So, I’m sitting here at my couch after watching the game, mouth agape because we actually just beat Stanford. The same Ducks who lost to the freaking Cougs at home just beat the playoff bound machine from Palo Alto. And the best part is that they did it on their terms.
The Ducks ran the ball 36 times and threw only 12. They bullied the Stanford defensive line up front, something I never thought I’d write, and they put their trademark big-play ability on display. It was a true Duck win, through and through.
It didn’t feel like luck. It still doesn’t, actually. The same problems still exist, of course, but just like in the past they were finally manageable. The Ducks gave up a ton of yardage on defense but they kept Stanford in front of them. They forced huge turnovers at critical points in the game after the offense struggled.
The only thing they didn’t do was keep Christian McCaffrey under 200 all-purpose yards, but sadly that was expected. The kid is just a freaking stud – hats off to him.
So now we Duck fans can finally let out that deep breath and rejoice in the fact that our team has found its mojo again. For those of you who said after the WSU game that the Ducks wouldn’t win a game until OSU, cheers to our four-game winning streak.
But, of course, this game also left a slightly sour taste in my mouth.
“Football is a game of inches.” That’s what people tell you from the get-go when you first start playing. Every inch matters, because when the clock hits zero, that inch could’ve been the difference between a win and a loss.
And no, I’m not about to tell you that Oregon’s season would be completely changed had the Ducks just picked up a few extra inches here or there, but I am here to tell you that Oregon could still be a playoff team if it weren’t for 10 measly points.
After Oregon’s strong start against Eastern Washington (offensively, at least), it appeared that the Ducks were poised for their showdown in East Lansing.
The Ducks were, in fact, inches away from winning that game, but Vernon Adams slightly overthrew Bralon Addison on a would-be gimme TD. But, again, I’m not here to talk about inches. The Ducks lost that game by three points, and although they didn’t deserve the victory, it’s telling that they were ‘that close’ to begin with.
Now, I’m going to ignore the game against Utah. The Utes won every facet of the game, and there are simply no “what ifs” to mention. That was always going to be a loss.
But just two games after Utah, the Ducks were tied up again, this time against Washington State. The Ducks had multiple chances to put the game away, but instead ended up losing a four-overtime heartbreaker at home. That game was decided by a touchdown.
Just 10 points, that’s all that separates a 7-3 Oregon team that is just now getting healthy at the right time in order to make a push for a New Year’s Bowl, and a 9-1 Oregon team fighting for a playoff spot.
With losses by TCU, Baylor, and Stanford, Oregon would be a prominent consideration.
The one game Oregon would’ve lost would’ve been with a very dinged up starting QB (who was even pulled), and also a game without their best receiver Darren Carrington. Oregon then would have impressive wins on their record against MSU, Stanford, and Cal.
They would certainly be in the Top 8, with a chance to make a push for one of the final four spots with convincing wins against USC and Oregon State plus a win in the conference championship.
So, although this is nothing more than a lengthy venting session, take solace in the fact that football is a very tough sport, and most of the time games come down to a few very close calls. If the ball bounced differently, maybe this team would be 9-1.
It’s also fair to say that if the ball bounced differently, this team would be 5-5. What ifs, although entertaining to think about, are only that: ifs. Ultimately, the only thing that matters right now is that the Ducks finally look like a team with confidence again, and it’s indeed the time for them to have made that switch.
Top photo by John Sperry