Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out: Winston, Bruins and Ducks

Mike Merrell FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

There are those Duck fans with the attitude that anything less than a three touchdown win is just unacceptable, and they are heaping criticism on the Duck coaching staff. Some even go so far as to say that the only reason Oregon beat WSU was a favorable non-call on pass interference toward the end of the game. One writer even wanted to give WSU credit for a safety when Marcus Mariota clearly had forward progress out of the end zone.

That said – Jameis Winston, the UCLA Bruins and the Oregon Ducks’ win over WSU are the subjects of this week’s Three-and-Out.

Jimbo Fisher can't believe Winston showed up dressed to play. Leave your caption in the comments below.

Jimbo Fisher can’t believe Winston showed up dressed to play. Leave your caption in the comments below.

1. While the Oregon Ducks had no off-field issues, Ja-ME-is Winston drew a half-game full game suspension for standing on a table outside the Florida State Student Union shouting obscenities that were disrespectful to all present and women everywhere. Forced to perform a lip service apology to match his lip service punishment, JaMEis declared that he wasn’t a “ME” kind of person. This is no more surprising than, say, hearing a liar declare that he is telling the truth.

The reason for good manners is simply to show your respect for those around you. Needless to say, standing on a table shouting obscenities – not qualifying as good manners – is disrespectful to those present. What he shouted, specifically, was the sort of thing that would make any attorney defending him cringe.

While Winston publicly apologized to his teammates, he made absolutely no attempt to apologize to those whom he directly offended with his latest antics. And there’s a good reason why he didn’t. It’s because they truly don’t matter to him. His teammates matter, probably because they are an extension of his own selfish ego, but for those outside the realm of his ego: Not so much.

The guy is so reality-impaired that even his coach, Jimbo Fisher, was blown away when Winston trotted onto the field fully dressed to play in the Clemson game from which he had been suspended.

It’s time to stop asking, “When will JaMEis grow up?” and start asking, “Is this guy nothing more than a talented-but-creepy psychopath?”

Bruins hoist their hero to their shoulders in a way-too-excited moment after beating unranked Texas.

Bruins hoist their hero to their shoulders in a way-too-excited moment after beating unranked Texas.

2. For the fans who think the Ducks are a little too satisfied with performances that don’t meet their expectations, consider the UCLA Bruins. It’s not just that they’ve only beaten three unranked (and in no danger of being ranked) teams by an average margin of a meager six points. It’s their reaction to a three-point win over a crummy Texas team that came up five touchdowns short against BYU the weekend before that makes you appreciate the universal Duck team belief that they have things to work on.

In what the national media declared to be a heart-warming moment, Rick Neuheisel was overcome with joy seeing his son lead his team to a win over the Texas Steers. We’re supposed to get teary-eyed seeing Neuheisel jump for joy?

The same Rick Neuheisel* who had his team run a fake punt while holding an insurmountable lead over Oregon in the 1996 Cotton Bowl? The same Rick Neuheisel who had his team dance on the “O” at Autzen Stadium after a Husky’s win? The same Rick Neuheisel who followed it up by having his Huskies “woof” at the Ducks after beating them the next year? The same Rick Neuheisel who got fired at Washington for gambling on college sports? Let’s skip heart-warming and go straight to heart burn.

But it was the Bruins themselves who provide appreciation for Oregon’s attitude about a win over WSU. The Bruins actually lifted Neuheisel Junior on their shoulders and carried their hero off the field. After beating unranked Texas by three points. Note to Bruins: Top-10 teams do not get that excited about beating unranked teams by three points. What’s next? The student body rushing the field after a win over Colorado?

Marcus Mariota demonstrated the quality of coaching at Oregon.

Marcus Mariota demonstrated the quality of coaching at Oregon.

3. Oregon Ducks’ Win over WSU. It wasn’t pretty and the dyed-in-the-wool mudslingers credit Oregon’s win to the non-call of pass interference on Dior Mathis late in the game, and cite the game as a discredit to Oregon coaching. Let’s get some perspective here.

First, the penalties. Similar to the infamous Oklahoma game of bygone days, it is easy to remember the last poor call by the officials and say that it determined the game, while ignoring all of the blown calls before.

Oklahoma got away with two delay-of-game penalties and at least one offensive pass interference non-call that also would have impacted the game. Likewise, Washington State was the beneficiary of an earlier phantom pass interference call and a tremendously ticky-tacky holding call that wiped out a huge gain by Marcus Mariota and backed the Ducks up to their own end zone.

The Cougars’ receivers were running illegal picks (none of which were called) all night, resulting in at least two of their touchdowns. Whining about “the refs” is for eighth graders. The Pac-12 referees aren’t biased. They are just plain bad. Get used to it or follow a different conference, because even with Glasses Ref gone, it is apparently not going to get any better.

Second, the coaching. Mariota is talented, agreed. What critics may overlook is that nobody completes 21-of-25 for five touchdowns while taking seven sacks behind a battered, makeshift O-line without being well-coached. Likewise, the receivers are well-coached. Four incomplete passes are not the result of poor routes and a lot of dropped balls. The Ducks are obviously coached to hang onto the ball. They had a single turnover in the first game of the year and have not had one since, while forcing nine opponent turnovers.

Oregon’s halftime adjustments were spot on with Mariota throwing quicker to avoid sacks and the defense limiting the Cougars to 10 second half points. The injuries to the Oregon offensive line certainly cost the Ducks a couple of touchdowns on offense and at least one on defense due to poor field position. Add to this the fact that WSU brought their “A” game and Oregon left a touchdown on the table at the end of the game, and all things considered, the Ducks and their coaches deserve our praise, not our blame.

We would maybe like to believe that a top team will always win by at least three touchdowns, but it is simply not the case. It wasn’t so for many top teams Saturday, and if you will think back to 2001, the Ducks finished that season ranked No. 2 in the nation, and quarterback Joey Harrington’s nickname was not “Captain Comeback” because the Ducks always won by a comfortable margin.

The 2014 version of Oregon football has issues, yes. All of the teams in college football do. Unlike Florida State, Oregon’s issues do not include a reality-impaired star player. And unlike UCLA, the Ducks find winning a tough game on the road cause for self-examination, not cause for great celebration.

*[Ed. note] Also the same Rick Neuheisel that was quoted talking to a female reporter at a presser while at Washington ”… Haven’t you been double-teamed before?” Just sayin’.

Main photo by Gary Breedlove

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