At least the Huskies lost. That’s about all that went well for Oregon fans Saturday. The Ducks were humiliated yet again, this time at Autzen Stadium, against Pac-12 North Division rival Stanford, 52-27. The final score really doesn’t even come close to telling how poor this showing was for the home team.
The story heading into this matchup between two fallen powers of the North was which inept phase of play would be more useless than the other: Stanford’s 120th-ranked offense or our beloved Ducks’ putrid defense. The Cardinal and their infuriating tree mascot (I seriously can’t stand the sight of it) put that question to bed pretty quickly, nearly matching their season scoring average (22.5) in the first quarter. It seems that playing against the Ducks has been the cure to all that ails an opposing offense.
In contrast to the team’s offense, Stanford’s defense has been quite good this season, especially in recent weeks. After consecutive games of allowing 40 points or more in Weeks 4 and 5, the Cardinal had allowed only an average of 11.25 points over their last four contests heading into the Oregon game. This improvement continued against the Ducks’ traditionally prolific offense. Stanford held Oregon to just 13 points through three quarters before allowing two garbage-time touchdowns in the fourth.
Stanford also forced Oregon into four turnovers on the day, including a pair of interceptions from freshman Justin Herbert, who looked his age for a second straight week. Royce Freeman decided he wanted to play football again and put up good numbers (20 carries, 111 yards, 1 TD) in the losing effort, but he also added a fumble to the turnover margin.
Look, I like rehashing these embarrassing losses about as much as a Monday-morning tequila hangover, but this has been the new normal in Eugene this season. It’s hard to stay optimistic about a team that just hasn’t regularly shown it can compete with even average conference opponents. The Ducks are bad and the fans are frustrated. We want coaches fired. We want better recruiting. We want answers.
How could this possibly happen to a program that was in a national title game just two years ago? The sad truth is that it might take a little while for the Ducks to get this thing heading in the right direction.
One of my fellow FishDuck.com contributors, Aaron Lewis, wrote a piece last week titled, “Bowl Game: Key to the Rebuild of Oregon Football,” wherein he deftly explained why a bowl berth (however unlikely) would be a huge boost for this program going forward. With the loss to Stanford, Oregon is officially ineligible for a postseason game in 2016. As if we all needed another reason to be cynical.
The Ducks will lose next week at Utah. I can’t remember the last time I was as certain about the result of an upcoming game. Then the Ducks finish the season in Corvallis for the Civil War, which will decide who will finish at the bottom of the conference this year. If you told me in August I would be writing that sentence in November, I would’ve dismissed you as a half-drunk lunatic.
The best news I can come up with right now, frowning at the dim glow of my computer screen at 12:13 a.m. Sunday, is that this season will end. But for the next two games, I’ll be here, rooting for the Ducks, despite my better judgment. Because that’s just what being a Duck fan is about.
Top Photo by John Sperry
Disclaimer: Readers: Every writer on FishDuck.com is allowed to express their opinion in their articles. However, articles do not represent the views of the other writers, editors, coaching consultants, management, or the principals of FishDuck.com. Charles Fischer
Jay is a transplant to Duck Nation. He grew up in southern Maine, tragically knowing nothing of Oregon football prior to the 2007 college football season, when Dennis Dixon willed the Ducks into the national consciousness before tearing his ACL late in the year. Since then, the Ducks have consumed every Saturday from August to February. Jay graduated from the U of O with a degree in Journalism in the spring of 2014. Perhaps more impressively, he didn’t miss a single game in Autzen stadium during his four years in Eugene.