The Oregon Ducks head into their bye week coming off one of their most complete games this season. Even though the season might not end on the high note fans hoped for, things are starting to improve across the board and the future looks bright.
Oregon beat rival Washington, 26-20, on Saturday, led by a healthy Vernon Adams. Almost immediately, the offense looked to have more continuity with him behind center, and the Ducks were able to control the game until the Huskies began to rally late in the game.
It might not have been the prettiest win, but it was certainly a big one.
Not only was the win over Washington huge for momentum going forward, but it also keeps Oregon’s hopes for a Pac-12 North title, and a Pac-12 championship berth, alive. It’s a bye week for the Ducks, but there are crucial conference matchups to keep an eye on.
Here is who to root for, and against, during this week:
Let’s start with our Ducks. First, Adams showed that he is the obvious choice to start at quarterback, when he’s healthy. Adams and the Ducks were able to throw the ball down the field for the first time in what felt like forever, completing several long passes from both inside and outside the pocket.
In fact, Adams’ 272 yards last weekend was more than Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie had the previous two weeks against Colorado and Washington State combined.
Having the big-play threat back in the passing game allowed the Ducks to string longer drives together with more consistency, and they actually won the battle for time of possession and controlled the pace of the game.
There were some issues with accuracy, but overall, Adams looked much better than both Lockie and Alie.
There was also a moment when Adams broke the pocket, directed the newly-returned Darren Carrington towards him in the scramble drill, then hit Carrington perfectly for a 9-yard touchdown. The chemistry was evident.
Now, the Ducks have arguably their best deep threat back in action and have the quarterback to get him the ball. With Carrington back from suspension, and Adams’ finger healthy and free of gloves, the deep passing game might just be here to stay.
Oregon doesn’t play again until October 29, a Thursday night game at Arizona State. That extra time should be a big factor for the Ducks moving forward.
Adams will have time to watch film and make adjustments, prepare for the Sun Devils’ defense, and continue to build chemistry with his receivers. I’ll be rooting for a great week of practice from Adams during the bye week. He might save this season, after all.
If you had told me the Duck defense would only allow three points at halftime, I might have called you crazy. But that’s exactly what happened.
The Ducks held Washington to under 400 yards of total offense and totaled 4 sacks on the day, a gritty performance by a defense in need of a confidence boost.
Sure, that same defense allowed a 17-point Oregon lead to fall to six late, but they slammed the door on the Huskies with an interception by Ugo Amadi — a fitting end to a great Oregon win.
It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the defense played well enough to win — it’s as simple as that.
There was better and more aggressive tackling, more consistent discipline in the secondary, and an active pass rush all night. Seeing improvement across the board was a good sign for the future, especially as the schedule begins to get tougher.
The Huskies are no powerhouse offensively, but hopefully the positive strides made on defense will continue during the upcoming weeks.
There are eight days until the next game, and it’s time to get a win streak going for the first time this season; once again, Oregon’s success down the road will start with their preparation during this bye week. Root for continued defensive improvement, and consistency, moving forward.
As long as Oregon keeps winning, they still (remarkably) have a chance to win the North division and play for the Pac-12 championship. The Ducks have two conference losses but still have games remaining against the top two teams in the North – No. 20 California on November 7 and No. 10 Stanford on November 14.
Cal already has a conference loss, so an Oregon win would jump the Ducks over the Golden Bears in the conference standings. Stanford, on the other hand, is still unbeaten in Pac-12 play — but they still have a bunch of key games ahead (Washington State, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Cal) and could realistically lose one or two of those matchups.
With several teams still in the hunt, the race for the Pac-12 championship is shaping up to be a wild ride.
The Ducks need to win out in order to retain any shot at a conference title, but this weekend our hated rivals could give us some help. Washington squares off against Stanford, and I will be rooting for the Huskies (hard for me to write, but it’s the truth) this weekend in hopes they can pull off the improbable upset.
A loss to Washington would give the Cardinal their first conference loss of the year and would significantly loosen their stranglehold on the North division. I’m not a fan of either Washington or Stanford, but I am a fan of chaos; hopefully the Huskies can shake things up.
Oregon fans can rest easy this week — no need to worry about winning or losing. The extra time during the bye should help Adams and the coaching staff better prepare for Arizona State, while also allowing the defense to continue to get healthy and improve as well.
Top photo by John Sperry