That massive THUD you heard after the game was thousands of Oregon fans with Playoff expectations coming back to earth. This is not what anyone expected coming into this COVID season, and now we are all contemplating how much we need to “re-imagine” our goals for Our Beloved Ducks. (I had to use the new trendy word at least once.) I saw some positive surprises in this game, but mostly negative surprises. We all now understand that we may not be that much different than Colorado, who also barely beat UCLA.
Let’s confront the realities we witnessed in this game — both areas to be encouraged by and warnings that all fans need to heed. Let’s start with the obvious:
- Oregon’s pass rush is nonexistent.
- Oregon’s rush defense is poor to below-average.
- Oregon’s secondary is barely adequate.
- Oregon’s special teams are not very special. (The placekicker had ugly misses and appears to be a head-case, as the talent is there)
- Oregon’s run offense (88 yards) is still in a growth mode against better teams.
- Oregon’s pass blocking is now in a growth mode as well.
- Oregon pass offense is superb. (Although JJ and Redd were magicians in this game and disappeared?)
- The Oregon offense is improved over last year, but hampered significantly by the Pistol formation.
- The bloom is off the Avalos rose, and Moorhead can only implement what he is allowed to. (Third down conversions were only 3 of 11?)
- Home field advantage is absent in the COVID era, and this does not bode well when the Huskies come to town.
- We can beat every conference team, but nearly all of them can beat us, as well.
- As I wrote yesterday, we will not win the way Cristobal wants. We will have to outscore opponents, and high scores like Saturday (and the 1980s-90s) will be the norm.
The Aggravating End-Game …
I have a real philosophical difference with most coaches at the end of the game and it materialized again Saturday. My motto for when the Ducks have a slim lead and time to burn on the clock …
“First downs at the end of the game are as important as touchdowns earlier in the game, because without both, you don’t win.”
We almost blew it by not converting a third-and-four, thus giving the Bruins a chance to win. If there was ever a time to pull out another innovative play on third down as we saw in the first two games, this was it. Instead, we ran the same tight-end play action pass again? One more first down and the game is over. This is when you do whatever it takes to make that first down.
We do not have Playoff talent or Playoff coaching yet.
Coach Mario Cristobal has to learn everything the hard way, and it may take more than one loss to change his philosophy at the end of the game and his love of the Pistol formation. I am along for the ride, as I appreciate so much of what he has done, and I will now have to be patient as he learns these lessons. I would rather be in our current situation than in all the other coaching situations we are seeing in the Pac-12 and elsewhere. Nobody is perfect, and the upside is there for Cristobal if he can allow himself to truly do what he is good at. (Be a darn CEO!)
Looking at the Upside …
- We needed a safety to emerge, and Jordan Happle answered. He made a number of crucial plays in this game and also had the most tackles? Wow.
- Really young players on defense, such as Noah Sewell, Dru Mathis and Brandon Dorlus, are getting better at getting off their blocks and making plays.
- The secondary saw young Jamal Hill make some key pass deflections.
- Adrian Jackson No. 29, getting off his block and making a shoestring tackle to allow the clock to run at the end was staggering.
- Devon Williams, No. 2, is beginning to show his upside and the big catch where he took the ball away from the Bruin defender was uplifting to all.
Just How SMART are We?
A central component in the rules created for this site comes from 23 years of being in hundreds of Internet conversations in Oregon forums with fellow Duck fans, and it is summarized thus …
“We are all humbled eventually by our assertions and are right about half the time.”
The difference between someone else and yours-truly is that I’ve come to that epiphany and know it is true. When someone comes to this site and gives us “the last take,” the absolute authoritative declaration on the subject that you can take-to-the-bank as a comment … I roll my eyes. I try to discourage people from doing that and to avoid future embarrassment for them, but it is often to no avail.
Saturday was a great example, as I thought I nailed some items in advance pretty well in my GameDay article. I’ve created instructional videos watched over two million times by fans around the world. I’ve spent tons of hours with coaches and feel I know a bit more than the typical fan. Yet look at the dumb things I wrote in the comments about how we would roll over UCLA without DTR because we’re taking on a rookie quarterback. Look at my score prediction and those of nearly everyone else!
Look at what we thought this season would be, and what it is turning into? What is the lesson?
In the end … we don’t know Jack.
We are all giving it our best educated guess and we’re all wrong about half the time. And this is why so many of the posting rules are structured as they are. I want all opinions, and not just those of us who think we know more — because we don’t. By reading all the opinions posted … even the unpopular ones, or opinions that stretch the spectrum of possibility — we all learn more and become better fans as a result. (And this is the only site that protects you from the Trolls.)
Saturday’s article was again another example of how I better be prepared to eat humble-pie when I make aggressive assertions. Like our young football team, it is part of my growth, and it is my hope to pass along what I’ve learned to others through our honored code of conduct on this site. Of course, I will still be pontificating my views next week, only now I truly know how often I am right …
“Oh how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!“
Charles Fischer (Mr. FishDuck)
Top Photo by Tom Corno
Visit our Sister Site, the new Our Beloved Ducks Forum!
This new forum that is unlike anything you have ever seen between our civilized discussion, (NO TROLLS ALLOWED) complete directions available for easy usage and the delivery of all Oregon Sports News. (That last part is a gradual transition up to Spring Football)
Go to the forum where we delve into today’s article and so many more topics and the nuances within them over there.
We have a topic post begun over at the forum for today’s article; it is a free site and offers more opportunity for the exchange of opinions on all the Oregon Sports subjects of the day. (And there are some very cool features!)
An introduction article about the new forum is right here.