To the average fan, Oregon looked good this past Saturday. Our offense dominated, Ifo made some great plays, and we got to watch the UCLA head coach and defensive coordinator share a moment of passion.
But for those of you who watched the game the way I did, you saw something else. You saw our defense get torched by a good, but by no means great, Paul Perkins. In total, our defense gave up 328 yards on the ground. Those numbers won’t cut it, come playoff time. If you watched the game the way I did, you also saw our corners and safeties turned around on vertical after vertical. If it weren’t for Brett Hundley being a little off, UCLA WR Jordan Payton would’ve had an even bigger day than his 61 yards and two TDs. Our defense just isn’t where it needs to be, and that’s clear to everyone who puts on an Oregon uniform on Saturdays.
Here at FishDuck.com, we had a chance to chat with John Neal, the secondary coach here at Oregon. He didn’t hesitate to say how he felt following the UCLA game, even after a victory.
“We haven’t improved enough,” Neal said. “I’m concerned how hard we play and how well we tackle.” Talk about the understatement of the century. This is not the Oregon defense we are use to seeing, and Neal admitted that. “We’re not doing as well as we have in the past.”
This was a UCLA team that was fresh off a loss against ASU. Not to knock ASU, but they aren’t going to turn heads come playoff time. This was by no means the best competition Oregon will see for the rest of the year, especially in an extremely competitive Pac-12.
Neal understood that, too, and he shared some frustration about just how good the Pac-12 really is. He believes all the offenses are dangerous, and as Neal aptly put it, “They’re all in our league. Is there anyone that sucks in this league?”
No, there isn’t. Ten out of the 12 teams have at least four wins. Six teams are in the AP Top 25. Eight teams were ranked at least for one week. Zero teams are undefeated in conference play. Say what? Since when did the Pac-12 become the second most competitive division in all of CFB? Well, according to Neal, it’s because, “offensives are faster and smarter.”
Neal believes defense is a dying art. He explained, “It’s not easy to coach on the defensive side of the ball anymore. You’re having to outscore people to win.” This can be seen across the board in the Pac-12, as it can be argued that the majority of the nation’s top offensive players all come from this conference. Just looking at the quarterbacks, there are eight potential NFL players out of the twelve teams. Almost every team has a dangerous run game, and even the worse team in the conference, Colorado, is home to the nation’s second-best wide receiver, Nelson Spruce. But what does this all mean?
This season is going to have one heck of a finish.
Top photo by David Pyles