to the College Football Playoff, or defending their Pac-12 championship title. Sadly, now those goals are unlikely and it’s time to make a change.
This weekend is all about our beloved Ducks and the only thing to focus on is Oregon beating Washington. After losing to Washington State last weekend, things in Eugene have become more in question than I can ever remember.
But even as hard times have fallen on our once-dominant team, it’s our job as fans to support this team through both the ups and the downs.
For example, I was at the game last weekend. Wet, cold, and frustrated, I remained in Autzen Stadium until the proverbial fat lady sang.
All in-game struggles aside, what frustrated me – and would frustrate Joey Harrington — was the amount of people I saw walking to the exits before overtime even began.
I understand if you have somewhere important to be, but I saw around 2,000 or so people leaving, and that’s just inexcusable.
Sure we are going through a rough time, and I know it was raining and cold, but how can you expect the Ducks to continue to fight when you yourself as a fan have already given up?
Now, more than ever, the Ducks need all of our support.
With that said, here is who to root for, and against, during the Duck game this week.
First and foremost, I will be rooting for whomever is playing quarterback for the Ducks. Even though there has been a clear and drastic drop off since Marcus Mariota, I’m actually a fan of the two-quarterback system given our current situation.
Both quarterbacks have their pros and cons, and hopefully, as the season progresses, they can improve and become more effective in tandem. Taylor Alie has shown an ability to be an effective runner — 142 yards and three touchdowns on 10 carries — and can give the defense another dimension to prepare for while still being able to make simple throws if the offense can scheme around him.
On the other hand, there is Jeff Lockie. He clearly is the better passer as far as arm strength and having zip on the ball is concerned, but his decision-making and inability to consistently go through his progressions have been problematic for the Ducks.
Lockie looked like he might be able to somewhat save the Ducks season when he started the Georgia State game, going 23-31 for 228 yards and 2 TDs. Since then, however, he has completed only 31-of-53 passes with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
Having both quarterbacks rotate in and out can benefit each signal caller, while also potentially catching the defense off guard.
That was evident by the Ducks’ first touchdown of the game last week, when Alie subbed in and ran the read option for an 8-yard score; however, the Ducks rarely went back to him for the rest of the game.
Regardless of who is starting/playing for the Ducks, Lockie, Alie and Vernon Adams (when he’s 100 percent healthy), will all need your support moving forward.
Another thing to focus on against the Huskies is obviously the defense, in particular the secondary.
All Duck fans have heard the bend-but-don’t-break defensive argument before, and while that has worked in the past, it has been extremely ineffective this season. The repeated short completions, the missed tackles in the open field, and the apparent lack of aggression are all unacceptable. However, I will be rooting for the lone bright spot in the secondary last week — Charles Nelson.
On a day where former Oregon safety TJ Ward was praised for his play the previous week for the Broncos of the NFL, I was reminded of my favorite secondary in Oregon history.
In 2008-09, Ward was joined by Walter Thurmond III, Jairus Byrd, and Patrick Chung; all of whom have started or currently are starting in the NFL.
Nelson reminds me of the fire that group had. He routinely displays his athleticism and nose for the ball, while being the only defensive back I’ve seen so far who looks like he enjoys making a tackle.
I’m rooting for Nelson to fire up this young unit of Ducks, which might be their last chance of improving the Pac-12’s worst defense.
The Ducks stand at 3-3 on the year so far, and with Washington coming up on Saturday this is once again a must-win game for the green and yellow. Oregon hasn’t been below .500 in October since 2004 when the team finished 5-7 on the year.
The Ducks have won 11 straight versus the rival Huskies and are in need of a statement win as the schedule is beginning to become more challenging — making it 12 straight would certainly be a big deal for this year’s team.
Oregon hasn’t won, or lost, back-to-back games this season, and getting a win over a hated rival could be huge moving forward in terms of building confidence, continuity, and momentum.
It’s obvious the Ducks need to win this game, but they are going to need all the fans behind them to keep this season on a positive trajectory.
Root against Washington with everything you have, and if any of you know some voodoo doctors who can hex the hated Huskies, that wouldn’t hurt either. The Ducks need all of our spirit this week.
In some years, it’s not always about the big victories at the finish line but rather the small victories along the way.
There will be no College Football Playoff this year, there will be no major bowl game, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to celebrate. The Ducks can still beat both their rivals this season, and they can still make adjustments across the board and improve as the season progresses.
Of course all Oregon fans, myself included, wanted another chance at a national title, but that wasn’t in the cards for these Ducks.
This season is about coming together as a program, as a fan base, and improving and building for the future. Sometimes, it’s the toughest lessons that have the biggest benefits. Go Ducks.
Top photo by Kevin Cline